Virginia’s Emerging Kinship Pilot Program
In April 2010, only 279 out of 6,329 children in foster care in Virginia were placed in a kinship-type foster placement, putting Virginia last in the nation in the use of kinship care. The Virginia Chapter of FFTA has been working on a kinship program for several years, and, with an anticipated start date of July 1, 2017, things are moving right along. Although Virginia was very interested in the grant to promote kinship when it was originally released, it was not until the offer came around the second time (2015) that the Virginia Chapter was able to apply for and was awarded the grant. This was the support that the Virginia Chapter needed to begin moving toward a much-anticipated pilot kickoff.
The first step was hosting a 2-day summit on March 30 and 31, 2016. The goal of day 1 was to provide a forum for public and private providers to learn about existing and emerging Kinship Treatment Foster Care models. The goal for day 2 was to establish work groups to assess current systems and create the plan of action for moving forward.
Day 1 was a training day designed to provide knowledge about kinship care as well as information for public and private agencies about how other states implemented Kinship Treatment Foster Care programs in their communities. The goal was to elicit buy-in from state and local public agencies (the Virginia Department of Social Services, the local departments of social services, and other child welfare agencies and programs) as well as private Treatment Foster Care providers for the idea that “kinship care” is essential to Virginia’s communities and ultimately a missing necessity.
Each of these work groups then reported the information they collected, and a plan of action was set in motion. The first step was to develop a needs assessment that was sent to vital organizations that would be directly involved in the success of this program. The goal was to assess the status of using kinship providers, barriers to implementing a formal kinship TFC program in local communities, and overall feelings about the program.
Following the summit and data collection from the survey, the City of Norfolk agreed to pilot a Kinship Foster Care program. This step brings Virginia to where we are today: gathering Treatment Foster Care providers that are willing to participate, writing the pilot program with assistance from FFTA National, and assessing the best way to train kinship foster parents in a cost-effective manner. Initially, we will be targeting kinship placements for youth being discharged from congregate care and then expanding the program as appropriate.
It has taken the Virginia FFTA Chapter over two years to lay the foundation for a Kinship Treatment Foster Care program.Many hours have been spent by chapter members, the board, and community affiliates to prepare this program for implementation in our communities.We hope our pilot will be of help to other states seeking to move forward with a formal Kinship Treatment Foster Care program. The process has not always been easy, but we are excited to see how this pilot transforms our Treatment Foster Care programs to be even more person centered and family focused than before.