Continuing his administration's commitment to children in the foster care system and adoption efforts, Governor Bob McDonnell today announced his biennial budget will include $27.7 million in new funding for four initiatives targeted at improving foster care adoption. Governor McDonnell also announced today that Virginia has successfully matched 977 children in foster care with adoptive families towards the goal of 1,000 by the end of his administration.
Additionally, Governor McDonnell announced that Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe will join him at the Virginia Adopts: Campaign for 1,000 Recognition Event on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 3 p.m. at the Patrick Henry Building in Richmond. The event will recognize the success of the campaign and its many contributors, and at the same time, transition the campaign to Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe's administration.
Speaking about Virginia Adopts, Governor McDonnell said, "Last year, the General Assembly approved $1.5 million to fund Virginia Adopts: Campaign for 1,000. Since then, 977 children have been matched with permanent families. This is a tremendous accomplishment and huge step towards creating a new culture around adoption and foster care in Virginia. We have made significant strides, but there is still a great deal more to be done. The funds included in my budget are a substantial step towards aligning smart evidence-driven policies with the resources necessary to make a difference. We are nearing our goal of 1,000, but there are still children in need of a permanent home. Every child in foster care is there through no fault of his own and deserves a forever family. I encourage all Virginians considering adoption to seek out more information. You can make an extraordinary difference in a child's life."
"Finding permanent loving homes for kids in VA's foster care system is a bi-partisan goal," Governor-Elect Terry McAuliffe added. "I look forward to celebrating the successes of this important initiative."
Speaking about the new funding for the foster care system and adoption initiatives, Governor McDonnell said, "Historically, the child welfare system has focused primarily on protecting children. While protection remains of paramount importance, for those children in permanent state custody, protection is not enough. We have to make our best efforts to get these children on the path of becoming productive citizens. This package of proposals does just that."
Speaking about the proposals, Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel said, "Youth who stay in care until 21 are less likely to end up homeless, in jail, or pregnant when compared to peers who leave foster care at the age of 18. Youth who stay in care until the age of 21 are more likely to graduate from high school, earn a GED or attend college, and/or trade schools. Since diplomas and higher education are linked to increased wage earnings, youth staying in foster care until 21 are more likely to earn a decent wage, more likely to contribute to the economy and pay taxes and will be less likely to need TANF, SNAP, or other government assistance programs."
Secretary of the Commonwealth Janet Kelly who helped lead the Virginia Adopts effort with her husband, Ryan, remarked, "In the general population, we are seeing more and more 'boomerang' youth. This term refers to young adults who graduate from high school and/or college, leave the home for a short time but then return. Some estimates are that over 50 percent of young adults under the age of 26 will end up back with parents at least one time. With no family, any 'boomerang' foster children have no place to turn in crisis and may end up homeless or making questionable decisions to secure housing. Foster care through the age of 21 will provide additional structure to allow these youth to safely navigate young adulthood without catastrophic consequences."
The governor's budget proposals include initiatives aimed at further enhancing Virginia's child welfare system:
Add $16.2 million to cover child welfare costs, including a 3% increase for payments to foster and adoptive parents
The introduced budget includes $12.2 million total funds (including $6.5 million from the General Fund) in each year of the biennium to cover the projected cost of providing foster care and adoption subsidy payments.
Additionally, $4.0 million total funds (including $2.4 million from the General Fund) are added to raise the family foster care maintenance payment amount by 3% beginning in FY 2015.
Provide foster care and adoption payments for young adults up to age 21
The Governor's introduced budget makes $10.3 million total funds ($1.9 million general fund) available to expand foster care and adoption subsidies to age 21 per federal Fostering Connections provision beginning in FY 2016.
Under current law, most child welfare payments end when a youth turns 18 in the foster care and adoption programs.
The federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (FCA) created an optional provision that allows states to receive federal matching funds when extending assistance to certain young adults aged 18 to 21.
Under FCA, states can receive reimbursement for young adults in the following programs:
Foster care: Youth who turn 18 while in foster care can continue to receive support and services until their 21st birthday.
Adoption Assistance: Individuals adopted at age 16 or older can continue to receive assistance until their 21st birthday.
Youth in either program must also meet educational and work requirements, such as working on a degree or working at least 80 hours per month.
Adopting the provisions of the FCA is expected to promote increased permanency and improved outcomes for youth in Virginia's child welfare system.
In addition, $0.1 million is provided in FY 2015 to develop a plan for implementing provisions of the federal legislation.
Negotiate adoption subsidies for local departments of social services
The Governor proposes that the state Department of Social Services (DSS) negotiate all adoption assistance agreements with both existing and prospective adoptive parents on behalf of local departments of social services.
The legal responsibilities of local departments of social services or rights of the adoptive parents will not be changed.
This proposal moves the responsibility for negotiating adoption agreements, including the subsidy amount from local departments to the state department.
DSS is provided with five positions and $1.1 million total funds ($0.7 million general fund) to implement this new state function. These positions will have the specific training necessary to handle adoption contracts and subsidy negotiations.
It is expected that these positions will improve the statewide constancy of adoption agreements and slow the growth in costs per child. Moreover, it will ease the current burden that is being placed on local departments.
Study the impact of state assuming full responsibility for the adoption program
The Governor's budget requires the Department of Social Services, in cooperation with local departments of social services, to prepare a report that examines the financial, programmatic and policy implications of the state assuming full responsibility for all aspects of the adoption program.
This study will provide data necessary to determine the advantages and disadvantages of moving from a locally administered to a state run adoption program.
The agency will be conducting this study without any additional resources.
About Virginia Adopts
Virginia Adopts: Campaign for 1,000 is an initiative to match 1,000 children in foster care with adoptive families. Governor McDonnell launched the campaign on May 17, 2013 during Virginia's Foster Care Month. From January 1st to December 13th, 977 children have been matched with permanent families. The Campaign featured two prominent social media campaigns: "100 Kids, 100 Days" and "#IHeartAdoption." The first campaign shared the story of 100 children in the foster care system waiting for a family, over the period of 100 days. #IHeartAdoption encourages adoption supporters to share photos describing why they support adoption on Facebook and Twitter.