RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia's foster care children are now able to request to live with their birth parents or stay in the foster care system.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed House Bill 1219 Wednesday morning, in front of employees and staff at UMFS on West Broad Street.
The law, introduced by Del. David Reid (D - Loudoun), allows foster children 14 years old and older the opportunity to express the preference when it comes to returning to their parents' care.
As a result, local social services would conduct an investigation of the parent, and if appropriate, restore parental rights.
Del. Reid spent his childhood from age 10 at UMFS as a foster child. He was adopted and moved to Oklahoma at 16 years old.
He attributed his success to the UMFS staff who inspired him to make a difference in his community.
"We run for office to be able to provide other people the opportunity to be able to succeed and that is what I've been trying to do," Del. Reid told about 100 people inside the Dining Hall during the non-profit's employee appreciation event.
Before signing the legislation, Gov. Northam reflected on his experience working with foster children while a doctor.
"No matter what child it is, or who they are or what's the situation there is power in every child," Northam said. "If we give our children of our future what they need -- look what they grow up to do."
Currently, a social worker or guardian ad litem will notify a judge what the child's preference is in court.
The bill passed the General Assembly by a unanimous vote and will go into effect July 1.
The Richmond-based non-profit, once named United Methodist Family Services, is a social service nonprofit organization with locations throughout Virginia.
The goal of UMFS is to help high-risk children and families become self-sufficient members of their communities, and in turn, create a world in which caring, opportunity and generosity are passed on from generation to generation, according to a press release.