Voices’ Blog

As Referrals to Juvenile Facilities Decrease, Referrals to Child Welfare Increase

Posted:  -  By: Allison Gilbreath

Over the past few years, Virginia has been striving to reduce the number of children who enter the juvenile justice system. Juvenile and Domestic Relation court Judges are increasingly asking youth “What happened to you?” instead “What’s wrong with you?”. This shift to a trauma informed system, has led to many Judges referring children to social services instead of the juvenile justice system.

In a recent blog by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Tracey Feild, managing director of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Child Welfare Strategy Group cautions this dramatic shift.

There can be some benefits to that choice, she says, although she points out that serving the needs of those children often is not a strength of child welfare agencies. She proposes an alternative. “Whenever possible, we believe communities should be investing in diversion programs — programs that meet kids’ needs for mental or behavioral services or provide help with family conflict resolution while kids and teens live at home, rather than in foster care or group placements.”

As the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice moves forward with its transformation, a statewide continuum of supports for kids is critical. Developing a continuum would be using money saved from closing bon air and beaumont youth facilities and investing that money into local governments funding to provide much needed services to the youth in their communities. While some children may need both the child welfare and the juvenile justice system, often referred to as “cross-over” youth, this is not the solution for all.

The Rise for Youth Campaign, of which Voices serves as a steering committee, is hosting two juvenile justice town halls to discuss the development of a statewide continuum. For more information click on the town hall flyer: YF Richmond Town Hall flyer

Read More Blog Posts