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Commission on Youth Adopts Recommendations from 2023 Studies

At its meeting on November 20, the Commission on Youth adopted a series of recommendations from the two studies Commission staff undertook this year.  Draft recommendations had been circulated for public comment earlier in the fall and VACo reported on the studies’ key findings and proposed recommendations in an earlier County Connections article.

Adopted recommendations from the Commission’s study of improving the state’s foster care system include the following:

  • Establish a centralized training academy model for family services specialists in local departments of social services so that staff are better prepared for these challenging jobs. VACo has historically supported this proposal, which seeks to reduce turnover in the local workforce.
  • Encourage the Department of Social Services to create partnerships with additional colleges and universities for the Child Welfare Stipend Program, which supports social work students who in turn commit to work at a local department of social services, and increase the number of stipend slots. VACo has also supported expansion of this program to assist local departments with recruitment and retention.
  • Request the State Corporation Commission to prepare a report on what steps would be necessary to permit nonprofit and for-profit private foster care agencies to join group self-insurance pools, with the permission of a locality, in order to obtain liability insurance. Request the Department of Social Services to form a workgroup on the issue of liability insurance for private foster care agencies.
  • Request the Department of Social Services to survey local departments to ensure that the Faster Families Highway (which provides a platform for potential foster parents to connect with local departments) is providing necessary information.
  • Fund the continuation of the Exceptional Circumstances Payment pilot program, which provides up to an additional $3000 per month for foster families, for up to three months, to support emergency situations or additional supervision for a foster child.
  • Request the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and the Department of Social Services to assess the barriers to availability of substance use disorder treatment services and make recommendations for establishing systems to address parental substance use and prevent the entry of children into foster care. Request the Virginia Opioid Abatement Authority to provide technical assistance to local governments that were disproportionately affected by the opioid epidemic.
  • Support the development and implementation of a program to support youth in foster care and formerly in care in obtaining a driver’s license.
  • Direct the Commission on Youth to review concerns regarding reports of increased use by parents of relief of custody to place challenging children or youth in foster care.
  • Request the Department of Social Services to review a set of recommendations to improve informal kinship care, including making a stipend available for informal kinship care families, creating permanency plans for children in informal kinship care situations, and collecting data on informal kinship care.

A full list of recommendations is available at this link and the staff presentation of the study findings may be found at this link.

The Commission also considered draft recommendations from its study of the admission of minors to a mental health facility for inpatient treatment.  This study was generated by legislation proposed during the 2023 session that was referred to the Commission.  The bill would have increased from 14 to 16 the minimum age for a minor to consent to admission to a mental health facility for inpatient treatment, and added addiction as a reason for a minor to be admitted to a mental health facility for inpatient treatment.  The bill’s patron intended to address situations in which a minor who is 14 or 15 years of age refuses to consent to inpatient treatment that the parent feels is necessary, and to address issues of substance use disorder among youth.

Adopted recommendations from the Commission’s study of admission of minors to a mental health facility for inpatient treatment include the following:

  • Request the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to convene a workgroup to consider options for the transportation of minors who are admitted to a mental health facility over their objections through an existing court process.
  • Request the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to provide information on its website on the Psychiatric Treatment of Minors Act.
  • Request the Department of Social Services to update guidance and share information with local departments on the process for admission of minors to inpatient treatment.
  • Request the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to provide educational materials to professional associations of psychiatrists and psychologists, as well as to Community Services Boards (CSBs), on the voluntary and involuntary admissions process for minors.
  • Request the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to work with CSBs to target American Rescue Plan Act and other federal funds toward higher intensity substance use disorder services for minors.

The Commission did not adopt a proposal included in its draft recommendations to raise the age at which a minor can object to treatment from 14 to 16.  A full list of recommendations may be found at this link, and the staff presentation of study findings may be found at this link.

VACo Contact:  Katie Boyle

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