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Bob, again you are wrong just like you would rather have Northern Virginia run the state with your direct referendum proposals. Using Sandy's syntax, I have very grave concerns about that scenario. Maybe one day you will decide to actually run for office and see whether you can get a majority of people to support your agenda.

Regarding HB1333 which is carried by Republican Emily Brewer, it is important in any legislative action that we weigh the needs for change against continuing the status quo. I take very seriously my responsibility to support change only when change is absolutely necessary. In the case of protecting children I find that regardless of our political party we must take immediate steps now to help our young people placed in foster care to exit this system into families that can support their recovery and developmental needs. These children are depending on us to do the right thing…no matter what our political or community position. I am writing to offer some explanation about the program that may not be apparent on the face of the legislative summary. This legislative initiative is grounded in sound research that helps large systems move children out of foster care and into families while also retaining some of the supports the may children need to heal from the effects of abuse and neglect.

The Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program (KinGap) is vital to the health and development of children and families in Virginia. If I did not believe that this was an important child protective service, then I would not have worked to ensure the legislation was written in such a way that protects not only the children and their right to live within their families of origin; but, also safeguards the valuable and limited resources of our taxpayers. For example, when Illinois implemented this program they saved taxpayers $2,294 per child even though the relatives received support for meeting the health and developmental needs of the children. With the facts about taxpayer savings and improved outcomes for children that came out of the national pilots, President Bush signed the bipartisan legislation that permitted states the flexibility to utilize KinGap as a means for decreasing the number of children growing up in foster care.

It is important to note that KinGap applies ONLY to children who are currently in the foster care system. Research across the country documents that our nation’s children in foster care have higher levels of behavioral and emotional challenges; are at higher risk of academic failure; have higher overall health conditions; and are at greater risk of developmental and neurological impairment as a result of their abuse or neglect, especially stemming from parental drug use. KinGap is necessary in order for relatives to have the vital resources they need to bring the child back to full emotional and developmental health. The legislative ensures that there is an assessment process prior to moving forward with any KinGap arrangement for a child that the financial and service supports of government are absolutely necessary. In some cases, the children may need the financial support that comes from foster care, but more often than not they are in need of the mental and physical health services related to healing from the trauma of abuse or neglect.

In 2017, our General Assembly passed a resolution that we would work tirelessly to support government efforts to build trauma-informed communities. KinGap is one means for building a trauma-informed approach to helping children exit foster care while retaining healthy relationships with their family of origin. KinGap does this with the same or less amount of funding as we offer non-family members who step up to adopt children from foster care.

The KinGap legislative initiative is written with the full intent of reducing the demands on government for serving as the forever parent of children who have been abused or neglected. I think we can all agree that government does not have the capacity to raise children. The children of our communities need to be raised by families. They need to be raised by families that are equipped to help them recover from the trauma that has impacted their physical, emotional, and developmental health.KinGap, quite simply, gives the foster care workers another tool in their toolkit for helping children exit foster care in a healthy and productive manner.

KinGap offers hope to our work of protecting children. KinGap offers a vision of a family-focused system of care for children in foster care. KinGap offers a family-oriented means for children to forever leave the foster care system in the arms of their own family.
2018-02-04T18:18:10-04:00 Chris Peace