Virginia Ranks 50th Again – You Can Help Change That Today
Virginia has fallen back to 50th – worst in the nation – for the rate at which youth age out of foster care. While there are many factors contributing to our high rate of youth aging out of foster care, two big factors are: lack of prevention resources and a workforce in crisis. The good news? You can help solve these problems.
The General Assembly meets today for a special session to address a limited number of issues, including the state’s budget. During 2020 General Assembly regular session, the General Assembly included increased funding for prevention services and increased funding for Local Departments of Social Services caseworker salaries. Due to the uncertainty of COVID-19, those items were temporarily unalloted by the Governor. Today, the General Assembly will be considering whether to reinstate those budget items.
Preventing child neglect and abuse:
$33 million over two years.
Budget line item: Fund Prevention Services at Local Departments of Social Services. Re-allot funding for local child abuse prevention units to hiring new staff and support existing local TICN networks and family/neighborhood resource centers to provide prevention activities and services. Support Family and Neighborhood Resource Centers to provide place-based family-strengthening services that have been shown to reduce child neglect and abuse, and increase families’ capacity to support child well-being.
Funds should be focused on community-based prevention programs – with dollars specifically allocated to fund place-based family-strengthening programs for communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities.
Primary prevention of child abuse includes providing community support to strengthen families to develop resiliency, access resources, and develop positive parenting skills. Community-based family-strengthening programs give parents what they need to succeed, in the communities where they live, thereby reducing child neglect and abuse.
Foster Care System stabilization:
$18 million over two years
Budget line item: Increase Local Staff Minimum Salary to Address Turnover Rates. Re-allot funding to increase local family services worker minimum salaries. The state-funded starting salary is $30,828 – only slightly higher than the Federal Poverty Level for a family of four.
A 2018 report on Foster Care in Virginia found that instability of the child welfare workforce prevents Virginia from meeting important mandates in services to children in foster care. Staff turnover of entry-level family services workers is 42% statewide (with higher rates in rural agencies) exacerbating Virginia’s poor foster care outcomes. A hiring freeze in many agencies due to the pandemic is compounding the problem.
You can help us solve these systemic issues to protect children and youth in Virginia. Use this link to determine who your state legislators are: https://whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov/ Enter your address and contact the individuals who are listed as “STATE DELEGATE” and “STATE SENATOR” – these are your representatives. Be sure to include in your communication that you are a constituent and ask them to support the budget line items listed above, reinstating funding for foster care prevention and stabilization of the foster care workforce.
Questions? Contact our Policy Director, Cassie Cunningham, at firstname.lastname@example.org.