- VPLC has been working on two bills, HB1786 and SB1086, which relate to substance-exposed newborns. The bills modify Virginia Code sections 63.2-1505, 63.2-1506, and 63.2-1509. The main purpose of this legislation is to bring Virginia’s code sections in line with changes made last year to the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). These changes require that, in order to receive federal funding of $615,827 under CAPTA, prescription opioids be included in the required reporting to Child Protective Services of infants who are affected by maternal substance abuse at birth. As originally drafted, this would have included even those drugs provided to the mother through an epidural or spinal anesthetic during delivery. VPLC worked with the patrons, DSS, and the Office of the Attorney General, along with other advocacy organizations, to make sure the language focuses specifically on abuse, and not any clinical use, of prescription medications. Another concern is the fact that an exception for mothers who have sought treatment during pregnancy would be removed from the law under this bill. This may impact women’s willingness to seek help for substance-abuse disorders during pregnancy, or their willingness to address concerns about substance abuse with their doctors during pre-natal check-ups.
- Child protection: A bill presented by Senator Favola, SB868, was amended by the patron in response to concerns expressed by VPLC. The bill would have required an investigation by CPS of all reports alleging abuse of infants even if the reports did not meet the four factors for validity in the code. As amended, the bill now only prioritizes CPS response within 24 hours of children under two, when the report meets the validity standard.
- School discipline: VPLC supports all the bills that would reduce the incidence of children being suspended from school for minor behavioral issues. These include bills SB955, SB996, SB997 & SB1163; and HB1534, HB1535, HB1536, HB1843, & HB1839. While two bills were withdrawn by their patrons (SB996 & HB1535), and HB1839 was killed in committee, the other bills have made it through the first stage of the committee process. Senator Stanley and Delegate Dickie Bell sponsored the majority of these bills, with Del. Bell speaking eloquently and passionately about the issue based on his experience as a teacher.
- Support for families: We support legislation from Sen. Favola that would provide monetary support for kinship guardians, who take in and care for children of other family members, so they do not need to enter the foster care system. This bill may have difficulty getting final approval due to funding issues. We also support a bill from Del. Toscano that would clarify some of the rules under which families who adopt children with special needs can receive assistance.
- Foster children: VPLC supports the empowerment of children in the foster care system. HB1604 was modified during a subcommittee hearing to weaken this important goal. VPLC worked closely with the patron Del.Dickie Bell, Del. Toscano, the Supreme Court Office of the Executive Secretary, and DSS to ensure that children in the foster system have a chance to be heard in court regarding decisions that affect their future. We also support Sen. McPike’s bill to ensure that youth who age out of foster care are signed up for the Medicaid assistance for which they are eligible.
If you have any questions, please contact Valerie L’Herrou, Staff Attorney – Center for Family Advocacy. Her contact is email@example.com as well as 804.782.9430 x201