With April being Child Abuse Prevention Month, Governor Glenn Youngkin is taking action to ensure children in foster care have a safe place to stay.
On Friday, Youngkin announced that he has launched the “Safe and Sound Task Force,” which aims to bring an end to children sleeping in local departments of social services, hotels and emergency rooms.
The initiative will be a collaborative effort of government agencies, the Virginia League of Social Services Executive and other community partners. Its objectives will include the following.
- Finding safe placements for kids who are currently displaced
- Ensuring a reservoir of safe placements for kids who may need them in the future
- Making recommendations that go upstream to address policy and systemic changes
From Feb. 1 to July 30, 2021, more than 150 children, ages 7 to 17 years old, were displaced for at least one night in unsuitable sleeping arrangements. This is due to an alarming shortage of foster homes, kinship family placements and beds in group homes and residential treatment centers.
As children were displaced, social workers or law enforcement personnel were oftentimes required to stay with them overnight, something that could pose a challenge for overworked staff. It also worsens existing workforce shortages in the child welfare and criminal justice systems.
“It is unacceptable that last year over 150 children in foster care spent the night in places that just simply are not meant for kids. When this challenge came to our attention, my administration knew we had to act swiftly to ensure that every child has a safe place to belong,” said Youngkin. “Beyond the immediate need, we hope Virginians from all walks of life will step up to help children in foster care.”