|During the 2016 General Assembly Session, Delegate Chris Peace introduced House Joint Resolution 103. The resolution directed the Commission on Youth to study the adoption home study process, including (i) the current Mutual Family Assessment home study format and curriculum; (ii) the process by which home studies are completed by staff of local departments of social services and licensed private child-placing agencies; and (iii) the potential benefits of implementation of a uniform home study format established by the Department of Social Services for all home studies completed in the Commonwealth. The House Committee on Rules reviewed this legislation and it was laid on the table. However, at the Commission’s May 3, 2016 meeting, the Commission on Youth approved a study plan to research the provisions set forth in the legislation and to report findings and recommendations prior to the 2017 General Assembly session. Text of the introduced version of House Joint Resolution 103 can be found under Appendix A.|
After a presentation of the findings and recommendations at the Commission’s December 6, 2016 meeting, and receipt of public comment, the Commission on Youth approved the following recommendations:
Introduce a bill to mandate the Mutual Family Assessment home study and addendum developed by the Virginia Department of Social Services as a uniform home study format for statewide use among local departments of social services. Provide flexibility to allow the Virginia Department of Social Services to update this format in the future when necessary.
Support the Virginia Department of Social Services in its acquisition and implementation of a new comprehensive child welfare computer system. Ensure the ability of a case worker to make an intake query to see if an applicant family has previously applied to be an adoptive, foster, resource, respite family at another agency.
Request the Virginia Bar Association’s Commission on the Needs of Children study the implications of the removal of the right to appeal, to Circuit Court from Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, certain cases involving termination of parental rights. Relevant Code of Virginia Section: (§ 16.1-296(D)).
As part of this study, look to the concept of having Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts become courts of record for matters involving child custody and termination of parental rights. This could be accomplished by requiring court reporters be present in these specific proceedings with appeals going directly to the Virginia Court of Appeals.
Support a messaging campaign at the Virginia Department of Social Services that promotes adoption through foster care.
Support the Virginia Department of Social Services efforts related to the hiring of regional home study specialists whose role is to assist local departments of social services by completing the foster care and adoption home study process.