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    Document Summary
    - Report Published -

    Report Document No. 13
    PUBLICATION YEAR 2005

    Document Title
    Strengthening Families

    Author
    Virginia Commission on Youth

    Enabling Authority
    30-175 (2.)

    Executive Summary
    In 2003, the Commission on Youth elected to conduct a two-year study in order to assess and identify elements which could assist in strengthening Virginia’s families. This study initiative was in response to growing awareness that strong families are better able to combat poverty, juvenile delinquency, welfare dependency, and teen pregnancy. Several states have taken steps to revise policies and practices in both income support programs and systems policies in order to promote and strengthen the family. Additionally, a number of states have reviewed and/or implemented a variety of programs with the purpose of strengthening the family. A number of these policy approaches were reviewed to ascertain which ones could best be utilized in Virginia.

    In the first year of study, the Commission analyzed measures other states were taking and assessed federal initiatives developed to strengthen families. In the second year, the Commission analyzed state and local services available in the Commonwealth with the purpose of strengthening family service systems. A statewide Advisory Group and three Regional Workgroups were convened to assist in the study effort. All of the assembled groups were comprised of professionals and policymakers with expertise in children and family issues. Using information from these meetings, strategies and recommendations were made to strengthen Virginia’s families. This report addresses the problem of obesity among children and adolescents in Virginia.

    Based upon an analysis of the issues and the input of the Regional Workgroups and the Advisory Group, the Commission on Youth adopted the following recommendations:

    IMPROVED STATEWIDE COORDINATION

    Recommendation 1
    Strengthening Family Statewide Task Force & Plan

    The Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Resources, in conjunction with the Virginia Commission on Youth, to convene a Statewide Task Force for the purpose of developing a plan to assess, identify, and communicate ways to strengthen families within the Commonwealth. The Statewide Task Force shall also focus on existing efforts and make recommendations for linking and integrating such efforts. All child-serving agencies in the Commonwealth shall participate in this effort. Members shall include representatives from the Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Education, the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Department of Criminal Justice Services, the Office of Comprehensive Services, the Virginia Department of Health, and the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court. Representatives from the Virginia Municipal League, the Virginia Association of Counties, faith-based organizations, and the Virginia Chamber of Commerce shall also be invited to participate in this effort. The Secretary of Health and Human Resources shall report the plan to the Chairs of the Senate Finance and House Appropriations Committees and the Virginia Commission on Youth.

    Strengthening Family Summit

    Direct the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Resources, in conjunction with the Virginia Commission on Youth, to convene a Statewide Summit charged with assessing, identifying, and communicating ways to strengthen families in the Commonwealth. This shall be pursuant to 63.2-703. Topics addressed shall include community-based family preservation and supportive services designed to strengthen marriages and stabilize families. All child-serving agencies in the Commonwealth shall participate in this summit. Members shall include representatives from the Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services, the Department of Education, the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Department of Criminal Justice Services, the Department of Social Services, the Office of Comprehensive Services, the Department of Education, the Virginia Department of Health, and the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court. Representatives from the Virginia Municipal League, the Virginia Association of Counties, faith-based organizations, and private sector organizations that serve families and children, and the Virginia Chamber of Commerce shall also be invited to participate in this effort. This summit shall be convened prior to the 2007 General Assembly Session, with a report of the findings from the summit being submitted to the Virginia Commission on Youth.

    DATA COLLECTION

    Recommendation 2
    Collection of Data on Marriage and Divorce Rates

    Amend the Code of Virginia to direct the State Registrar of the Virginia Department of Health to compile, publish, and distribute aggregate data on the number of marriages and divorces that occur each year within the Commonwealth. Such information shall be broken down by locality and include information regarding age, race, and any other pertinent information. Such information shall be posted on the agency website. Additionally, the Chair of the Virginia Commission on Youth shall request, via letter, that the Virginia Department of Health report on its progress to the members of the Virginia Commission on Youth prior to the 2006 General Assembly Session.

    Collection of Data on Local and Regional Service Barriers and Needs

    Request, by letter, that the Virginia Municipal League (VML) and the Virginia Association of Counties (VACO), in conjunction with the Virginia Commission on Youth, conduct a statewide survey ascertaining existing partnerships and best practices that strengthen Virginia’s families. The survey will include questions on program strengths at the regional level, barriers that exist in serving families and solutions/programs that can address these gaps or barriers. The results of the survey shall be communicated to the Virginia Commission on Youth prior to the 2006 General Assembly Session.

    IMPROVEMENT OF INFORMATION & REFERRAL SERVICES

    Recommendation 3
    Inclusion of all Family- and Child-serving Agencies in the I&R System

    Direct that all state and local child-serving agencies within the Commonwealth be included in the Virginia Statewide Information and Referral System (I&R System). The Secretary of Health and Human Resources, the Secretary of Education, and the Secretary of Public Safety shall assist in this effort by requesting all agencies they oversee to submit information to the I&R System.

    Training and Education on the I&R System

    Direct the Department of Social Services to communicate with all child-serving agencies located within the Commonwealth about the availability of the statewide I&R System and that all child-serving agencies located within the Commonwealth be informed and trained on the availability of the I&R System, as outlined in 63.2-226 of the Code of Virginia. This information shall also be communicated via the Department of Social Services’ broadcast system on their agency-wide Intranet so that all local and regional offices can be better informed about the Statewide I&R System. Moreover, information on the Statewide I&R System shall be included within the Department’s electronic mailings to all local and regional offices at least biannually.

    Marketing and Promoting Virginia’s I&R System

    Direct the Department of Social Services to work with I&R providers and other public and private partners to develop strategies to market and promote Virginia’s I&R System, along with the 211-phone campaign currently under development. A report on these activities shall be submitted prior to the 2006 General Assembly Session to the Chairs of the Senate Finance and House Appropriations Committees as well as to the Chair of the Virginia Commission on Youth.

    211 System

    Request the Chair of the Commission on Youth to send a letter to the CEO of Verizon outlining the importance of the Virginia I&R System and requesting that Verizon waive its connection fee for 211. (Verizon is charging a considerably higher connection fee than the other companies.)

    Implementation of a 211 System in Virginia

    Request the Chair of the Commission on Youth to send a letter to the Governor encouraging him to contact the CEO of Verizon outlining the importance of the Virginia I&R System and requesting that Verizon waive its connection fee for 211.

    Increase Funding for I&R System

    Introduce a budget amendment increasing funding for Virginia’s I&R system to allow for implementation of the statewide, 24-hour 211 system.

    Improving Virginia’s I&R Website

    Direct the Department of Social Services, in conjunction with Virginia Information and Technologies Agency, to develop a plan to modify Virginia’s current I&R System webpage to make it more comprehensive and user-friendly. This plan shall be submitted prior to the 2006 General Assembly Session to the Chairs of the Senate Finance and House Appropriations Committees, as well as to the Chair of the Virginia Commission on Youth.

    MENTORING FOR AT-RISK POPULATIONS

    Recommendation 4
    Family to Family Mentoring - Adults

    Request by letter that the Virginia Department of Social Services to encourage localities to utilize “family to family” mentoring. This program model helps low-income families move toward financial self-sufficiency by providing training and technical assistance to existing and developing mentoring programs to increase the number and quality of mentoring relationships for children and youth at risk, and adults in transition from welfare to work.

    Support Virginia’s Involvement in the NGA Prisoner Reentry Policy Academy

    Request the Chair of the Virginia Commission on Youth to send a letter to the Secretary of Public Safety and Secretary of Health supporting Virginia’s participation in the National Governor’s Association (NGA) Prisoner Reentry Policy Academy. Moreover, request the Virginia Policy Academy to consider incorporating messages about the benefits of healthy relationships and strong families in program formulation, as well as the importance of transition plans and services for juveniles returning to the community.

    COMMUNITY-BASED HEALTHY FAMILY PROGRAMMING

    Recommendation 5
    Continuation of Healthy Marriage and Stable Families Initiative Grants

    Direct the Virginia Department of Social Services to continue funding for the Healthy Marriage and Stable Families Initiative grants to provide community-based family preservation and supportive services designed to strengthen marriages and stabilize families. Such grant activities will address training needs, parenting programs, youth programs, programs for newlyweds, community marriage initiatives, and healthy relationship promotion. Such grants shall be funded by the Federal Safe and Stable Families or other appropriate funds.

    IMPROVED FAMILY ADVOCACY

    Recommendation 6
    Family Advocacy Network

    Request the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Resources to lead a collaborative effort with other child serving departments, parents, and advocacy organizations to develop and implement a statewide parent/family resource and advocacy program that is coordinated with existing programs. This is also a recommendation from the State Executive Council Study on Relinquishment of Custody Study as well as from the 330 F Report (2004). The Secretary shall report on these efforts to the Chair of the Commission of Youth prior to the 2006 General Assembly Session.

    Recommendation 7
    Continuation of Study Efforts

    Request that the Commission on Youth monitor efforts taking place in the Commonwealth regarding efforts to strengthen families and update the Commission on Youth on such developments prior to the 2006 General Assembly.