Report: Virginia last in nation in 'kinship care'

STAUNTON, Va. (AP) - A report to the General Assembly has found that Virginia ranks last in the nation when it comes to asking relatives to become foster parents.

The Virginia Commission on Youth reported the rock-bottom ranking, which is at odds with the state's official policy of promoting so-called kinship care, The News Leader ( ) said Saturday.

The report found that only 4.6 percent of children in foster care were with relatives in 2010, significantly below the national average of 24 percent.

One reason Virginia lags in kinship care, the commission said, is the perception held by child welfare workers that "the apple does not fall far from the tree."

Moreover, the report said many Virginians object to the idea that people are paid to care for relatives who need foster care.

The commission reported, however, that caregivers looking after relatives face challenges getting help with health care, child care, housing and mental health services that children in foster care are supposed to get.

The report found that in many cases, caregivers don't know, or aren't told, they are entitled to welfare, help with health care coverage or a wide range of other support services.

The commission recommended that:
- the state Department of Social Services move forward with its plans to create a program to support people providing foster care to relatives.
- the state Department of Education be directed to ensure school systems understood they could not assume children in foster care with relatives were not local residents and therefore not entitled to free schooling.
- Virginia re-examine its list of crimes that permanently bars people from taking relatives into foster car