Our View of the Legislature – Foster Care

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The legislative session ends on Saturday, March 9th, but many bills have already been resolved and most committees have had their final meetings. dLCV has been educating policymakers about the problems faced by 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. We note two developments in the legislature that may be helpful to these youth, eventually:

SB 40 (Favola) now directs the Department of Social Services (DSS) to convene a workgroup to assess whether it is feasible to allow children with disabilities to retain any of their federal benefits for use after they age out of the foster care system. Under the Senate bill, DSS will be required to report back to the legislature by November 1, 2024. The bill was approved by the Senate and by the House Committee on Health and Human Services but is now in House Appropriations.

SB 40 (Favola) and HB 75 (Hope) began by instructing Social Services to develop regulations to require local departments of social services to apply for federal financial benefits, to prohibit the use of these benefits to pay for these foster youth’s foster care services and to require the creation of savings accounts for these youth. Although the bills were approved by their substantive committees, the House bill was killed in the budget committee. To avoid a similar fate, the Senate patron converted her bill into a workgroup assessment instead.

The disAbility Law Center of Virginia will be available to assist the workgroup if invited and will pursue additional remedies in the future.

Another bill that will assist children in foster care as they age out of the system is HB 700 (Tata).  The bill provides that a youth aging out of foster care who attends a community college may receive a grant to cover the cost of room and board.  Although not directly targeting children with disabilities, the bill does recognize the drastic circumstances our youth find themselves in when they age out of foster care. The bill was approved by the House and by the Senate Committee on Education and Health but is now being considered by the Senate Finance Committee.

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. 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@dlcv.org, or by calling 1-800-552-3962 or 1-804-225-2042.