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Virginia Commission on Youth Approves Study Plans for 2024

The Commission on Youth held its first meeting of the year on May 21.  In addition to receiving an update from the Office of Children’s Services and a briefing from a nonprofit providing essential items to economically disadvantaged young children in the Central Virginia region, the Commission discussed its work plan for the remainder of the year.

The Commission will be undertaking three major projects in 2024:

  • Review of Virginia’s Special Education Dispute Resolution System: This study was directed as part of omnibus legislation that was enacted this session making a series of changes to Virginia’s special education system; a report is due by November 1, 2025.  The legislative language directs the Commission to review the state’s special education dispute resolution system, to include its effectiveness in responding to parents’ concerns; compare Virginia’s system with best practices from other states; and make recommendations for improvement.  The legislative directive requires the Commission’s recommendations to include proposals to improve the Department of Education’s data collection and reporting on parents’ interactions with the dispute resolution system and the outcomes of these interactions.  Commission staff presented a work plan for this study at the May 21 meeting; as part of the study, staff will hold a series of listening sessions to hear concerns from parents; interested participants may register at this link.  Staff will then convene a stakeholder advisory group and conduct further research to develop recommendations and a final report.
  • Use and Impact of Relief of Custody on Care and Support of Youth: The increased use of petitions for relief of custody of troubled youth or children was a topic raised by local departments of social services and the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman during the Commission’s 2023 foster care study, and the Commission approved a study resolution in November 2023 on this issue.  Commission staff will convene an advisory group, which is planned to include the Department of Social Services, Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, Department of Juvenile Justice, the state’s Court Improvement Program, local departments of social services, and Community Services Boards, among others, and will hold regional roundtables as part of the process of developing recommendations for the Commission to consider.  Staff plan to develop a better understanding of the reasons for relief of custody petitions being filed, as well as how the process varies by locality and how it is affected by the availability of services.
  • Collection of Evidence-Based Practices for Children and Adolescents with Mental Health Treatment Needs: This document, which was most recently updated in 2023, is a resource for families, providers, and others who work with children and adolescents with mental health needs.  Commission staff will be working to disseminate the 2023 edition of the document as well as preparing for the 2025 biennial update.

Scott Reiner, Executive Director of the Office of Children’s Services, reported to the Commission regarding legislation from 2023 that was left in committee; this legislation would have allowed members of family assessment and planning teams and community policy and management teams to share information with local law enforcement or local threat assessment teams if a child is determined to pose a threat of violence or physical harm to himself or others; generally, proceedings of these teams are confidential.  The Commission referred the bill to the State Executive Council (SEC) for review, with a request that the SEC and the Attorney General provide clarification on policies regarding confidentiality.  Mr. Reiner reported that the Office of the Attorney General is expected to provide information to the SEC this summer.

VACo Contacts:  Katie Boyle and Jeremy R. Bennett

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