The Commission on Youth met on April 19 to receive updates on several aspects of the child welfare system and to adopt its plan of work for the remainder of 2022. Commission members agreed to undertake four study projects:
- Evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of Virginia’s juvenile detention centers: The genesis of this study is the significant reduction in the numbers of children housed in juvenile detention centers as a result of recent juvenile justice reform efforts focused on diverting young offenders into less restrictive settings. As the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission documented in its study of the juvenile justice system last year, juvenile detention centers now have significant excess capacity. As discussed by Commission on Youth members and noted in the study plan document, assuming a continued decline in the population in juvenile detention centers, potential savings may be achieved by consolidating facilities. At the April 19 meeting, legislators indicated their interest in reinvesting any such savings into other services for youth. VACo was invited to participate in an advisory committee that will assist Commission staff in undertaking the study.
- Transition process for students with disabilities regarding records and services at the age of majority: This study is intended to review how youth with disabilities can be better supported as they transition to adulthood, to include reviewing laws, policies, and procedures related to federal secondary school transition requirements, recordkeeping by local school divisions and potential use of these records by community services boards, and best practices for transition, among other activities.
- Collection of Evidence-Based Practices for Children and Adolescents with Mental Health Treatment Needs: The Commission will be disseminating the most recent edition (produced in 2021) and preparing to undertake the next biennial revision of this document, which compiles evidence-based practices in the field of child and adolescent mental health in order to assist families and other interested parties in making informed decisions.
- Safe and Sound Task Force: This effort was initiated by the Governor at the beginning of the month in response to difficulties in finding appropriate placements for children in foster care, some of whom have had to sleep in the offices of local departments of social services, hotels, or emergency rooms. Janet Kelly, Special Advisor to the Governor for Children’s Issues, provided an update to the Commission on the Task Force’s first two meetings, which were held last week. In its first phase, the Task Force is focused on addressing the immediate crisis of children without appropriate placements; in future phases of work, the Task Force will be examining systemic problems, such as workforce shortages and the need to provide better support to foster families. Commission staff will be providing assistance to the Task Force as needed.
VACo Contact: Katie Boyle