Child & Family Social Welfare Policy Group

Institute faculty and their partners are working in this domain to understand better the implications and dynamics of child protection, foster care placement and transfer payment policies, including Temporary Aid to Needy Families, Medicaid Title IVE funding and child care subsidy.  More broadly, the Institute is active in this area to develop deeper knowledge of the tensions and assumptions that underpin current social policy design at all levels of American governance, to chart alternatives to existing choices and examine their likely implications for those served and those providing assistance and to explore creative strategies to improve policy implementation (service) outcomes. This work is undertaken in partnership with representatives of national, state and local governments as well as nonprofit organizations as necessary and appropriate.


VTIPG provides expertise in the review of child welfare cases for indicators of disability; files applications on behalf of children with disabilities and follows-up during the application process with SSA and the LDSS through the appeal process, as necessary and appropriate; and provides technical assistance and support to LDSS social workers throughout the SSI application process.

These services are provided on a per child, per component fee-basis throughout the Commonwealth and surrounding areas.  Services are listed on the Comprehensive Services Act (CSA) Service Fee Directory

For more information, contact Hazel Smith at 434-547-5186/ or Nancy White at 540-231-1205/

Research & Outreach

Partnership in Self-Sufficiency 2000 – 2012

Guided by Mary Beth Dunkenberger and Holly Lesko, VTIPG and five Local Departments of Social Services (LDSS) in the New River Valley, collectively known as the Partners for Self-Sufficiency (PSS), provides wrap around services to address Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) clients’ employment barriers and service needs in an individualized manner. The existing partnership expands and engages the existing community networks of both employers and human service providers with an emphasis on intensive vocational case management through referral to Vocational Specialists in each of the five New River Valley jurisdictions.

The overarching goal of our regional employment placement, retention, and advancement model is to expedite preparation of Virginia Initiative for Employment Not Welfare (VIEW) participants for entry-level positions with employers who offer benefit packages, greater job security, and some potential for upgrading skills and to provide a strong focus on job retention. In addition to employment-based services, the PSS program focuses on other barriers clients face in life that influences job readiness and retention.  Specific research and programmatic efforts have been directed to assess needs and services in areas such as domestic violence, mental illness, disability assessments, and multi-generational poverty prevention efforts.

The services provided are 1) the integration of our intensive job readiness program, job development activities, and concentrated vocational case management activities; 2) continued development and refinement of community resources that facilitate employment of TANF recipients; 3) an SSI/SSDI application support service that helps local agencies better evaluate disabled TANF recipients and helps provide access to additional resources to assist them; and 4) focused job retention efforts coordinated with employers. The PSS program has been operating in the region for over ten years and has served over 5,000 clients across the region during that tenure.


Virginia Department of Health (VDH) Women, Infants and Children’s Special Supplement Nutrition Program (WIC) 2011

VTIPG assisted the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) in assessing the strengths, weaknesses and gaps in utilization of the Women, Infants and Children’s Special Supplemental Nutrition (WIC) Program among foster care parents of eligible children and young women. This project also developed outreach strategies to expand the utilization of the WIC program among foster care families and children. The final report may be made available upon request to Mary Beth Dunkenberger, Principal Investigator.


VSQI Pilot Evaluation (Family Child Care Home Demonstration of the Virginia Star Quality Initiative Evaluation Report) 2011

VTIPG faculty collaborated with the Virginia Tech Child Development Center for Learning & Research to conduct a process evaluation of the Virginia Star Quality Initiative (VSQI) pilot project.  The pilot initiative established a child care quality rating, mentoring and improvement system for the Commonwealth’s home based child care providers.   Researchers at Virginia Tech were selected to conduct an evaluation of the draft home-based provider Standards, a process evaluation of the pilot program, and to suggest future directions for ensuring the long-term feasibility, quality and sustainability of extending VSQI to family child care providers. Additional information on the evaluation can be made available upon request to Mary Beth Dunkenberger, Principal Investigator.


Hope Co-Location (Co-location of Health Care Services with HOPE, Inc. An Assessment of Options) 2011

VTIPG and the Virginia Tech Institute for Society, Culture and Environment (ISCE) have conducted an assessment of several options for HOPE, Inc. (HOPE) to co-locate health care services along with other HOPE service providers. The evaluation has appraised the appropriateness and viability of two distinct care providers – The Brock Hughes Free Clinic (BHFC) and the Bland County Medical Clinic to co-locate health services with HOPE to serve low income individuals and families. This assessment builds on previous health needs assessments conducted in the Wythe-Bland region but specifically focuses on the viable options for the use of the HOPE, Inc. office space. Additional information on the evaluation can be made available upon request to Mary Beth Dunkenberger, Principal Investigator.


Responsible Rides Program Evaluation 2011

VTIPG conducted  an evaluation overview of the impact of the Responsible Rides program for participants in the first year of the program. The purpose of the evaluation is to identify the short-term impacts of the program and provide insight into potential changes necessary for continued program success.  The evaluation was structured to identify key employment and income as well as personal impacts of car ownership.  To a limited extent the evaluation also assessed the strengths and weaknesses of the process utilized to engage participants in the program.  Additional information on the evaluation can be made available upon request to Mary Beth Dunkenberger, Principal Investigator.


Virginia Rural Health Association Policy Brief (Veteran’s Health Care in Rural Virginia) 2011

VTIPG collaborated with the Virginia Rural Health Association’s (VRHA) to develop issues brief on the status and needs related to veterans’ health.  The issue brief and supplements are available at


Virginia Wounded Warrior Program Needs and Gaps Assessment 2010

VTIPG faculty and graduate students collaborated with the Virginia Tech Center for Survey Research and the Virginia Tech Center for Geospatial Information Technology to conduct a comprehensive study of veteran’s needs, experiences and service gaps in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The study was commissioned by the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program, which has been charged with coordinating and facilitating the services that are needed by Virginia’s veterans who have served in the United States military, particularly those who have served in the Gulf War conflicts.  The research has been utilized to inform policy and program development for the Virginia Department of Veteran Services and the VWWP. The final report may be made available upon request to Mary Beth Dunkenberger, Principal Investigator.


Generations United Report: Intergenerational Shared Sites Save Money

Funded by a grant from MetLife Foundation, Dr. Shannon Jarrott from Virginia Tech’s Department for Human Development and Dr. Aaron Schroeder and Owen Perkins from VTIPG completed an exploratory study for Generations United which shows that intergenerational shared site programs can save money through sharing expenses.  These findings are a result of the first national analysis of cost-savings in intergenerational shared site programs.

Generations United (GU) is the national membership organization focused solely on improving the lives of children, youth, and older people through intergenerational strategies, programs, and public policies. GU represents more than 100 national, state, and local organizations and individuals representing more than 70 million Americans. Since 1986 GU has served as a resource for educating policymakers and the public about the economic, social, and personal imperatives of intergenerational cooperation. GU acts as a catalyst for stimulating collaboration between aging, children, and youth organizations, providing a forum to explore areas of common ground while celebrating the richness of each generation.

For more on Generations United visit For the full report Intergenerational Shared Sites: Saving Dollars While Making Sense, click here.


Evaluation of Virginia’s Child Protective Services Program

In 2008, under the principal investigation of Dr. Renee Loeffler, VTIPG conducted an evaluation of Virginia’s child protective services program under a contract with the Virginia Department of Social Services.  This work was a continuation of a multi-year project to assess the effects of the Differential Response System, a new approach to child protection adopted by the state in 2002.

VTIPG used statewide data on all child protective services cases in 2007 to assess outcomes and to analyze trends in key program variables.  A topic for special study in 2008 was the activities of Virginia’s local departments of social services in providing services to families to treat or prevent child abuse or neglect.  This project culminated in a report to the 2009 General Assembly.

VTIPG provided a separate report to each of Virginia’s 120 local departments of social services.  The local agency reports include local, regional and state data for key CPS program variables so that each local department can compare itself to regional neighbors and the state as a whole.


SSI Advocacy for Employment Options (SAFE) 2006 – 2009

Mary Beth Dunkenberger and Nancy White led the SSI Advocacy for Employment Options (SAFE) initiative to develop and deliver a training and technical assistance model for disability assessment and SSI advocacy for the TANF and VIEW programs.  The training and technical assistance was delivered to local departments of social services (LDSS) staff throughout the Commonwealth by Hazel B. Smith, program expert, and Nancy White.

This program focused on the identification and assessment of disabilities in persons participating in the TANF program with an emphasis on the Social Security Administration (SSA) definition of disability as related to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  Building this capacity will enable LDSS staff in the assessment process to determine if persons with disabilities may be served with accommodations in moving toward employment or if the disability appears so severe that a referral to the SSI program would be more appropriate.

The determination of a disability by LDSS staff as early in the assessment process as possible allows for a more efficient use of time sensitive recourses and will enable LDSS staff to inform TANF participants of the procedures, policies, and timeframes related to SSA determination of disability.  Local agencies will be able to structure a disability program that best meets the unique needs of the locality and participant population. The ultimate goal is that after the initial collaborative period, LDSS will have the capacity and organizational knowledge to assess TANF participant disabilities and provide ongoing SSI Advocacy services to TANF and VIEW participants as appropriate under policy and to meet the needs of the participant.

Fairfax County Federal Reimbursement Unit (FRU)

The FRU has ongoing responsibilities to facilitate the collection of centralized processes to secure child support from non-custodial parents on behalf of the children in foster care, to access Federal funds on behalf of children in foster care, and to pursue Medicaid funding for certain Medicaid eligible services for CSA funded youth placed out of their homes.

Under the guidance of Melony Price-Rhodes, the FRU reviews records of children in foster care and supports the process for reimbursements for those children. The reimbursement of local expenditures via federal funds reduces the local costs (expended by the Department of Family Services and through the Comprehensive Services Act (CSA)) of providing services to children in foster care.

The FRU continues to refine the process so that, where possible, fewer County tax dollars are spent to support children who are in foster care and in receipt of CSA pool funds.  More funds will be reimbursed from the Federal Government and parent(s) of the children.  Funds accessed for reimbursement, based upon each child’s eligibility, include Title IV-E, Title II and XVI – Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits, Survivors’ Benefits (SSA), Title XIX – Medicaid benefits and Title IV-D – Child Support.


Loudoun County, VA Comprehensive Services Act Program

Melony Price-Rhodes, Project Associate at VTIPG facilitated case reviews of foster care children in Loudoun County, Virginia for the purpose of identifying a group of funds for 70 to 100 foster care cases for children that are in foster care in Loudoun County, Virginia. The groups of funds include, Title IV-E, Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Benefits and Child Support. The case reviews will assess the efficacy of the current efforts by Loudoun County staff to maximize revenues for children in foster care.


Child and Family Services Review (FY 2005 – FY 2007)

VTIPG contracted with VDSS to conduct a two year program improvement plan for the Child and Family Services Review. IPG deployed a nine member team that included two graduate research assistants to review approximately 1700 foster care and child protective services cases. The results of each case review were included in an agency specific report with recommendations for each locality which was assembled into a statewide assessment of the aggregate data to meet 14 federally mandated performance goals.


Federal Reimbursement Unit Technical Assistance Team (FRU-TAT) 2001-2007

The Federal Resource Utilization Technical Assistance Team (FRU-TAT) created in 2001 under contract with The Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) and the Institute for Policy Outreach (IPO) had four active and distinct components – 1) Title IV-E review and program improvement; 2) SSI research and advocacy for Foster Care and TANF populations; 3) development of Automated Eligibility System; and 4) adoption subsidy analysis and review.

The FRU (2005-2007) provided quality assurance to VDSS in preparation for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) secondary review of Virginia’s Title IV-E foster care program conducted in March 2007.  On-site reviews of LDSS Title IV-E foster care case records selected by VDSS were conducted by the FRU during Phases I, II, and III by reviewing a total of 5,357 cases to ensure that cases identified as title IV-E eligible in OASIS met federal statutory eligibility requirements for foster care maintenance payments. The Specialists conducted payment record reviews on a pre-selected number of Title IV-E cases during the on-site reviews. They also conducted a financial records desk review of one Title IV-E case from each LDSS that reported a title IV-E payment case type in OASIS immediately prior to the secondary review. The financial reviews determined if title IV-E eligible cases were appropriately utilizing federal financial reimbursement.  The specialist served as regional consultants in the area of Title IV-E eligibility and in that capacity provided case consultation, monitoring, training, and technical assistance to LDSS on an as needed basis. At the conclusion of the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) secondary review of Virginia’s Title IV-E foster care program, the Commonwealth of Virginia was considered to be in substantial compliance.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) efforts were focused on reviewing foster care records and making application for SSI on behalf of foster care children with identified disabilities.  A SSI-TANF effort was launched in Virginia Beach with a team member permanently stationed at Virginia Beach DSS to review and make applications for adults with disabilities who are currently participating in the VIEW program. At the conclusion of the project the team had an 85% application approval rate.