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Children’s Services Act Studies Move Forward

Several workgroups and other efforts to enhance elements of the Children’s Services Act (CSA) have been undertaken this year, either at the direction of the General Assembly or the State Executive Council, and are in varying stages of completion.

Private special education day placements: Budget language directed the convening of a workgroup to develop proposed outcome measures for children receiving special education in private day placements funded through CSA. The workgroup, which included participation by VACo representative Christian Goodwin of Louisa County, wrestled with the issue of which metrics would provide a fair picture of student progress, given that children who require private day placements typically have high-level needs, as well as which data could be collected without requiring significant additional administrative effort. The workgroup developed a set of recommended metrics for consideration by the General Assembly, including graduation rates, attendance, a measure of individual student progress in certain key areas, standardized test scores, rates of return to public school, percentages of students suspended or expelled, incidents of use of seclusion or restraint, and results of parent and student satisfaction surveys. It is expected that the Department of Education will be the lead state agency in compiling the data, which may require additional work at the state level to allow for data sharing and reporting of the outcome measures, as well as possible promulgation of regulations to require the submission of data by private schools. The full report may be found at this link.

Budget language also directed the Office of Children’s Services (OCS) to contract for a study of rates paid to providers of private special education day placements. The contractor, Public Consulting Group, issued its interim report earlier this month, which includes a review of funding for private day placements in other states and a plan for completion of the project. The second portion of the report will include the results of a study of current costs for private providers and a recommended method for setting rates. As part of the consultants’ work to gather information on provider costs, a survey has been distributed to providers requesting detailed information on personnel and other expenses; at the most recent meeting of the State Executive Council, providers expressed concern about the sensitivity of some of the information that has been requested and asked for additional time to respond to the survey. Public Consulting Group plans to hold a series of stakeholder meetings to discuss potential rate options that are developed in the course of the study before preparing a final report; a dedicated email address ( has been established for stakeholders to communicate with the consultants working on the project.

Mandatory uniform assessment instrument: OCS convened a workgroup during the summer to develop a consolidated policy for administration of the required assessment instrument (the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths Assessment, or “CANS”). Issues with CANS documentation have been a common element in many state audits of local CSA offices, and the goal of the workgroup, on which VACo also was represented, was to consolidate and clarify guidance regarding use of the CANS. A draft policy was released for public comment in September, and the policy was adopted by the State Executive Council at its meeting on December 13. The adopted policy may be found at this link.

Utilization management: The State Executive Council directed OCS to convene a workgroup to identify best practices in meeting Community Policy and Management Teams’ statutory mandate to review data on usage of CSA-funded services. OCS staff and workgroup members, including SEC member and VACo Past President Mary Biggs, have developed an online dashboard that compiles key data elements on usage of services, demographics, and spending in one user-friendly site, which was shared with the SEC on December 13. OCS staff plan to hold pilot training sessions with several volunteer CSA offices in the coming months on how the dashboard may be used to review service delivery and inform decisions about future program offerings.

VACo Contact: Katie Boyle

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