Virginia does such a poor job of supervising local foster care programs that the state doesn’t have a list of foster parents currently in the system, according to a new legislative study.
The study by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission finds that the state’s 120 foster care programs don’t do a good job of recruiting foster parents, especially relatives, or working to reunite children with birth parents.
As a result, Virginia relies too heavily on institutional care that is often clinically unnecessary, as well as costly.
The legislative watchdog study also found that local foster care workers handle too many cases and don’t ensure adequate medical and mental health treatment of children in foster care.
“This is a totally devastating report,” said Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, one of 10 legislators who attended the commission meeting on Monday in snowbound Richmond.
“These are children we have taken from their families,” Howell said. “They are now our children. We have to take care of them as best we can and that’s obviously not happening.”
She and House Appropriations Chairman Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, expressed concern that the system is too unwieldy because it is administered by 120 local programs with state oversight that the study found to be ineffective.
Virginia Commissioner Duke Storen supports the study’s recommendations. He said the system faces challenges in recruiting, retaining and training case workers. He also acknowledged the need for greater accountability.
“We need to do a better job in working with local boards of social services,” he said.
Storen also said the state department “has to do better, and we will do better, in our areas of accountability.”