Saturday, January 14, 2012

State failing to spur kinship custody - Virginia

4.6% of foster kids stay with relatives in 2010 - lowest in the nation

Virginia ranks last in the nation when it comes to asking relatives to become foster parents, even though promoting such so-called "kinship care" is official state policy.

Only 4.6 percent of kids in foster care were with relatives in 2010, well below the national average of 24 percent, the Virginia Commission on Youth reported to the General Assembly this week.

For one Staunton family, the Simms, who have been trying to win custody of a cousin's infant, the finding is no surprise.

"I really don't know what to say," added Sylvia Simms. Licensed as a day care provider and as a treatment foster parent, she and her husband, Army veteran William Simms, say they've been rebuffed and misled by local social workers in their efforts to care for the infant.

The infant's foster care plan, prepared by the social workers, contradicts findings by the infant's court-appointed guardian ad litem, who had recommended placing the infant with the Simms. The social services department has declined to comment, beyond saying there are two sides to every story and saying the state's policy is to encourage kinship care.

The commission reported "the negative perception held by child welfare workers 'that the apple does not fall far from the tree,'" was one reason why kinship care lagged in Virginia.

In addition, it said, many Virginians object to the idea that people be paid to care for relatives who need foster care.

But the commission also reported caregivers looking after relatives find it is tough to get help with health care, child care, housing and mental health services that children in foster care are supposed to get.

In many cases, such caregivers don't know, or aren't told, they are entitled to welfare, help with health care coverage or for a wide range of other support services intended for children in foster care, the commission said.

It recommended the state Department of Social Services move forward with its previously announced plans to create an assistance program to help people providing foster care to relatives.

It also asked the state Department of Education to ensure school systems understood they could not assume children in foster care with relatives were not local residents and therefore not entitled to free schooling.

The commission also suggested Virginia re-examine its list of crimes that permanently bars people from taking relatives into foster care, noting these can include single instances of misdemeanor drug possession.


No comments:

Post a Comment