2017 General Assembly Information
During the 2017 Virginia General Assembly session (the 45-day short session begins January 11th, 2017), Voices will send a weekly online newsletter every Friday, as well as Action Alert emails when direct action is needed on specific legislation or the budget. You’ll find links in each of our advocacy areas below that will allow you to delve deeper into our work, access relevant materials, and receive updates on our priorities.
Here you’ll find information on our specific legislative initiatives for the upcoming session.
Our 2017 Legislative Priorities: Highlights 2017 Voices Legislative Agenda(PDF)
You can use the “Learn More” button below each of our core policy areas for relevant blog posts about our progress during the 2017 session.
Detailed 2017 Legislative Priorities
Protect Our Investments in Children
After a year of making significant progress—investments in a comprehensive early childhood approach, children’s mental health crisis response, and foster care improvements– Virginia faces a $1.5 billion shortfall that puts our progress at-risk. We must fight to protect these investments otherwise, young children in at-risk families will be more vulnerable to abuse and neglect, children with urgent mental health needs will have to wait longer for help, and youth aging out of foster care with no family at age 18 will once again be left on their own.
Child Welfare & Foster Care
Improve and bring structure to Virginia’s “Kinship Diversion” program, which is designed to increase the use of kinship care and avoid unnecessary foster care custody by facilitating placements with relatives.
Voices will continue to advocate for improvements to the kinship diversion program including tracking outcomes we successfully advocated for last year. We will advocate to adopt best practices in identifying relative placements and in ensuring the safety of children in those placements. Additionally, we will advocate for support services for kin placements that will build protective factors—such as parental resilience, parenting skills, and social connections—that will ensure the safety of children.
Reform Virginia’s juvenile justice system so that most of our delinquency-involved youth are served in their families and communities, as opposed to juvenile prisons that are unsafe, ineffective, expensive to maintain, and keep kids disconnected from families.
Protect the reinvestment dollars and direct those dollars saved to be used to create a continuum of best- practice, trauma-informed supports and services geared towards rehabilitation in family and community environments. Advocate for dollars that could be used on a second youth prison in Hanover be used towards the continuum of care.
Children’s Health & Mental Health
Reform the children’s mental health system in Virginia by building capacity and improving access to community-based services throughout the Commonwealth
As policymakers consider improvements to Virginia’s mental health system, Voices will advocate that strengthening the system for children is a critical part of overall system reform. Voices will continue to advocate that Virginia develop a community-based system of care that allows children of all ages to receive treatment and services in the least restrictive settings and near their families whenever possible, regardless of where they live in the state or the type of insurance they have.
Early Childhood Care & Education
Adequately fund early interventions to promote the healthy development of babies and toddlers. Meet the increased demand for services for infants and toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities by continuing to increase funding for Early Intervention (IDEA Part C) services.
Continue efforts to improve the safety of child care. To build on the child care safety reforms, fingerprint background checks must apply to all child care providers and checks of minimal safety standards should apply all child care providers.
Support a mixed-delivery early education system to expand access for at-risk young children. Support pilots and other approaches the encourage public-private partnerships that leverage private child care facilities, child care assistance funds, Head Start, and the Virginia Preschool Initiative to create a higher quality system with targeted initiatives and innovations to improve quality and access for low-income children.
Voices convenes the Early Childhood Policy Action Network, a coalition of stakeholders representing a comprehensive approach to investments in early care and education and shared priorities.
Research shows that chronic, severe stressors in childhood can cause biological responses that are toxic and traumatic to the developing brain and can have long-term consequences for health and wellness. But science also tells us that responsive relationships and strong communities can buffer the effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), allowing children to develop to their potential and contribute to their communities. Voices will work with partners engaged in regional Trauma Informed Community Networks (TICNs) to raise awareness of the need to implement trauma-informed best practices in all systems. With our partners, we will introduce resolutions to recognize the interagency, public-private models that have emerged at the local and regional levels and to encourage statewide adoption of best practices for children and families experiencing toxic stress and trauma.
Bring more social workers, counselors, school psychologists and nurses into schools to better prepare children for educational success. As the rate of children in economic hardship increases, school personnel recognize that they need additional supports to meet the needs of their students to achieve academic success.
Dismantle the school to prison pipeline by supporting school suspension reform as well as by supporting alternative discipline interventions that can help reduce suspension rates and improve student behavior.
Over 1,300 babies were referred to Child Protective Services as substance exposed newborns in FY16, a 21% increase over FY15. Pregnant women and mothers facing addiction struggle to balance receiving appropriate recovery services while maintaining bonds with their families and attachment to their infants. Stronger systems of care are needed to support pregnant and parenting women with substance abuse issues, including easier access to treatment and home visiting services.