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