DCF Collaboration with US Department of Justice Leads to Better Outcomes for Youth
The Vermont Department for Children and Families (DCF) has been working closely with the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Vermont and the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice (collectively referred to as "DOJ") on strategies to improve outcomes for youth involved in Vermont's juvenile justice system.
The two main areas of focus have been to:
- Ensure youth are placed in the least-restrictive settings possible
- Build upon DCF’s initiative to reduce the state’s overall use of residential facilities for youth with a focus on those involved with the justice system
In December 2015, the DOJ relayed concerns about the administrative due process of placement at Woodside and whether youth placed at Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center could be better served in other less secure placements.
Woodside is a secure treatment center for youth. Youth may be placed at Woodside through a judge’s court order or through a DCF Administrative Placement. If a youth is placed through DCF – they receive a hearing eight days after arrival with legal representation and an assessment to see if they meet criteria to stay or if they may be placed elsewhere.
The DOJ’s contact came when DCF was already looking into solutions for residential placements, including for youth residing at Woodside. The DOJ and DCF came together and furthered the work DCF was already doing to reduce residential placements and began creating a new Woodside assessment tool.
The results thus far have been promising:
- The average daily number of youth at Woodside went from 23 in June 2014 down to 14 during the period of July to December 2016
- The number of youth in residential care went from 184 in June 2015 down to 161 in June 2016 —a decrease of 13 percent
DCF is exploring several strategies to further reduce the reliance on residential care, including at Woodside:
- Create a more current evidence-based decision-making tool for placements at Woodside. Technical experts from universities in Massachusetts, Maryland and Vermont are helping DCF develop this assessment tool to guide secure placement decisions at Woodside.
- Review the process for the placement of youth at Woodside with the aim of greater due process and oversight prior to placement.
- Expand the community-based supports and stabilization services for youth and their families across the state, from 12 to 40 slots. These wrap-around services may include therapy, case management and 24-hour crisis support.
- Explore piloting a specialized foster care services program in two districts where foster parents will receive specialized training to support youth with higher needs.
For more detailed information about these initiatives, please see this letter sent to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont.
The Woodside Rehabilitation Center is the only secure residential treatment facility for youth in Vermont. It provides specialized, evidence-based treatment including medical, psychiatric, educational and transitional services. Woodside is committed to providing an environment that promotes health, well-being and learning by supporting healthy eating, physical activity and mental health.
The Vermont Department for Children and Families delivers a wide array of programs and services to Vermonters in areas such as child care, child development, child protection, child support, disability determination, and economic benefits to help meet basic needs.