Voices’ advocates reform the foster care system in Virginia so that child welfare-involved youth have the opportunity to build permanent family connections and the supports needed to successfully transition to productive adulthood.
Foster care is a program run by the state of Virginia that provides temporary care for children who cannot live with their parents or other relatives. Through this system, the local department of social services takes legal custody of a child when a parent or parents are unable to care for him or her, most often because of neglect and/or abuse.
Placement of a child in foster care, if necessary, should be temporary and family-based until a more permanent connection is made. Preferred options include: working with families to improve conditions in order to return children to their homes, placement with a relative, or adoption.
In 2007, in partnership with Virginia’s child-serving agencies and then-First Lady of Virginia Anne Holton, Voices helped launch the Children’s Services System Transformation, a major child welfare reform campaign that reduced the use of institutional care and improved family-focused care for youth in the child welfare system. You can learn more about that effort here.
Foster Care & Adoption Policy Goals
For current legislative initiatives, please visit our State Advocacy page here.
Voices works closely with the Governor’s office, the General Assembly, state and local social services agency leadership, service providers, parents and caregivers, and—most especially—youth to identify, develop, and champion policy improvements for Virginia’s child welfare system. Among our current priorities:
- Ensure the full implementation of the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, which provides Virginia opportunities to promote permanency and outcomes for children in foster care in the following areas:
- Increased use of and support for kinship care
- Transition support for older youth in care
- Coordinated health and mental health services
- Improved educational stability for youth in care
- Improved services and supports aimed at increasing successful adoptions
- Support evidence-based, prevention-focused policies for child welfare-involved youth that emphasize family- and community-based settings
- Improve access to and quality of health care services for child welfare-involved youth
- Increase capacity and quality of support to youth involved in multiple systems (social services, juvenile justice, homelessness)
- Build systems that integrate family and youth engagement at every stage
In 2015, Voices launched an independent resource site, FosteringHealthVA, to provide youth “aging out” of foster care with healthcare information related to their Medicaid benefits under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Youth aging out of foster care are eligible for Medicaid, no matter their income, up to age 26 under the mandated sections of the ACA.
In 2014, Voices successfully advocated for this benefit to apply to youth living in Virginia who aged out of any state’s foster care system. Youth can “self-attest” to their status, and should receive the full adult benefits package offered through Virginia Medicaid. For specific questions on this issue, either on policy or individual case matters, please contact Policy Analyst Allison Gilbreath directly at [email protected].
Foster Care & Adoption Publications
- A Portrait of Virginia’s Child Welfare System: The report highlights recent Virginia data on child maltreatment and foster care, including data on foster care children with disabilities as well as racial disparities in Virginia’s foster care system. The report also evaluates the Children’s Services System Transformation and chronicles Virginia’s implementation of the federal Fostering Connections Act.
- In 2008 and 2009, Voices, the Virginia Poverty Law Center, FACES of Virginia Families, and ART 180 hosted VOICES for Change, an art initiative to amplify the voices of youth in foster care. Youth were encouraged to submit an original essay, poem, painting, illustration or photograph expressing their feelings about transitioning to adulthood. A panel of expert judges reviewed the submissions and selected winners in writing, photography, and two-dimensional art.
Becoming a Foster and/or Adoptive Parent
Voices for Virginia’s Children does not work directly with families on foster care or adoption issues. For more information on becoming a foster, adoptive, resource, or kinship parent, please contact your local department of social services or call 1-888-837-7232.
Resources For Foster Care Parents and Youth In Care
FACES of Virginia Families is a non-profit membership-driven association offering information, support and resources for foster, adoptive and kinship families. Contact Cate Newbanks, FACES Executive Director, at 877.823.2237 or [email protected] for more information.
Great Expectations is a strengths-based mentoring/support organization that helps young people in and leaving the foster care system in Virginia to access and engage in higher education. Great Expectations have coaches based at each of Virginia’s Community Colleges, but also work with youth at any stage of their transition out of care. Contact Executive Director Allyson Roberts at [email protected] for more information.
Voices is a member of the SPARC network, a partnership between First Focus and the Annie E. Casey Foundation that connects child welfare advocates from nearly all 50 states in a peer-advocacy network to help advance best practices and foster learning and information-sharing between states.
We also work closely on an individual basis with First Focus and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.