SB 435 (Barker), as introduced, would have required that the parent representatives who must be members of the community policy and management teams and family assessment and planning teams that administer the Children’s Services Act (CSA) at the local level be caregivers for children with past experience with the child welfare, juvenile justice, special education, or behavioral health systems. Current law requires parent participation on these teams, but does not require parents to have specific experience. While parents’ perspective is a vital and valued element of these teams, recruiting and retaining parent representatives is a challenge in many localities, especially for local CSA programs that operate multiple family assessment and planning teams, or in rural areas where there may be fewer potential volunteers. Requiring parents to have certain specific experience would have further limited the pool of potential volunteers and thus made compliance more difficult for local programs.
VACo and VML worked with the proponents of the bill to instead direct the State Executive Council to inventory current efforts to recruit and retain parent representatives and compile a list of best practices for encouraging parent participation. (A provision in the introduced bill to strike existing Code language that bars participation by parent representatives who work for a public or private program that receives CSA funds and who interact with children or supervise employees who interact directly with children, was retained.) As amended, the bill was reported by the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee on January 21. Similar amendments are expected to be made to the House companion legislation, HB 427 (Herring).
SB 356 (Stuart) allows some additional flexibility in the use of Children’s Services Act funding to support students who transition from a private special education placement to a public school special education program established in Planning District 16, when that public school program is able to provide comparable services and the student would require a private placement in the absence of the public school program. VACo has historically supported this legislation and is closely monitoring the discussions at a workgroup convened as a result of legislation in 2021 allowing certain limited use of CSA funds to transition children back to public schools; the workgroup is examining the issue of CSA funding in public schools more broadly, as well as how funding associated with private day placements could be administered by the Department of Education. SB 356 has been referred to the Senate Education and Health Committee and may be heard later this week.
VACo Contact: Katie Boyle