2016 General Assembly Information
During the 2016 Virginia General Assembly session (the 60-day “long” session begins January 13th, 2016), 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.
The Children’s Agenda: Voices for Virginia’s Children 2016 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 2016 session.
Child Welfare & Foster Care
In 2016, Voices will continue to address the dire consequences of youth “aging out” of the foster care system without permanent family connections. Through our broad coalition of supporters, we will advocate for increased access to programs, services, and funding available to foster youth between the ages of 18 and 21 years.
Along with our partners at the Virginia Poverty Law Center, we are also focused on improving Virginia’s “kinship diversion” program, which seeks to prevent formal foster care placements by having Child Protective Services workers facilitate youth living with relatives when they cannot stay with their parents at home.
You can use the “Learn More” button below for relevant posts about our progress on child welfare issues during the 2016 session.
Children’s Health & Mental Health
In the 2016 General Assembly session, the Campaign for Children’s Mental Health is once again at the forefront, advocating for a stronger mental health system for children. Our priority this year continues to be building on the system of community-based crisis response services and child psychiatry. We have successfully advocated for funding the last four sessions to start and enhance these services in all five health planning regions of the state. Funds are being used to provide faster access to psychiatrists in person and through telepsychiatry, as well as to provide mobile crisis teams and residential and day crisis stabilization services.
We will also be advocating to expand services specifically targeted to transition-age youth (16-25) and to improve workforce development efforts for mental health professionals who treat children.
Early Childhood Care & Education
Voices convenes the Early Childhood Policy Action Network, a coalition of stakeholders representing a comprehensive approach to investments in early care and education. Each year these stakeholders develop a Unified Policy Agenda of priorities for early care and education.
The shared priorities of the 2016 Unified Early Childhood Agenda “Starting Early and Working Together” are:
- Provide pregnant moms and families with infants in-home support from parenting coaches and health educators by expanding the reach of the Home Visiting Consortium.
- Adequately fund early interventions to promote the healthy development of babies and toddlers.
- Continue efforts to improve the safety of child care.
- Promote continuous quality improvement initiatives in all early care settings.
- Support innovation at the local level to promote better access to high-quality early learning.
- Ensure that all at-risk children can attend the Virginia Preschool Initiative. Support additional investments in ensure that the Virginia Preschool Initiative is the model for high quality early learning in Virginia.
Voices also supports partner organizations taking the lead in the areas of Access to Health Care and Family Economic Security.
Most critical in this area is the issue of closing the health care coverage gap, which, if enacted, would make health care available through Medicaid (or similarly funded benefit) to individuals up to 133% of the Federal Poverty Level (meaning only a little under $31,000 for a family of four).
Click here to learn more about the Healthcare for All Virginians advocacy campaign, of which Voices is a member.
Family Economic Security
Through our membership in the Full Credit Coalition, led by our partners at the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, Voices is also working to create a more robust, meaningful Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for Virginians.
Each year we also lend our efforts to protecting other critical family benefits, such as TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families).