NewFound News for You
Follow along with NewFound Families as we work to support families. In this news column we seek to provide current information about the admininistration of the child welfare system. Become part of our community and join us on Facebook.
In a response to a meeting held with families from across the state regarding the need for oversight of local department practices in some areas of the state, we received this response from the leadership of Virginia Department of Social Services.
The Commissioner and I had an opportunity to chat about the request and where we are with our system improvements. We are working diligently to implement sustainable practice changes to improve our child welfare practice throughout the Commonwealth. The Practice Profiles have been developed and are being rolled-out and operationalized in our 120 local departments. While we are rolling these out, we are also partnering with Rutgers University to evaluate the Profiles and the implementation process. While the results are not final, we are finding significant child welfare outcome improvements from those agencies who were early adopters of the Profiles.
Additionally, effective January 1, 2017, we established a statewide Quality Assurance and Accountability process and began administering local Agency Case Reviews in each of our 120 local departments. These are showing tremendous promise and are leading to the identifications of areas we need to continue addressing to provide better outcomes for the children and families we serve. Furthermore, both review processes are giving us a presence in local departments that has not existed and is strengthening the state-local relationship.
With these major efforts, we feel the Commonwealth is well positioned to not only respond to concerns, but to improve practice and prevent many of the concerns which have been brought to our attention. Our goal is to move away from a reactionary system to one where we ensure the highest quality customer service from the first interaction with a local department.
The Commissioner and I are both open to working with families who have concerns, ideas for improvements, etc. and feel the system we have put into place will address many of the issues which would have traditionally been handled on the back-end by mediation or an ombudsman program.
We look forward to continuing to work with you in improving our child welfare system.
Carl E. Ayers, MSW
Director, VDSS Division of Family Services
The first Permanency Advisory Committee meeting of 2018 was held on March 15th. Representatives from VDSS shared updates on several legislative and policy issues, and shared information about upcoming state and regional events. Representatives from local DSS offices shared input and creative problem-solving ideas, as well as areas where they are needing more guidance from the state.
One of the first conversations was related to the struggle across the state to enable children to achieve permanency post-TPR. Several localities noted a recent increase in lengthy appeals, and extended waits for rulings from circuit court judges. A desire was expressed that some way could be found to educate judges on the impact these delays has on the emotional well-being of a waiting child. It was also noted that some localities do not have a dedicated-adoption worker, and thus it takes longer to process adoption paperwork in some situations.
The PIP (Performance Improvement Plan) required as a result of CFSR (Child/Family Services Review) is being drafted based on strategies discussed at the previous meeting. As part of this process, there has been an increase in the number of cases audited across the state. The five goals of the PIP will be:
- (Safety) Improve the safety of children who come into contact with VDSS/LDSS through ensuring timeliness of CPS investigation contacts, provision of safety services and accurate safety services, planning and monitoring.
- (Permanency) Improve permanency outcomes through the establishment of timely and appropriate permanency goals and increasing stability in placement.
- (Permanency) Improve permanency outcomes through maintaining continuity of family relationships, maintaining connections, placing siblings together, and placing children with relatives when possible.
- (Well-being) Improve families’ capcities to provide for the children’s needs through assessing the needs and providing services to children and parents.
- (Managing Data and Quality Assurance) Utilize a case review process and CQI system that applies data to inform, manage and improve practice and outcomes through continual assessment of effectiveness of program improvements.
Other updates shared included some updated technical tools and resources for case workers to utilize for planning of effective visitations, Family Partnership Meetings, note-taking and documentation. In the upcoming months, an ID card for foster parents will be rolled out. This card will identify foster parents as having authority to make certain decisions for the children in their care, as well as provide access to benefits from companies that offer them for foster care providers.
Some significant legislative changes have taken place recently that will hopefully prove beneficial to the children and families impacted by foster care. In Virginia the KinGap bill was passed this year, which will open doors for more children to be placed with relatives who are able to be licensed as foster families. It is unclear at this time whether or not implementation of this bill is dependent on resolution of the budget. At the federal level, in a surprise move the Family First Act was included in the recent budget. This allows for more flexibility for funding to be used for preventative measures to stabilize families. The impact of this measure on some processes at the state and federal level is still being assessed.
The next PAC meeting is expected to be in June and there will be another update on the PIP at that time.
Submitted by NewFound Families-Virginia Representative, Jaoni Wood
PAC Meeting Blog
written by Jaoni Wood and Lisa Mathey, NewFound Families Representatives
On December 13th, the Permanency Advisory Committee (PAC) met in Charlottesville to discuss several agenda items intended to improve Virginia’s child welfare system. Jaoni Wood and Lisa Mathey were there to share input from the family perspective.
Traci Jones from VDSS shared the latest update on the use of the new Transcription Services available to local agency workers. This service is being implemented to improve the process of entering case notes by the agency workers into OASIS, the state’s record keeping database. In this new process, agency workers will dictate notes from their case visits via telephone to Deposition Services. The transcribed notes will be returned to the agency worker by email. The agency worker will then be able to cut and paste the transcribed notes into OASIS.
Morgan Nelson, QAA Supervisor, presented the findings from the recent federal Child and Family Services (CFSR) review. This review was conducted between April and June 2017 in 9 localities in Virginia to ensure there is conformity with federal child welfare requirements, and help identifying strengths and weaknesses in Virginia’s child welfare practices and programs. Reviewers were state, local agency and community stakeholder volunteers. They reviewed 70 cases in the 9 localities. Federal staff conducted a secondary oversight review of a sample of completed cases. The need for significant improvements in certain areas was found.
As a result of the review, the following outcomes were identified and will be addressed in Virginia’s Performance Improvement Plan (PIP).
Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) Activity
Meeting attendees participated in round table discussions on the following goals that will be addressed in the PIP. There was a lot of in-depth discussion of ways the state and agencies can better work together and with biological and foster families to achieve safety and permanency for children in Virginia’s foster care system.
Goal 1: (INFORMATION AVAILABLE AT LATER DATE)
Goal 2: (INFORMATION AVAILABLE AT LATER DATE)
Goal 3: (Permanency) Improve permanency outcomes through maintaining the continuity of family, relationships, maintaining connections, placing siblings together and with relatives when possible.
Goal 4: (Well-Being) Improve families’ capacities to provide for their children’s needs through assessing the needs and providing services to children and parents.
Goal 5: (Quality Assurance and Case Review Systemic Factors) Utilize a case review process and CQI system that applies data to inform, manage, and improve practice and outcomes through continual assessment of effectiveness of program improvement implemented.
PAC members will review the draft PIP and provide input for revisions at the next meeting on Wednesday, March 15, 2018. Agencies across Virginia will see further reviews in the coming year to measure improvements in the areas identified.
INTERESTED IN LEARNING ABOUT THE RESULTS OF THE FEDERAL CHILD AND FAMILY SERVICES REVIEW? CLICK HERE.
Hi! This is Cate Hawks, your Executive Director. I am pleased to be representing all of you at the National Foster Parent Association (NFPA) meetings this week. I serve on the State Council of Affiliates representing Virginia and I am a member of the NFPA Board of Directors, as well. We have had some great coversations these past two days. I want to share with you a few really cool things for you to consider and to let you know about something we are working on for you and your families.
During the NFPA Council of State Affiliate's meeting, we had very rich discussions about the need for recreational activities for children that you are all caring for and nurturing. During that conversation, I began doing a bit of research about our national parks entrance fees. In that research, I discovered two things...one there is a national park program giving free national park passes to EVERY 4th grader in the US...AND, a national park program providing FREE lifetime park passes to persons with disabilities and this includes those receiving Social Security Disability Income checks. Many of the children in foster care are eligible for social security disability income as well as children who have been adopted or living in kinship care homes.
We have also contacted the Virginia Department of Natural Resources to rekindle our previous request for free state park passes for our families. I have not heard back from the Virginia director working on this option, but will update this article when I do hear back.
In the meantime, please be sure to apply for your FREE national park pass, if the children in your home qualify and this would be an opportunity that would assist your family.
Will post more later. Thanks for being with us!
NORMALCY, by Brenda Sayers Wilkins
In Sept. 2014, our federal government passed a bill cited as the "Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act". Within this act, subtitle B, is "Improving Opportunities for Children in Foster Care and Supporting Permanency". This fairly recent act supports a "reasonable and prudent parent standard" for children in foster care, group homes or residential settings. Prudent Parenting allows these children the right to participate in extracurricular, enrichment, cultural and social activities, with careful and sensible parental decisions based on health, safety and best interest of the child.
For the most part, the maintenance payment received by foster parents is to help with the cost of transporting children to school. However, there are times when a decision is made that it is in the best interest of the child to continue attending the school they attended prior to entering foster care. In such cases, there are funds available to help cover the transportation cost.
Click here to learn more about the decision-making process regarding allowing children to conitnue attending their school of record prior to entering foster care.