Our View of the Legislature – Foster Care

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The legislative session is now approaching “crossover,” the point at which a bill must be completely approved by the house of origin so that it can cross over to the other house for consideration. As this deadline grows closer, many bills have been tabled or defeated or simply were never heard in committee.

Generally, by crossover, if a bill has been tabled, it is done for the year. The exception is bills that have been tabled by House Appropriations or Senate Finance, which may find some limited life in the budget proposals. An example of that is two bills that address resources available to children with disabilities in foster care.

When children with disabilities age out of the foster care system, they find themselves suddenly with no resources, no safety net, and often no planning for their future.

  • SB 40 (Favola) and HB 75 (Hope) would have directed the State Board of Social Services to amend state regulations to 1) require local departments of social services to apply for federal financial benefits, from the Social Security Administration or Veterans Affairs, for eligible foster youth, 2) prohibit the use of these benefits to pay for these foster youth’s foster care services, and 3) require any local boards of social services who serve as the representative payee for foster youth who receive federal benefits to preserve their benefits in a manner that does not jeopardize those youth’s eligibility for benefits. Both bills were approved by their substantive committees, the House Committee on Health and Human Services and the Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services, but referred to their budget committees, because of a large fiscal impact statement assigned by the Department of Social Services.

The House version was then heard by the House Appropriations, Subcommittee on Health and Human Resources, who decided to table the measure due to the cost. In the Senate, however, the Senate Finance subcommittee opted to amend the bill and instead direct the Department of Social Services to assess whether it is feasible to allow these children to retain any of their federal benefits for use after they age out of the foster care system. Under the Senate plan, DSS will be required to report back to the legislature by November 1, 2024.

The disAbility Law Center of Virginia is hopeful that the House may consider including similar language in their budget proposal, or at least adopt the Senate amendments.

Although neither version will make an immediate difference in the lives of children with disabilities in the foster care session, the Senate’s requirement gives us some hope that there may be a solution for these children in the next legislative session.

Our mission is to advance independence, choice, and self-determination; protect legal, human, and civil rights; and eliminate abuse, neglect, and discrimination of people with disabilities through zealous and uncompromising legal advocacy and representation. We are available to educate policymakers about the potential impact of legislative proposals. We educate policymakers about the impact of the decisions they are making on the disability community.

Please let us know of any legislative proposals or budget issues that you think we should be following. Contact us at ga@dlcv.org or info@dlvc.org or by calling 1-800-552-3962 or 1-804-225-2042.