RICHMOND. Va. (WRIC) — Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced Friday the launch of an initiative to create the “Safe and Sound Task Force.” According to a press release, the initiative will bring together government agencies, the Virginia League of Social Services Executives (VLSSE) and other community partners to create safe housing placements for children in foster care.
In honor of Child Abuse Prevention month, this initiative was created to end the practice of housing children in offices of local departments of social services, hotels and emergency rooms.
“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,” Youngkin said.
The statement went on to say that 163 children were displaced for at least one night to unsuitable sleeping arrangements between February 1 and July 30, 2021. This was a result of a shortage of foster homes, family placements and beds in group homes or residential treatment centers.
These children were between the ages of seven and 17 years old. During these displacements, social workers or law enforcement personnel stayed with the children overnight. According to the Governor’s Office, this created undue burden on these already overworked employees.
The task force will be responsible for finding safe placements for displaced kids, ensuring a supply of safe placements for future displaced children and eventually making policy recommendations.
“While there are a number of issues that created this untenable situation, it will require collaboration and creativity at both the local and state levels to solve it,” stated Secretary of Health and Human Resources John Littel. “We are grateful to every child welfare worker who has worked to the best of their ability to ensure these kids are safe and we look forward to working together with them to end this practice.”
Andrew Crawford, VLSSE President and Director, Bedford County Department of Social Services added, “Local Departments of Social Services look forward to collaborating with the Governor, our state partners and our private sector professionals to find solutions for Virginia’s most vulnerable children.”