HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- A bill concerning the placement of foster children with relatives has now been signed into law.

On Tuesday, Governor Glenn Youngkin signed House Bill 27 and Senate Bell 39, creating the Parental Child Safety Placement Program.

The bills were sponsored by Delegate Katrina Callsen (D-54th) and state Senator Barbara Favola (D-31st).

According to a release, this legislation codifies the practice of placing children with relatives and strengthens Virginia’s commitment to supporting a child welfare system that keeps children with their families.

The legislation also gives local social services departments a framework for placing children with relatives, giving them a better home.

“Today, we celebrate a milestone more than a decade in the making. An overwhelming collection of hearts have come together to demonstrate that working in partnership we can fundamentally change lives,” said Youngkin. “This legislation represents a significant step forward in fulfilling Virginia's commitment to improving the child welfare system and prioritizing the well-being of children in Virginia. By establishing a robust statutory framework centered on kinship care, we pave a pathway towards permanency for Virginia's children, ensuring consistent practice across all local social services, incorporating safeguards, clear time frames, active family engagement, and consistent services for children, caregivers, and parents.”  

Virginia has had issues in the past placing children with kinship families when they enter the foster care program, which this legislation is trying to address.

In the Commonwealth, only 16 percent of children in foster care are placed with relatives, which is less than half of the national average of 35 percent.

The release says research has found that children placed with relatives will experience better behavioral and mental health outcomes, increased permanency, and greater stability in their placement, including the increased likelihood of keeping siblings together.

“I am honored to take part in the passage of this historic kinship care bill. This legislation provides much-needed support to those entering kinship care arrangements. I’d like to thank everyone who assisted in helping this bill become law, including Senator Favola, UVA Law, Voices for Virginia’s Children, the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman, VDSS administrators and staff, and many others who provided guidance and expertise all focused on a shared goal: creating better outcomes for children interacting with our foster care system,” said Callsen.  

The legislation also aims to preserve families and mandates that local social services departments submit exception reports, monitor barriers to kinship placements, and develop service plans for children and their families.

There are also provisions for financial support for kinship caregivers, which can help to cover the costs of caring for children and the additional needs of the home.