Much like for everyone else, 2020 has been an unpredictable year for the CHS Advocacy team. Ending General Assembly session in March, we enjoyed early success with the General Assembly acting positively on many of our legislative priorities. It quickly became uncertain as we entered the pandemic and economic downturn shortly after the legislative session concluded, leading the Governor to unallot most new spending initiatives approved by the General Assembly. Just this month, which also happens to be National Adoption Month, the General Assembly adjourned their special session with a new budget which the Governor approved. While we were hopeful more of our budgetary priorities would have made it into the final budget, we are grateful for the work legislators have done during such uncertain times and are confident children and youth touched by the foster care system will remain a priority.
Here are the highlights from 2020:
- In 2020 General Assembly regular session:
- Fostering Futures was codified, ensuring the program will remain in the budget, and youth who have aged out of foster care will continue to be able to opt-in to receiving support services until age 21.
- The Office of the Children’s Ombudsman was established and funded. This office will provide independent oversight where individuals can file complaints of mistreatment by departments of social services for investigation.
- During the 2020 General Assembly special session:
- The Commonwealth’s budget includes $8 million in new spending for foster care prevention services.
Notwithstanding the pandemic, 2020 was an incredible General Assembly session and we are so thankful to our partners, financial supporters and to lawmakers for their continued focus on improving the lives of children and youth involved in the foster care system. The state of the economy remains uncertain, so stay tuned for our legislative priorities for 2021 and how you can help us keep children and youth touched by foster care a top priority.