Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2007

SJR 96: Comprehensive Services Act and the At-Risk Youth and Families Program

December 5, 2007

The fourth and final meeting of the Joint Subcommittee Studying the Comprehensive Services Program for At-Risk Youth and Families was held on December 5, 2007, in Richmond.

Foster Care Initiatives

In a presentation on the current state of foster care and efforts to secure permanency for foster children in Virginia, Secretary Tavenner noted that 23% of Virginia’s children age out of foster care without permanent connections, the highest percentage of children in the country. Forty-three percent of teens achieve permanence, a rate which is 28.5% below the national average of 72.2%. After seven years in the foster care system, 24% of younger children had not achieved permanence, resulting in more children "aging into" the teen population of foster children. In 2006, 24% of children that came into care experienced their first placement in a group setting rather than a family-based environment. For teens that figure was 52%. The national average is 18%; however, best practice is closer to 10%. The failure to secure permanent placements for foster children has a significant impact on funds budgeted for the Comprehensive Services Act. Secretary Tavenner noted that 45% of the $295 million CSA budget, or $133 million, is devoted to congregate care.

Secretary Tavenner described First Lady Anne Holton's For Keeps Initiative, which is focused on strengthening the voices of youth in foster care and of foster parents, finding permanent families and family connections for children in foster care or at risk of coming into care, and championing to improve family and community supports for all children. The effort has led to partnership with many local and national organizations, including the Annie E. Casey Foundation Strategic Consulting Group.

Tracey Fields of the Annie E. Casey Strategic Consulting Group (CSG) presented information on CSG's work in Virginia. Over the past months, CSG has collected and analyzed quantitative and qualitative data, including reviewing Virginia's residential care policies, the foster care program, the availability of community based services, placement decision making processes, quality assurance efforts, support and guidance provided to localities, data tracking and database compatibility, CSA guidelines and policies, community policy and management, and family assessment and planning team processes and the CSA financing structure, to identify potential areas for improvement and develop strategies for whole system change. Changes resulting for CSG's efforts would have significant impacts on the number of children entering foster care and the number of foster care children moving into permanent placements.

Ms. Fields noted a series of recommendations for improving the system, including:

  • Adopt a statewide philosophy that supports family-focused, child-centered, community-based care with a focus on permanence for all children.
  • Establish a state-level practice model focused on family-focused care and permanence that is reinforced by a uniform training program for resource families, as well as local staff in DSS and CSA that would be integrated with DMHMRSAS practice model.
  • Implement a statewide strategy to increase availability and utilization of relative care and non-relative foster and adoptive placements to ensure that children can be placed in family-like settings.
  • Enhance DSS and CSA capacity to develop and disseminate policies and best practices and provide technical assistance to localities in support of a practice model.
  • Build on current state efforts to create a robust performance monitoring/quality assurance system to identify and measure outcomes, monitor quality of practice, and improve accountability.
  • Strengthen financial incentives to reduce reliance on congregate care.

Discussion of Legislation

Following presentations by Secretary of Health and Human Resources Tavenner and Ms. Tracey Fields of the Annie E. Casey Foundation Strategic Consulting Group, the joint subcommittee reviewed and took action to recommend potential legislative changes for the 2008 Session of the General Assembly. The potential legislative recommendations included a recommendation to continue the study during the 2008 interim.

The Hon. Emmett W. Hanger, Jr.

For information, contact:
Sarah Stanton and Patrick Cushing, DLS Staff


Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2007

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