Foster care bill raises concerns

A foster care bill caused confusion among lobbyists and legislators last week in the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee.

Senate Bill 1037, sponsored by Sen. George Barker, D-Alexandria, would eliminate independent living as a permanent goal for foster children over age 16.

“Right now, what you have is ... adolescents who are given a goal of independent living and you don’t have anyone trying to place them into families. Families are very important,” Barker said. “I’ve been a foster parent; my wife and I have had a number of foster children over the years.”

The Virginia Association of Children’s Homes testified against the bill on Friday, saying it would strip older foster children of a right to pursue independent living. Legislators then asked a myriad of questions in an attempt to better understand the issue.

“I just want to make sure I have a firm grip on what we’re doing,” said Sen. Ryan McDougle, R-Mechanicsville. “So what we’re saying is that [independent living] cannot be the final goal; it always has to be an option to go back to a family member unless you’re a refugee or an asylum?”

Christine Marra of the Virginia Poverty Law Center testified in support of SB 1037.

“This bill does not impact placement,” Marra said. “This bill allows a child to live in an independent living placement until that child turns 18. What it does change is the ability of the child to have a new goal at age 16 of transitioning to independent living.”

Following more questions and discussion, Sen. Jeff McWaters, R-Virginia Beach, asked the committee to delay consideration of the bill until this week.

“I met with some advocates of this plan last night and I read through it, and I still don’t get it,” McWaters said. “I don’t want to make a decision that’s going to affect children. There’s a thousand children in this program now, so let’s make sure we really get it.”

To track or comment on Senate Bill 1037, visit http://www.richmondsunlight.com/bill/2011/sb1037
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READ Center a finalist for $25k grant


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Henrico County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) will host its 11th annual benefit art exhibition and silent auction from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at The Crossroads Art Center, 2016 Staples Mill Rd. The silent auction will feature about 75 bid items, including works by local artists, services and getaway packages. While viewing the “Into the Woods” all-media exhibition, guests will be able to learn from artists about what inspires their work. The event also will feature live music, a magic show, free hors d’oeuvres, food trucks and a cash bar. Admission is free and open to the public. For details, join Henrico CASA on Facebook, call 501-1671 or visit http://www.henricocasa.org or www.crossroadsartcenter.com. Full text

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