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New law shows Virginia’s ‘commitment to improving the child welfare system’

Gov. Glenn Youngkin participates in a bill signing ceremony at the Hanover County Administration Building, on May 21, 2024. Official Photo by Austin Stevens, Office of Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin today signed House Bill 27 and Senate Bill 39, which creates the Parental Child Safety Placement Program.

The legislation codifies the practice of placing children with relatives and strengthens Virginia’s commitment to a “Kin First” child welfare system. The legislation provides a framework for local departments of social services to place children with their families and relatives, making a better home for children.

“Today, we celebrate a milestone more than a decade in the making. An overwhelming collection of hearts have come together to demonstrate that working in partnership we can fundamentally change lives,” Youngkin said. “This legislation represents a significant step forward in fulfilling Virginia’s commitment to improving the child welfare system and prioritizing the well-being of children in Virginia. By establishing a robust statutory framework centered on kinship care, we pave a pathway towards permanency for Virginia’s children, ensuring consistent practice across all local social services, incorporating safeguards, clear time frames, active family engagement, and consistent services for children, caregivers, and parents.”

The legislation addresses the historical struggles Virginia has faced in placing children with kinship families when they enter foster care. Despite recent improvements, only 16 percent of children in foster care are placed with kinship families, far below the national average of 35 percent. Research has shown that children placed with relatives experience better behavioral and mental health outcomes, increased permanency, and greater stability in placement, including the likelihood of remaining with siblings.

“I am honored to take part in the passage of this historic kinship care bill. This legislation provides much needed support to those entering kinship care arrangements. I’d like to thank everyone who assisted in helping this bill become law, including Senator Favola, UVA Law, Voices for Virginia’s Children, the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman, VDSS administrators and staff, and many others who provided guidance and expertise all focused on a shared goal: creating better outcomes for children interacting with our foster care system,” said Del. Katrina Callsen.

Sen. Barbara Favola said the legislation “is incredibly important to establish and fund safety net programs that enable families to create stable and loving homes. Our children can only succeed when we as a society provide them with an environment where they can thrive.”

“Keeping families together is of utmost importance. I am proud to stand with my colleagues as Governor Youngkin signs SB39. This legislation enables us to support families in the most challenging circumstances, preventing children from being automatically placed into foster care. Together, we can ensure the best possible outcome for children and families across the Commonwealth,” said Sen. Ryan McDougle.

Prioritizing kinship care improves outcomes for children. House Bill 27 and Senate Bill 39 ensure children’s safety while preserving families and honoring parents’ rights. The legislation mandates local departments of social services submit exception reports, monitor barriers to kinship placements and develop service plans for the children and their families.

The legislation also provides financial support to kinship caregivers, which is crucial in covering the costs of caring for children and addressing additional needs in the home. By prioritizing kinship care and placement stability, HB 27 and SB 39 seek to protect children from the trauma of multiple placements and improve their overall well-being.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.