What is the possibility of starting a parent representation pilot program? (Councilman Aguirre)
The City of Alexandria Chief of Child Welfare Services (CWS) was contacted on March 11, 2021 by the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) Director of Family Services about the proposal for a Parent Representation Pilot Project they received from the Virginia Poverty Law Center and an Alexandria Attorney. Based on the proposal and the positive permanency outcomes, VDSS and Alexandria CWS are interested in finding out more about the proposed pilot project and the funding streams.
VDSS has a meeting set for April 29, 2021 that will include the team proposing the Center, the VDSS Director of Family Services and other VDSS staff, and City of Alexandria staff from Child Welfare, the City Attorneys’ Office, and the City’s Legislative Director. Through the Children’s Bureau, the VDSS Director of Family Services is setting up a meeting with two locally administered jurisdictions in New York and Pennsylvania, who have Parent Defense Centers, to gain more information about the program and the funding. The VDSS Director of Family Services is also consulting with IV-E experts about using IV-E funds for the Defense Center.
As Alexandria CWS was not involved in the crafting of the pilot program and proposal there are outstanding questions about how the Center would function. These questions include verifying the number of parents who would qualify to participate in this program, the specialized training proposed (and whether such training could be made available to existing court appointed attorneys using these IV-E funds), factors impacting permanency in Alexandria, similarities and differences between Alexandria and other programs that have adopted this model, details regarding the types of collateral representation that would be available by partner legal agencies (and whether this could be afforded to clients regardless of whether we adopt a pilot program), and as a practical matter how funds would be passed through and the program administered and overseen. It is hoped that information can be gleaned through future discussions.
There is not adequate information about the program and the possible funding streams at this time to determine what the full cost of the project will be. Again, it is hoped that the discussions planned by VDSS will provide additional information to make that determination.