The Virginia Commission on Youth adopted a study mandate in May directing the convening of an advisory group to undertake a review of current policies, practices, and programs in Virginia that support youth aging out of foster care and the development of recommendations to improve workforce development opportunities for youth in foster care. The advisory group met twice during the summer and fall and held a series of roundtable discussions with stakeholders, including youth in foster care and foster care alumni. Staff briefed the full Commission on October 18 on the findings and recommendations of the advisory group (the staff presentation is available at this link). The draft recommendations are now available for public comment (a list is available at this link). Public comment must be received by 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 30, 2021, for consideration by the Commission at its December 15 meeting. Comments may be submitted via email to email@example.com, faxed to (804) 371-0574, or sent via U.S. Mail to Commission on Youth, 900 E. Main Street, 11th Floor, Richmond, VA 23210.
Draft recommendations on which the Commission is seeking public comment include the following:
- Direct the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) and partner agencies to enhance the iFoster portal (a national portal and associated app) with Virginia-specific resources or develop a similar app with resources that are available for individuals who are currently being served or have been served in the foster care system, as well as for professionals serving the foster care population. Resources would include workforce development assistance and educational opportunities. A related recommendation would request VDSS and local departments of social services to identify workforce development organizations and other foster care transition support resources in each locality and add them to the app. These recommendations are intended to address a study finding that there is a lack of coordination of resources among agencies that serve youth in foster care.
- Request that local workforce development boards engage employers of foster care youth in training on the effects of trauma, child care issues for parenting youth, and accountability strategies.
- Request the Workforce Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center to provide support for young adults in foster care and alumni who need business assistance.
- Develop a state-funded grant program for the Great Expectations Program, which is a privately-funded program within the Virginia Community College System that assists foster youth in attaining postsecondary credentials.
- Direct the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia to examine the feasibility of having a single point of contact at each college or university for students who have been involved in the foster care system.
- Request the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) to provide training for school counselors on working with students experiencing foster care, based on the study finding regarding the importance of school counselors in foster youth’s educational success.
- Request VDOE to provide guidance to local school divisions outlining resources for school counselors to provide support for students experiencing foster care (to include resources on career exploration and linkages to Great Expectations and similar programs).
- Request that VDSS and local departments review their requirements for foster care Independent Living programs and include a gradual independence plan as part of the programs, with certain standards of completion (such as a high school diploma or GED, savings account, etc.). This recommendation responds to a study finding that independent living programs must be meaningful in order to prepare foster youth for adulthood, and that the quality of these programs varies.
- Request that Virginia Career Works, through local workforce investment boards, prioritize serving the foster care population with Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act funding and other workforce opportunities.
- Direct VDSS to convene a stakeholder group to determine the feasibility of adopting a new uniform assessment tool to determine enhanced payments for children in foster care with additional needs.
- Provide funding to support the establishment of a program to assist foster youth in obtaining a driver’s license (to include reimbursement to foster care providers for additional motor vehicle insurance costs, assistance to older youth in securing insurance coverage, and education about liability insurance and the process for obtaining a license). This recommendation responds to a study finding that lack of transportation options presents a significant barrier to foster youth in obtaining education and employment.
- Request foster care workers and others working with youth in foster care to identify child care resources for parenting youth, to include ensuring that youth aging out of foster care are placed on the local child care assistance program waiting list.
VACo Contact: Katie Boyle