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Used as Intended, Legislation Would Improve Youth Services

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"Handle With Care" (Cover Story, Aug. 9) was well done. It is important to point out, however, that the Comprehensive Services Act for At-Risk Youth and Families (CSA) is not and was not the cause for parents to give up custody of their children in order for them to get services. That option has been available to Virginia parents for many years and is not unique to Virginia.

The CSA is a terrific piece of legislation. The fact is that when it was passed, less than $200,000 in mental health money was put into the funding pool. The vast bulk of the funding came from Social Services, Education and local government. A small amount of Department of Juvenile Justice funding was included, but children under the auspices of Juvenile Justice were not "mandated" by the legislation to receive services.

The real problem is that since 1994 the CSA has been treated as only a funding stream by the state and not allowed to fulfill its intent. A complete reading of the act, including its governance by the State Executive Council (when it is allowed and encouraged to function), describes the structure to implement a truly comprehensive continuum of care for Virginia's at-risk youth and families. It is always easier to blame a system than to look for root causes!

Larry D. Jackson, CEO
Jewish Family Services



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