Va. birth rates have declined, but regional differences tell a more complicated story

BY: - July 15, 2021

In mid-April, Virginia hospitals noted what was then a surprising trend: birth-related visits had declined by about 3.3 percent over the past year, despite early speculation that pandemic stay-at-home orders could lead to a baby boom. At the time, analysts with the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association weren’t sure if the trend would bear out […]

A new state office aims to address longstanding gaps in Virginia’s foster care system

BY: - June 30, 2021

For decades, there’s often been nowhere to turn if something goes wrong in Virginia’s foster care system, a sprawling program administered through 120 local agencies — all with their own policies and operating procedures. While there is a state Department of Social Services, officials have historically said they have little authority to intervene when local […]

Virginia is changing expectations for child care providers to put focus on early education

BY: - June 18, 2021

Come July 1, Virginia will join a growing number of states to fold child care oversight into its Department of Education. The seemingly small shift signifies a major change in how the state is thinking about early childhood development. For years, child care and K-12 schools have been treated as separate services, overseen by different […]

One of Virginia’s largest foster agencies is seeing a steep decline in interest from prospective parents

BY: - May 20, 2021

The number of children in foster care across Virginia has remained relatively stable throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. But one of the state’s largest private foster care agencies has seen a major decline in parental inquiries — raising concerns over its ability to make new placements. Nancy Toscano, the president and CEO of United Methodist Family […]

Karen’s out, Kobe’s in, and Charlotte and Liam are No. 1 for Virginia baby names

BY: - May 13, 2021

Charlotte replaced Ava as the most popular name for girls born in Virginia in 2020, and Liam remained the most popular name for boys, according to data released Thursday by the Social Security Administration. This was the first year that Charlotte had topped the state’s list of names for female babies. As recently as 2002, […]


Make the survival of Black mothers a priority

BY: - May 10, 2021

By Tyran Green Today in Virginia, Black mothers like me still struggle to survive having children. Virginia’s maternal mortality rate for Black mothers is more than twice what it ought to be (compared with White mothers). That’s the statistic, but people need to know what it’s like to be a young, pregnant, Black person in […]

SNAP expansion expected to bring more than $100 million in new food aid to Virginia

BY: - March 15, 2021

Advocates are heralding legislation loosening eligibility rules for food stamps as the most significant expansion of public benefits in Virginia since the state expanded Medicaid three years ago. The bill, which passed the General Assembly last month with unanimous support, will open up the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to an estimated 25,000 additional […]

Del. Mark Levine, D-Alexandria. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Virginia lawmakers move to cut state funding for adoption agencies that refuse LGBTQ couples

BY: - February 15, 2021

Virginia lawmakers are on the verge of rolling back a state law that allows faith-based adoption and foster-care agencies to refuse service to LGBTQ families. The legislation has spurred heated debate, with representatives of Catholic charitable organizations arguing that being forced to serve gay couples would violate their faith and civil rights advocates decrying the […]


Virginia ranks at the bottom for kinship care. Working together, we can do better. 

BY: - December 4, 2020

By Nancy Toscano Virginia takes pride in our capacity to provide for our children. Recent studies place the commonwealth as sixth in the nation for educational attainment, 11th for children’s economic wellbeing and 14th for children’s overall wellbeing. Such rankings reflect a collective commitment to ensuring that Virginia’s future is strong. But there is one area of […]


Forgotten first responders: The COVID-19 lockdown has hit Virginia’s child welfare system hard

BY: - May 5, 2020

By Allison Gilbreath The vulnerabilities of our children continue to be exacerbated by COVID-19. From school closures and economic hardships to social isolation and family confinement, the pandemic has added new stressors for families across Virginia. And the reality is that we are just beginning to scratch the surface. While most of our attention has […]

Disparity in deaths of black mothers gets renewed attention on Capitol Hill

BY: - February 26, 2020

WASHINGTON — Erica McAfee nearly died while giving birth.  She had already lost two babies — a son and a daughter — and had experienced complications during her most recent pregnancy. “And then I almost lost my life giving birth to my son,” she told the Mercury in a recent interview. “I had a full […]

‘Kinship care’ foster families would get money in proposed budget

BY: - December 18, 2019

Gov. Ralph Northam has proposed spending nearly $17 million over two years to help families who take in relatives’ children before they enter the foster care system. Tens of thousands of Virginia children are being raised by relatives instead of being put into foster care. But unlike formal foster families, these kinship families don’t receive […]