Public Comments for: SB1206 - Confidentiality of juvenile court records; exceptions.
The focus of my testimony today is on youth that are currently involved with the child welfare system, as victims of abuse and neglect, that have also become involved with the juvenile justice system. These youth often go undetected as dually-involved by the agencies serving them due to the lack of communication between them, and as a result are often the subject of court orders and recipient of services that are not well coordinated, often duplicative, and at times inconsistent. Consequently, these youth, victimized by the traumatic experiences in their lives are often re-traumatized by the systems with the responsibility to rehabilitate, support, and assist them. In order to improve how we serve these youth and improve their outcomes, these systems must better coordinate and collaborate in their assessment, case planning and case management. The initial challenge faced by many jurisdictions in doing so is the lack of integrated data systems, which limits the juvenile justice system from learning of a youth’s involvement with the child welfare system at the time of intake. Conversely, if a youth is involved with the child welfare system, the juvenile justice agency may be unaware of the open case. This lack of information sharing presents a challenge in that while each of these agencies may be working with the same youth and families, they are blinded to that fact. The absence of communication creates instances where families are being provided the same services by multiple providers, are participating in multiple, overlapping case planning meetings with various agencies, are requested to appear at multiple, uncoordinated hearings across the dependency and delinquency court dockets, and are responding to the demands of various government agencies (or their contracted providers), in circumstances in which their failure to cooperate could have a negative life-long impact on their family. The end result is that families and their children often have a chaotic and less than fully coherent experience with the systems that are supposed to assist them. The information sharing being proposed in this bill will allow the names of youth to be shared at the onset of the case in the “second” system. The information shared will only be used for case planning and coordination of services. While there is also a need for aggregate data analysis designed to improve system level performance, it is my understanding that this much-needed legislative change may be addressed in the future. It is my belief that the implementation of this bill will be done with safeguards to protect the privacy interests of the youth and families in this dually-involved population and ensure appropriate and limited utilization of the information. The goal is not to simply widen the universe of people that have access to this information, but to ensure that on a need to know basis collaborative assessment, planning and ongoing case management for these youth takes place in a routinized manner. As demonstrated in other jurisdictions across the country, this has resulted in decreases in detention utilization for youth in foster care, increases in the number of youth in foster care being appropriately diverted from formal justice system involvement, increases in youth/family engagement, and most importantly improvement in population level outcomes (behavioral health, education, positive youth development, and recidivism). Professor Shay Bilchik, Georgetown University
Family Impact Statement SB1206 Good Morning, as a Grandma that raised her Grandchildren in non-formal kinship care here in Virginia, I am speaking on behalf of our family’s experience. As a constituent and the voice of youth that are adversely impacted. I ask you to vote yes to this new revised way of information sharing that will give our children who are at great risk a better outcome. Our children deserve the support and consideration for a solid future. The impact of with holding information that can change the outcome of a youth’s life is shameful to say the least. As I advocate for change this specific policy is like a Brick Wall between agencies that are here to help Youth. We must break down this Walls to coordinate services with accurate responsible information sharing to improve youth outcome.
My name is Tricia Bassing. I am Chief of Child and Family Behavioral Health Services with the City of Alexandria CSB. For the past several years, I’ve collaborated closely with colleagues in child welfare and our court service unit, people with lived experience in our systems, legal experts and advocates, and the Georgetown Center for Juvenile Justice Reform in an effort to improve our system for families involved in both juvenile justice and child welfare. We recognize that these children are most vulnerable for deeper involvement in both systems, homelessness, out of home placement and chronic behavioral health challenges. These outcomes are not because families are inherently bad. It is because our systems are not sufficiently set up to address the layers of trauma they have experienced. One vital way to stem this tide is to ensure early coordinated care. We’ve heard from families that the lack of early coordination and differing information among our agencies sets them up for failure. They see us as all a part of the same system – which we really are. This legislation would allow court service and child welfare colleagues to find out immediately if a child they have encountered is involved with the other agency, allowing them to reach out and get guardian permission from the very beginning. This is vital and will allow for an efficient and effective coordinated assessment and access to services, while eliminating redundancies. Families will have greater trust in the system because they will see we are working together. From a behavioral health perspective, there are times we are unaware of a child’s involvement with our Court Service Unit. If we knew right away, this information could support meeting a child and family’s behavioral health needs, in addition to ensuring a coordinated systems response – aligning youth and family goals across the system as much as possible. We could also secure releases of information to coordinate early and often with the CSU to ensure a trauma informed lens is applied to their dispositional report. Additionally, at the point of clinical assessment with a family who is CSU involved, this bill would allow us access to the dispositional report, with a guardian’s release of information. Under current law, we cannot access it without a court order. Up front access to this report will ensure efficient and quality assessment and services. HIPPA, the federal law protecting health information, takes priority over this legislation. Alexandria has been stymied by the inability to share disaggregated data among CSU, CSB and Child Welfare for the purpose of system improvement. We can’t understand trends in practice to make positive change. This is a disservice to our families and results in ineffective and more expensive higher levels of service. I appreciate that this type of information exchange must be managed carefully and support the bill’s inclusion of a study to assess the impact of such local data sharing and make best practice recommendations for future bills. With this incremental legislation, I believe we can make foundational changes in line with current juvenile justice reform that sets up our most vulnerable youth and families for success. Thank you for your consideration.
Testimony Senate Bill 1206 February 10, 2021 Greta Rosenzweig, Chief of Child Welfare Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services Good Morning. My name is Greta Rosenzweig, and I am the Chief of Child Welfare for the Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services. I am speaking in support of Senate Bill 1206. On any given day, and often through no fault of their own, youth at-risk of or involved with child welfare and juvenile justice in Virginia fluctuate between various systems of care. These young people are commonly referred to as crossover, dual-status, or dual-system youth . Although the number of crossover youth in Virginia is currently unknown, researchers have found that between 7 and 30% of youth involved in the child welfare system eventually cross over into the juvenile justice system nationally . These individuals face many obstacles including histories of familial mental health challenges and substance use, high rates of education-related difficulties, placement instability and a lack of permanent social connections, and higher rates of recidivism than their single-system peers . Additionally, African American youth are highly overrepresented in this population as are those who identify as LGBQ/GNCT . Since March 2019 and with technical assistance from the Georgetown University Center for Juvenile Justice Reform, youth serving agencies from the City of Alexandria have worked collaboratively to develop a Crossover Youth Practice Model to address the needs of crossover youth. This partnership is led jointly by Alexandria’s Child Welfare Services and Child and Family Behavioral Health Services, and the City of Alexandria Court Service Unit and it includes representatives from the school system and local law enforcement, Guardians ad Litem, Commonwealth, and local jurisdiction attorneys, as well as youth, and families. We have experienced and witnessed first-hand the negative consequences of not knowing immediately when a youth has “crossed over” and not having the ability to share information during case assessment, planning, and management. These include redundancies, lack of coordinated and streamlined services, and an experience for families and youth that is confusing, inconsistent, and overwhelming. We support Senate Bill 1206 because it will allow Child Welfare Services and Court Service Units to identify crossover youth immediately and will allow us to share information so that Child Welfare Services, Court Service Units and Child and Family Behavioral Health can develop coordinated and collaborative assessments, service plans and service delivery. As a result, and based on outcomes from other states and jurisdictions nationally, who can share information and develop coordinated strategies to serve crossover youth, we expect to see: 1. reductions in the number of youth placed in foster care or out-of-home care; 2. reductions in the use of congregate care; and 3. reductions in the disproportionate representation of youth of color We support the bill’s inclusion of a Virginia Commission on Youth work group review of current data and record sharing provisions with regard to youth served by the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. Thank you. Greta Rosenzweig Chief of Child Welfare Alexandria DCHS 2525 Mt. Vernon Avenue Alexandria, VA 22301 703.746.5748 email@example.com
The City of Alexandria asks for your support for SB 1206 (Barker, co-patroned by Del. Herring). This bill was proposed as a way to provide efficient, narrowly tailored access to Court Services Records of juveniles being served by both the juvenile justice system and the child welfare system in a locality. This is key to our efforts – and the efforts of other localities including Fairfax Co. and Arlington – to implement a Crossover Youth Practice Model, which is a best practice model to support youth who are co-involved with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Some of the goals of this model include reducing the number of youth “crossing over” and becoming involved in both systems and reducing the disproportionate representation of youth of color in the “crossover” population. Currently, code allows for the sharing of these court services records with “Any public agency, child welfare agency, private organization, facility or person who is treating or providing services to the child pursuant to a contract” with DJJ. However, this language has not been construed to permit inter-agency information sharing in the past unless it is pursuant to a contractual relationship with DJJ, such as a county group home or treatment facility. The language adopted in the Senate would allow for the sharing of these court services records with local child welfare agencies when they have entered into an agreement with DJJ to provide coordinated services to juveniles who are the subject of the records. In addition, a floor amendment added authority for DJJ/Court Services to determine which reports/records are relevant to the treatment, services, or care of such juvenile and limit the sharing to only those relevant reports/records. The efficient sharing of these records is key to an effective crossover systems response. This bill would enable systems to identify crossover youth early on and share information to effect coordinated and collaborative interventions, case planning, and service delivery to benefit youth and their families. It would also lead to less duplication of information gathering and service delivery by discrete agencies. We are aware, and respectful, of the legislature’s efforts to protect the records of youth in our juvenile justice and child welfare systems. However, the current limits on the ability to share these records without a court order makes it almost impossible to identify particularly vulnerable youth in our child welfare and juvenile justice systems and engage in efficient, coordinated, collaborative case management on their behalf. This bill has the support of the City of Alexandria, Arlington Co., Fairfax Co., the City of Chesapeake, Loudoun Co., The Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University, Voices for Virginia’s Children, Rise for Youth and the Virginia League of Social Services Executives. We are hopeful you will see value in this limited, narrowly tailored change and view it as part of ongoing efforts to reform the criminal justice system so it more efficiently and effectively serves the most vulnerable in our Commonwealth. This change will help create an efficient, effective way for youth engaged in both the juvenile justice system and the child welfare system to receive early intervention and coordinated case management services, which could impact these vulnerable youth at the earliest point that they enter these systems. Sarah Taylor City of Alexandria