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February 2011Vol. 12, No. 1Transforming Virginia's Child Welfare System

A new case study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation tells the story of the great strides taken in the last 3 years to reform Virginia's child welfare system. In 2006, when compared to other States, Virginia had the highest percentage of children aging out of foster care without permanent connections and significantly higher percentages of children in group and residential placements. Driven by a focus on results, consultants from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and officials in the Governor's office developed a two-pronged approach to reform that addressed statewide budget and policy issues and engaged local communities in an advisory council to test reform strategies. The State established a new family-centered child welfare practice model and focused on five building blocks for change:

  • Managing by data
  • Engaging families
  • Investing in resource family recruitment, development, and support
  • Creating a continuum of community-based services to support children and families
  • Developing a statewide training system

A new data system, Safe Measures, helped Virginia State and local officials more easily track progress through near real-time access to data and more meaningful reporting capabilities. The results of the State's efforts have been striking: in the 3 years since reform began, child permanency rates increased to more than 80 percent, the number of children in congregate care was cut almost in half, and total expenditures of local, State, and Federal government dollars were reduced by 5.8 percent.

To learn more about child welfare reform in Virginia, read Back on Track: Transforming Virginia's Child Welfare System, by Jonathan Walters, on the Annie E. Casey Foundation website: