The Virginia Plan to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect

Children are filled with tremendous promise, and we have a shared obligation to foster their potential. The biggest protective factors for facing adversity and building resilience are social supports and remaining connected to people. Unfortunately, as a system in Virginia, we have not been doing this work well for many years. State systems and community partners have often unintentionally worked in silos, leading to missed opportunities, broken safety nets and minimal collaboration across agencies.

 

This is why the General Assembly made a bold commitment to prevent child abuse and neglect across the Commonwealth through HB30 in the 2020 Appropriations Act. Knowing the fragmentation and complexity caused by the existing intersections of primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention services in Virginia, the General Assembly directed VDSS, in partnership with numerous state agencies and non-governmental organizations, to establish a five-year child welfare Prevention Plan targeting resources and services to prevent abuse and neglect. This plan was developed in conjunction with the DBHDS, VDH, DOE, FACT, Families Forward Virginia, Voices for Virginia’s Children, and the Virginia Poverty Law Center.  

 

However, cognitively recognizing and accepting that we must change Virginia’s child and family wellbeing system, and emotionally incorporating that reality into everyday life are not the same. This work must create real, raw change that will transform how we all do our work. That means shoring up the ways we support families by stripping away the view of child welfare and openly driving holistic child wellbeing by providing resources, connections and trainings before interventions are needed. Critical to this transformation is making the Children’s Cabinet permanent. The Children’s Cabinet drives cross-agency collaboration through components such as funding, legislation, policy and ensuring no wrong door when families need help. To be clear, a permanent Children’s Cabinet will drive the success of this Plan. As we move forward, Voices for Virginia’s Children will drive our advocacy to create the permanent Children’s Cabinet, and your support will help ensure we see this completed.

 

Virginia’s Plan to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect focuses on those things that prevent child abuse from happening in the first place. This focus is driven by the plan’s singular goal that all families, youth and children in the Commonwealth are safe, healthy and nurtured, and have equitable access to resources and opportunities to thrive in their communities. Preventing child abuse and neglect depends on relationships with families, learning together, often times face to face. This work requires empathy, building relationships, sharing knowledge, and helping parents and guardians take steps toward their shared goal of being the best teachers and guardians for the children they love. The hard work ahead comes in moving from a fractured system that, in the eyes of Virginia’s families, is broken. This will take big, bold investments in resources, partnerships and commitments to significant change across systems and agencies.

 

Creating this plan was a collaborative effort among 50 representatives from 29 different organizations. We began this work by reviewing strategic plans from statewide organizations that address prevention of child abuse and neglect, as well as incorporating the findings of the Fiscal Map of Children’s Supports in Virginia, which provides a detailed analysis of state investment in services for children and youth, including data from 152 funding streams from 17 agencies. We’ve focused on primary, secondary and tertiary prevention funding, which provides data that can further strengthen the work of the Children's Cabinet to create alignment between state agencies and programs.

 

Families Forward Virginia took the lead for “Phase 2” of this plan – coordinating the creation of activities to support each objective and strategy in the plan. Through this work, we now have strategies for the Prevention Plan implementation. These promote upstream approaches to lessen the immediate and long-term harms of child abuse and neglect. We guided our work by the four contextual and foundational themes of equity, trauma-informed, culturally specific and incorporating lived experience.

 

We’ve attached both the Plan and the Work Group Final report.

 

A big Thank You to each and every one of the 94 workgroup participants who designed activities to support the strategies of each of the five objectives in the Prevention Plan. (Some workgroup participants are among the 50 people who also collaborated on creating the Virginia Plan over eight months.)

Those five objectives are:

  • Well-Being and Economic Stability

  • Person and Family Centered Programs

  • Social Norms

  • Collaboration

  • Infrastructure

 

This took a tremendous amount of time, energy and effort from every workgroup member through five 90-minute virtual meetings between mid-June and mid-August for each objective! Making the work truly credible is that of the 94 participants, 63 percent are individuals with lived experiences, and 39 percent are individuals of color.

 

In addition to the specific strategies and goals identified for each objective, the workgroup has proposed four top-priority recommendations that will fuel success of The Plan:

  • Keep diversity, equity, inclusion and cultural competency at the center of implementation efforts.

  • Embrace a “No Wrong Door Approach” with accessing services and normalize asking for help.

  • Create and adopt universal definitions and terms across systems, policies and practices.

  • Promote a well-prepared, well-supported family-wellbeing workforce.

 

As we move toward implementing Virginia’s Plan to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect, the Partner Team will continue our work. Critical in the success will be state-level investment and resources to ensure the Plan’s success, with a permanent Children’s Cabinet driving collaboration across agencies and partners.

 

Thank you to everyone who has poured their expertise and lived experiences into this plan. We are so hopeful and excited for Virginia’s children and families who will begin seeing Virginia’s many great resources and agencies creating thriving families and healthy children for generations to come!

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This work must create real, raw change that will transform how we all do our work. That means shoring up the ways we support families by stripping away the view of child welfare and openly driving holistic child wellbeing by providing resources, connections and trainings before interventions are needed.

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