Contact: Charles Siler
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: NEW LAW EMPOWERS VIRGINIA COMMUNITIES TO HELP FAMILIES IN CRISIS
BUDGET AMENDMENT PILOTING FOSTER CARE ALTERNATIVE PASSES LEGISLATURE
Families experiencing a short-term crisis in Virginia hopefully have a new place to turn for help, their own communities, thanks to a pilot program authorized by the budget bill signed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Amendment 346#1h received initial approval from the Commission on Youth and establishes a Safe Families for Children pilot program in Planning District 11 through Patrick Henry Family Services. Originally founded in Chicago, Illinois in 2002, Safe Families for Children has successfully helped tens of thousands of families facing temporary crisis situations remain intact.
The Safe Families pilot program will create a safe haven for children in need, providing a stable environment that shields them from neglect while their families resolve issues ranging from unemployment, homelessness, hospitalization, or even brief incarceration. One of the major things that makes this program different from foster care is that the parents retain full rights throughout the process and the state is uninvolved. This enables communities to address problems earlier than the state legally could, and it allows families to solve problems before they get out of control, resulting in faster family reunifications.
“If we’re going to improve the quality of life for all Virginians, we have to effectively address the unique challenges faced by the children of families in times of crisis,” said Delegate Kathy J. Byron (R-Bedford), who worked successfully to have the program included in the budget.
“We need sensible protections for those families who acknowledge they need help before a problem spirals out of control. Virginians are more than willing to offer each other love and support when given an opportunity to help, and I am proud to help create a framework for volunteers and families in need to come together.”
While foster care is a vital tool in protecting Virginia’s children, many social workers are burdened with huge and unmanageable caseloads, leaving children exposed. This bill will allow families in need to connect with trained and vetted host families to resolve their own problems, which will lighten the load for state social workers who can now focus more serious cases involving abusive neglect and physical or sexual abuse.
“Social workers have a critical job protecting Virginia’s children, and if we can reduce their workload while giving them extra tools by setting up a network of volunteer families, that will only free them up to focus on the more serious cases that truly demand their attention,” said Andrew Brown, a senior fellow with the Foundation for Government Accountability and former child adoption attorney.
“This program helps put Virginia families and children first by encouraging people to address an issue before it becomes a serious problem while providing their children with a safe, stable environment as their parents work to overcome life’s challenges.”
Patrick Henry Family Services, a non-profit, interdenominational Christian ministry serving children and families since 1961, celebrates their new role as the child placing agency implementing the Safe Families pilot program. Due to the bill’s signing, they now have a legal framework for greater support of those in need in their community.
“Patrick Henry Family Services and the Safe Families for Children program is committed to ensuring that every child has the opportunity to grow up in a loving home,” said Patrick Neff, the Director of Family Placement for Patrick Henry Family Services. “The pilot program approved by the legislature is a great way to support Virginia’s families, and we look forward to leading in this revolutionary effort to encourage strong, health family relationships.”
The amendment creating the Safe Families pilot program enjoyed broad, bi-partisan support in the legislature.