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Last month, SCAN hosted its 5th Annual Speak Up for Children Advocacy Training, bringing together more than 40 attendees for a day of public policy education and advocacy training. Partners from Prevent Child Abuse Virginia and Voices for Virginia’s Children along with a diverse group of child welfare experts and elected officials led discussions during the day-long, interactive workshop. The group discussed effective advocacy tactics at all levels; critical legislative updates; and policy priorities for the upcoming 2017 Virginia General Assembly session. The training was sponsored in part by Verizon, and volunteers from Boeing also supported promotion, planning and facilitation of the event.

Wondering what Advocacy Day attendees are going to do next? Here are some of the action items they plan to take in th ecoming months, and you can do them too:

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  1. Attend an Advocacy Day in Richmond during the upcoming 2017 short session of the Virginia General Assembly.
  2. Work towards having Erin’s Law passed in Virginia. Read an article on Erin’s Law, including comment from Advocacy Day guest Senator Jennifer Wexton, here.
  3. Share advocacy information with others in your network. Voices for Virginia’s Children has some excellent 2017 Tools for Advocates available here.
  4. Call, write and visit your legislators. Find out who your local legislators are here.
  5. Support the families you serve in our programs. One way to support them is by finding creative ways to share their stories with your legislators!
  6. Work with other organizations, across issues, to encourage more progress. Legislators told us again and again that the more cooperation and work they see behind an issue, the easier it is for them to bring attention to it! You can learn more about SCAN’s policy focus in the comine year here, and Prevent Child Abuse Virginia shares specific Bills they are following (along with many other useful advocacy tools!) here.
  7. Thank your political representative for working on behalf of children. (See number 4 above.)

You can download an overview of Advocacy Day here, or visit SCAN’s Advocacy page on our website here for more resources from the day, including a Legislative Glossary, Intro to the VA General Assembly and a Self-Assessment tool!

 

fate-of-2016-legislationOur Executive Director Sonia Quiñónez spent time meeting with Prevent Child Abuse Virginia and other regional affiliates this week. Much of the discussion focused on what’s next for children and families in the Commonwealth. We’ve blogged a few times this year about the General Assembly and what’s happening in Richmond.

Now that the dust has settled on the most recent session, it’s an important time to look at bills passed—and those that didn’t make it—as we begin talking with our partners like Voices for Virginia’s Children and thinking about how to best advocate for children and families next year. Check out this great infographic from the Virginia Public Access Project, and stay tuned for details on our plans for advocacy in 2017.

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A number of state legislators participated in SCAN’s Advocacy Day, discussing many of the issues where progress was made in 2016. 

This year’s General Assembly came to a close on March 11th, and it is important to give thanks to our elected officials who have worked diligently on behalf of Virginia’s children and youth. Back in January at the start of the legislative session, SCAN focused on three issues: early childhood education, kinship care, and foster care and youth. It is very exciting to be able to say that Fostering Futures has been included in the 2016 budget and the General Assembly made a significant expansion of home visiting programs & additional investments in the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI).

Voices for Virginia’s Children recently blogged about the progress and gave an excellent overview here. Here is an excerpt:

Even if there were not a lot of headlines, or committee hearings, on early childhood this session we are pleased to see that the groundswell of support from champions cultivated by the early childhood community over the last few years has translated into support for comprehensive investments in early childhood. We also know that we will keep early childhood policy on the radar in the coming weeks and months because of the various groups that will be asked to weigh in on policy recommendations in the future.

Below is the progress we made during the 2016 General Assembly Session:

Budget Items:

  • Significant expansion of home visiting parent and health education services- The final budget includes additional TANF funding- an additional $9.5 M for Healthy Families, $2 M for CHIP and $2 M for Resource Mothers over the biennium. This funding more than doubles the current Healthy Families funding.
  • Increase to early intervention (Part C) services to keep pace with referrals– The legislature accepted the Governor’s proposal to increase state funds for early intervention by $1.7 M in FY17 and $2.5 M in FY18.
  • Increase to VPI per pupil amount- Along with repurposing lottery funds to have more flexibility in the K-12 funding formula, the legislature recognized that the VPI per pupil amount had not increased since 2008 and recommended a 2% increase. The rate will change from $6,000 per pupil to $6,125. This equates to an additional $2.8 M over the biennium.
  • Statewide eligibility criteria for VPI with local flexibility– The legislature accepted the Governor’s proposal to establish a statewide income eligibility below 200% of poverty while allowing states to enroll up to 15% of their VPI students above the income cut-off if they met locally established risk factors.
  • New mixed-delivery preschool grant pilots– The legislature accepted the Governor’s proposal and approved a companion piece of legislation (HB47- Greason) to establish a two-year pilot of $1.5 M each year for testing new approaches for public-private preschool partnerships. We hope to see more of the successes we highlighted in our Preschool Partnership Stories from Alexandria and Fairfax.
  • Child Care Workforce Scholarships- The legislature recommended $600,000 the first year and $1.3 M the second for the creation of scholarships and a competency-based credentialing system through VECF.

A total of $25.4 M in new investments in early childhood education over the biennium…

[Read the full blog post from Voices for Virginia’s Children here.]

We hope you’ll take the time to thank your elected official for the progress made! Here is an example of what you can say:

The Honorable [Elected Official’s Name]

Address City, State, Zip

Dear [Elected Official],

I am writing to thank you for your support of Virginia’s children, youth, and families. Because of your support Virginia’s children and youth have a greater opportunity to grow up with the supports they need to contribute to stronger communities today and as adults tomorrow.

Sincerely,

[Your name]

— Sydna Cooper, MSW Intern with SCAN

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Virginia State Capitol (PHOTO: Ava Reaves, 2015) Source: wtvr.com

Every January, the Virginia General Assembly convenes, and this year children’s issues are once again at the forefront of many discussions. The three main agenda items SCAN will be focusing on in 2016 are early education, foster care and youth, and kinship care. A significant development this year that has the potential to greatly impact children, youth and families in Virginia is Governor McAuliffe’s announcement at the joint money committee of his biennial budget, which included support for early childhood education.

Bills that have been introduced in the legislature that pertain to these issues include:

Early Education and Child Care

A major focus of this year’s agenda is the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) and other aspects of early education. The bills listed below cover a range of issues from early education and childcare providers to providing funding for a mixed delivery approach, which is a major component to reforming VPI.

Click on the following links to track related bills:

  • HB 46: Establishes an Early Education Workforce Committee
  • HB 47: Funds for a mixed delivery preschool program
  • HB 242: Removes the requirement for local communities to provide matching funds to qualify for VPI funds
  • HB 500: Requires national background checks for day care providers and anyone living in the home of a day care provider
  • SB 269: Replaces the requirement that 2 members of the State Board of Social Services represent stand-alone child care center that meets state standards and a religiously exempt child care center

Foster Care and Youth

Reforming Foster Care has been a large part of SCAN’s policy agenda, and was recently addressed at SCAN’s Advocacy Day 2015. In the upcoming General Assembly, Virginia lawmakers have introduced bills surrounding issues of expansion of foster care services and maintaining records.

Click on the following links to track related bills:

  • HB 81: Expand time frame for maintain foster care records until age 22.
  • HB 203: Extends foster care services for children 18-21.
  • HB 271: Parenting time; replaces “visitation” in statutory language.

Kinship Care

Both of the bills introduced this year work towards amending and reenacting exiting laws referring to Kinship Care. (What is Kinship Care? Learn more here.) The third item is a study commissioned to have a better understanding of the feasibility in lessening the restrictions of barrier crimes in order to promote kinship foster care and adoptive placements while ensuring that they are a safe placement for children.

Click on the following links to track related bills:

  • SB 433: Kinship Guardianship Assistance program
  • HB 674 Kinship foster care; waiver of foster home approval standards
  • SJ 73 Study: Department of Social Services; feasibility of lessening restrictions of barrier crimes

The current session continues through February – will you track bills or contact your legislators? We hope so!

— Sydna Cooper, MSW Intern with SCAN

window-932760_1280September was Kinship Care month and also the first annual Kinship Symposium sponsored by the Northern Virginia Kinship Group.  And like all other awareness months, it is more than that to those 2.7 million children that are cared for by relatives and close family friends.

What is kinship care?  Child Welfare Information Gateway defines it as “the care of children by relatives or, in some jurisdictions, close family friends (often referred to as fictive kin).”   There are certainly benefits of kinship care: children placed in kinship care maintain a family connection and a sense of belonging and self-worth.  And there are also challenges.  Those challenges include complicated family relationships, a lack of resources and legal services, accessing medical care and enrolling children in school, as well as general anxiety over social services and systems that should be helping the child.  (Heidi Redlich, Director of Kinship Care Policy, ABA Center on Children and the Law.)

When service providers are more aware of the challenges and how to effectively tackle them head on with the family, then the child has an even greater chance of thriving within the kinship care situation and their chances of entering foster care are reduced.  According to Dr. Joseph Crumbley, LCSW, service providers should address the following with the families:

  • Loss
  • Roles/Boundaries
  • Guilt
  • Embarrassment
  • Projection/Transference
  • Loyalty
  • Child Rearing Practices
  • Stress Management/Physical Limitations
  • Bonding and Attachment
  • Anger and Resentment
  • Morbidity and Mortality
  • Fantasies
  • Overcompensation
  • Competition
  • Intrusion

This is definitely an area in which a greater understanding is developing and those who work with children and advocate on behalf of children need greater exposure.  Laws are changing as we realize the lack of financial support and legal rights these families have.  Families that are trying to do right for children.

At our Advocacy Day on November 17th, we will be talking about kinship care in Virginia.  To register to attend, please go to https://co.clickandpledge.com/advanced/default.aspx?wid=113088

– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager
tleonard@scanva.org

IMG_7935Children’s issues are proving to be a major concern for The Virginia General Assembly 2015 session, which convened on January 14th. Over 150 pieces of legislation related to children and family issues have been introduced, and SCAN’s Legislative & Advocacy Committee is reviewing these bills and will follow them as they move through the legislative process. Kerry Desjardins, SCAN’s Master of Social Work intern, attended the Commonwealth Council on Childhood Success meeting in Richmond last Thursday. Each council subcommittee presented the top children’s issues they plan to address, many of which are in line with the most popular children’s issues being considered by the legislature. Here are a few of the issues on which SCAN is currently focusing:

 

Child care safety

This past August, The Washington Post published a two-part article on the lack of oversight of home-based day care in Virginia, raising greater awareness to long-held concerns.  As a result, Virginia lawmakers have introduced over a dozen pieces of legislation related to child care safety, including bills addressing whether or not a family day home provider’s own children should count toward the threshold requiring licensure, basic safety requirements such as smoke detectors and CPR training, and mandatory reporting to the Department of Social Services of intent to operate a family day home.

Click on the following links to track related bills:

HB 1517  /  HB 1552  /  HB 1570  /  HB 1929  /  HB 1931  /  HB 2023  /  HB 2046  /  HB 2069

SB 780  /  SB 818  /  SB 844  /  SB 898  /  SB 1029  /  SB 1055  /  SB 1069  /  SB 1123  /  SB 1124  /  SB 1168

 

Infant safe-sleeping

SCAN is also following House Bill 1515, legislation that would require hospitals to give maternity patients information about safe sleeping environments for infants. SCAN has worked to educate parents about safe sleep environments for infants for some time now, and is pleased to see lawmakers showing concern for the issue. SCAN supports the intent of this legislation and the positive impact it could have on children and parents.

Click on the following link to track related bills:

HB 1515

 

Protecting children from abuse

There are currently over two dozen bills that aim to prevent and protect children from physical and sexual abuse. These bills range from new and harsher penalties for perpetrators of child abuse, creating a supplement to the Sex Offenders and Crimes Against Minors Registry, requiring that mandated reporters complete training on how to recognize and report suspected child abuse or neglect, and creating new felonies for perpetrators of child trafficking, and more.

Click on the following links to track related bills:

HB 1353  /  HB 1441  /  HB 1505  /  HB 1526  /  HB 1527  /  HB 1533  /  HB 1884  /  HB 1954  /  HB 1964  /  HB 2007  /  HB 2040  /  HB 2092  /  HB 2138

SB 710  /  SB 911  /  SB 914  /  SB 918  /  SB 934  /  SB 976  /  SB 1056  /  SB 1057  /  SB 1074  /  SB 1094  /  SB 1117  /  SB 1138  /  SB 1170  /  SB 1188  /  SB 1213  /  SB 1253

 

Virginia’s budget

IMG_2287In December, Governor McAuliffe presented his proposed amendments to Virginia’s fiscal plan. During the 2015 session members of the Senate Finance Committee and the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee will consider the governor’s propositions as they prepare their own budget bills. The governor’s proposed changes include severe cuts in funding for several programs and services that are critical to at-risk children and families. It is a small part of his attempt at working towards a more balanced budget. SCAN is deeply concerned about the impact those cuts would have on Virginia’s most vulnerable children, and is advocating for Virginia legislators to find alternative ways of achieving a more balanced budget.

 

During the current session, child safety and well-being appears to be a top priority for members of Virginia’s General Assembly. There is great potential for achieving some critical policy changes related to children, but we must act fast. The General Assembly will adjourn in a matter of weeks. As advocates for children we must take full advantage of this short opportunity to influence policies that impact children and families. SCAN will continue to provide periodic updates on the status of such policies. To learn more about how to advocate for children and families, we encourage you to:

2014_06_preKMany of us support pre-kindergarten programs because they help children enter kindergarten more prepared and give parents the flexibility to work and support their families. But there is another reason child abuse prevention advocates should support pre-k:

The research shows that a high-quality pre-kindergarten (pre-k) program with a strong parent coaching component can actually help prevent child abuse and neglect.

Since the 1960s, the Chicago Child-Parent Centers (CPC) preschool program has been operating in low-income Chicago neighborhoods. The program offers pre-k for children beginning at age 3, in addition to a strong focus on parenting support. Each center has a staffed parent-resource room as well as staff members who connect families with resources to address their needs. Parents are required to participate at school and staff members also do home visits.

In high-quality, long term follow-up studies, researchers found that children in the CPC program were half as likely to experience repeated abuse or neglect and nearly half as likely to be placed in out-of-home placements like foster care, compared to similar children not in the program. (Reynolds et al., 2007) These are huge impacts, especially for a program that is not focused on child abuse prevention.

So, how are we doing on providing access to high-quality pre-k in Virginia? There is still a lot of room for improvement! The Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) serves about 17 percent of the state’s 4-year-olds, which is progress over the 6 percent served in 2003. While many other children are served by Head Start or private preschool programs, too many Virginia children still do not have access to a high-quality pre-k program.

Research shows that pre-k programs must be high-quality to get strong outcomes for children. VPI meets 6 of 10 quality benchmarks measured by the National Institute for Early Education Research. In addition, state funding per child has decreased each of the last 3 years. As a result, Virginia ranks 26th in the nation on access for 4-year-olds and 23rd in the nation on state spending on pre-k.

To adequately serve our most vulnerable children and potentially prevent child abuse, Virginia will need to continue investing in high-quality pre-kindergarten programs.

So how can we make a difference? SCAN is planning an Advocacy Day this November, a special opportunity to join a group of advocates in voicing our concerns and commitment to improving the resources and supports — like Pre-K — that strengthen families and ensure opportunities for our youngest members. Stay tuned for a date and details later this summer.

– Lindsay Ferrer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SCAN works to build hope for children and families in Northern Virginia. This blog brings child welfare professionals the current trends and valuable resources that will support their work to prevent child abuse and strengthen families in Northern Virginia and beyond.

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