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Past Projects



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 Children's 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.

The purpose of the case reviews was to assess Loudoun County’s foster care caseload for identifying funding alternatives for children in foster care.  These funding streams included Title IV-E, Supplemental Security Income (Title XVI), Social Security (Title II) Benefits and Child Support (Title IV-D) and assess the efficacy of the efforts by Loudoun County staff to maximize revenues.

 The foster care case reviews will assess the efficacy of the current efforts by Loudoun County staff to maximize revenues for children in foster care.

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), provided wrap around services to address Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) clients’ employment barriers and service needs in an individualized manner. The existing partnership expanded and engaged 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 was 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 focused on other barriers clients face in life that influences job readiness and retention.  Specific research and programmatic efforts were 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 were 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.

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.

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

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. Mary Beth Dunkenberger was the Principal Investigator.

VTIPG was notified that a $375,000 Medicaid feasibility study would be funded by VCSS  beginning in January 2005.  This study evaluated the potential for licensing local DSS agencies as Medicaid providers to increase access to Medicaid benefits and to reduce local costs of providing health care to disadvantaged citizens.


Led by Mary Beth Dunkenberger, VTIPG assessed the current environment of human resource capacities and per diem rates of state facilities to guide the efficient and effective distribution of resources among the 15 state mental health facilities. Informed by the current context and national best practices, the Department  evaluated staffing levels, patient acuity and external workforce dynamics and other factors impacting per diem rates at state facilities, to determine a range of staffing ratios and other cost assumptions for serving the Department’s constituency populations.  While administrative data is available on state facilities, the accuracy of this information was verified, with each facility’s context and needs taken into account.  To assist DMHMRSAS as it addressed policy implementation and management decisions, VTIPG’s role was to identify national best practices and perform comparative research to identify key quality indicators used by other states that relate to efficient and effective staffing levels; to conduct analysis and verification of existing administrative data based on clinical level of care and the population being served; and identify factors that affect per diem rate sensitivity.  Finally, VTIPG developed recommendations for next steps to model and establish efficient and effective staffing levels for the Department’s facilities.

Using a federated data approach to multi-agency data integration, the central aim of Project Child HANDS (Child Care Subsidy, Health and Early Education: Helping Analyze Needed Data Securely) is to build an integrated, web-based data system for Virginia childhood initiatives aimed at low-income families, to guide program evaluation and policy decisions at the state and local levels. Data from agencies at local levels will provide the main source of information for use in local planning, as well as state evaluation of large-scale programs.

Partners in the grant include the Virginia Department of Social Services and the Virginia Department of Education, with input from the Virginia Department of Health. Initial questions will focus on child care quality in relation to the child care subsidy program, family demographics, parental choice, and how these factors relate to children’s outcomes in kindergarten. Later questions will expand into other areas of child welfare and health.

Additional information about Project Child HANDS may be found at:

VTIPG and the Virginia Tech Institute for Society, Culture and Environment (ISCE) conducted an assessment of several options for HOPE, Inc. (HOPE) to co-locate health care services along with other HOPE service providers. The evaluation 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 built on previous health needs assessments conducted in the Wythe-Bland region but specifically focused on the viable options for the use of the HOPE, Inc. office space. Mary Beth Dunkenberger was the Principal Investigator

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.  Mary Beth Dunkenberger was the Principal Investigator.

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. Mary Beth Dunkenberger was the Principal Investigator.