CASA Goes to the Capital!
CASA believes children should be with their families of origin when at all possible. Placing children with safe, appropriate relatives is THE best solution to averting a child from coming into foster care, and is the very best solution for getting them out of care when they cannot return home. Unfortunately, many of our biological families do not come from means, and though they willingly step forward to take on a new sibling group, this can cause severe financial struggles, and they may not fully understand how to access the services children of trauma need. For these reasons, we support bills currently before the Virginia Legislature that would establish a Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program (KinGAP).
what's being proposed:
Voices for Virginia's Children describes the bill like this: "KinGAP is a part of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, which provides Virginia opportunities to promote permanency and better outcomes for children in foster care. Creates the Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program to facilitate child placements with relatives and ensure permanency for children for whom adoption or being returned home are not appropriate permanency options. The bill sets forth eligibility criteria for the program, payment allowances to kinship guardians, and requirements for kinship guardianship assistance agreements. The bill also requires the Board of Social Services to promulgate regulations for the program. SB 44 – Favola (Companions: Dunnavant (SB 636), Brewer (HB 1333), Delaney (HB106)
- Update: This bill reported out of Senate Rehab and Social Services and has been sent to Finance because it has a fiscal impact (or cost associated with the bill). It is likely that SB 44 and SB 636, as well as HB 1333 and HB106, will be combined in Finance.
- Voices and Virginia Poverty Law Center have developed a Kinship Guardianship Fact Sheet
WHY KIN-GAP MATTERS:
Currently, while children are in foster care, their foster parents receive monthly maintenance payments. However, when a family member files for and receives custody, those payments are cut off, and if a family member petitions for custody to prevent a child going into foster care, they receive no financial support at all. Filing for child support from biological parents is something we often encourage family members to do, but it's often unrealistic to expect that this will yield any substantial support, as these parents might be incarcerated, unemployed, using substances, etc. Additionally, many of the relatives who step up to take in their young relatives, are already utilizing safety nets to make ends meet in their own families. Many already use public transport, qualify for Medicaid, food stamps, or TANF, or may have to apply for these for the first time when their household grows by 1 or 2, or 4, or whatever the number might be. Even so, families often struggle with meeting the new financial and logistical burden. There's also a danger that when they raise their hand to say they need help, Social Services might interpret this as a lack of commitment to the child, and may move the child's placement or take them into foster care.
where things stand now:
On 1/22/18, CASA of Central Virginia participated in an Advocacy Day hosted by Voices for Virginia's Children around these KinGAP bills. Two groups made up of foster care alumni and professionals on the ground met with key legislative members of the House, including Delegate Delaney, who was one of the patrons of the bill, and Delegates Ingram and our own Dr. Scott Garrett, both of whom are on the Appropriations Committee, which is considering this bill. Gaining the support of these committee members is key, as the House bill has died in committee for several years in a row. Without the bill being passed in committee, debate on the floor cannot take place. Stay tuned, and as information comes in about the outcome of committee hearings on the bill, we'll let you know!
How you can help:
- Contact our local delegate, Dr. Scott Garrett, to let him know you support this bill and why you think it's important. Personal stories where you've seen this need up close are particularly valuable! He can be reached via his Lynchburg office at
2255 Langhorne Rd
Lynchburg, VA 24501
T +434 455 0243
- Consider ways your faith community or neighborhood can be a support not just to foster families, but to kinship guardians and grandfamilies. Gas cards and/or transport assistance, meal trains, gift cards for family outings, babysitting help, hand-me-downs and practical supplies such as diapers, cribs, car seats, etc. can be godsends.