Youth Involved in Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare

Introduction

In Colorado, the Family First Prevention Services Act also applies to the juvenile justice/delinquency system. Statutorily and by rules in Colorado, the child welfare system is required to serve youth beyond the control of their parents and youth in conflict, when they are referred to the county agency through the juvenile justice system, either by pre-trial, a local collaborative management program, probation or directly or by placement and service evaluations order by the court. Family First efforts toward prevention of out-of-home placement and further penetration into the juvenile justice and child welfare systems should continue to be coordinated throughout the juvenile justice system, including in: current and prior child welfare cases, municipal delinquency cases, at arrests, in diversion programs, pre-trial programs, probation, commitment to the Division of Youth Services, and parole.

At a Glance

What County Directors Need to Know

  • Family First Applies to both Dependency and Neglect and Delinquency Court Cases
  • Youth in the Juvenile Justice System are Candidates for Prevention Services
  • Family First Requires That the State Attest That No Policies Will Be Implemented That Will Further Drive Youth Into the Juvenile Justice System
  • GAO Study Requirement
  • QRTP Placements
  • Independent Assessment Process
  • Youth Committed to the Division of Youth Services
  • Juvenile Justice Reform and Family First
  • SB19-108 Summary
  • SB21-071 Summary
  • Assessments

Action Items

  • Utilize the available resources related to Family First and Juvenile Justice Populations
  • View and share the available trainings related to Family First and Juvenile Justice Populations
  • Meet with local partners

What County Directors Need to Know

Family First Applies to Both Dependency and Neglect and Delinquency Court Cases

It also is an opportunity to get involved with families if a youth is starting to act out beyond control of parents but may not have picked up delinquency charges. 

Youth in the Juvenile Justice System are Candidates for Prevention Services

Family First offers an opportunity for stakeholders to come together to continue to discuss preventing out of home placement earlier on and throughout a case and ways to help keep youth at home or return home if they have been in detention or out-of-home placement. Colorado’s Family First Juvenile Justice Crosswalk outlines opportunities around preventing further involvement in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

Family First requires that the state attest that no policies will be implemented that will further drive youth into the juvenile justice system

In order to assist in the evaluation of the impact of Family First regarding this provision, Colorado SB20-162 requires that the Court make a finding of whether the lack of available and appropriate congregate care placements is a contributing factor in committing a juvenile to the Division of Youth Services.

GAO Study Requirement

Family First requires that a study and report by GAO be published by December 31, 2025 on the impact of the Family First congregate care restrictions on state juvenile justice systems. The Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab is working on a data project to connect data in Trails and the court system using the Linked Information Network of Colorado to support this requirement. 

QRTP Placements

Once Family First is implemented, placement in Residential Child Care Facilities, group homes, and group centers will no longer be eligible for federal child welfare reimbursement, unless they are licensed and accredited as Qualified Residential Treatment Programs (QRTPs) or serve designated “carve-out” populations.

Independent Assessment Process

Youth involved in a delinquent court case will need to follow the independent assessment process for placement in a QRTP. For delinquent crossover youth with an open dependency and neglect case, the review would go through the court or the CDHS Administrative Review Division if parties consent (after the first review). QRTPs may not be used for containment purposes or due to a lack of other placement options. The independent assessment and the Court may disagree about QRTP placement. The Court shall give great weight to the recommendation in the independent assessment. If the Court deviates from the recommendations in the assessment, the Court shall make specific findings of fact set forth in 19-1-115(4)(h). Federal funding for a child/youth/juvenile eligible for Title IV-E will no longer be available after 30 days.

What happens when the independent assessment does not recommend QRTP placement for a delinquent youth, but the court disagrees?

The Court shall give great weight to the recommendation in the independent assessment. If the Court deviates from the recommendations in the assessment, the Court shall make specific findings of fact set forth in 19-1-115(4)(h). Federal funding for a child/youth/juvenile eligible for Title IV-E will no longer be available after 30 days.

Youth Committed to the Division of Youth Services

The Independent Assessment will be used in conjunction with the DYS assessment process for youth who have been committed. A DYS Client Manager would initiate a referral for the independent assessment if it’s determined that the youth’s treatment needs could be served in a less secure placement during commitment. For youth committed to the Division of Youth Services and no longer under the jurisdiction of the court, the Administrative Review Division will review the placement in a QRTP within 60 days after placement.  What happens when the independent assessment does not recommend QRTP placement for youth committed to DYS? For Youth in DYS, the youth would not move into another level of placement without careful consideration. If a youth is placed in a QRTP and does not meet criteria for that placement, DYS would then be responsible for the cost of care through general fund dollars. 

Juvenile Justice Reform and Family First

The Juvenile Justice system in Colorado is undergoing significant reform that in many ways interacts with Family First child welfare reforms. It is essential to have these reform conversations with all partners across child welfare and juvenile justice at the table together. Because Family First changes federal funding for placement reimbursement (and placement in RCCFs, group homes, and group centers are no longer eligible unless it’s an approved QRTP placement or for carve-out populations), the placement continuum available to child welfare is in flux. If the independent assessment process does not recommend QRTP placement for a youth/juvenile, sufficient step-down placement options in each community for this population, and/or wraparound services that allow youth/juveniles to be with family or kin, are needed. At the same time as Family First is changing placement options to no longer reimburse for congregate care settings, new restrictions on the use of detention and further reductions in detention bed caps are taking place in the juvenile justice system. Detention is limited to, “only those children who pose a substantial risk of serious harm to others or that are a flight risk from prosecution.” SB21-071 would further reduce the detention bed cap to 215 beginning in FY21-22. It’s important to have joint conversations in your community about how SB19-108, detention reform, SB21-071, and Family First all intersect together and implications for out-of-home placement options in the community for juvenile justice youth. 

SB19-108 Summary

SB19-108 created a juvenile justice reform committee that began meeting in June 2019 and is charged with oversight of: 

  • Adopting a Relative Information Form that requires the parent or guardian to identify kin and/or persons with a significant relationship with the juvenile, that may be contacted concerning a juvenile’s potential need for services or placement with those persons. The form can be filled out before or at the initial court hearing. Prior to the court hearing, the CYDC coordinator would initiate the completion of the form with the family. Each jurisdiction is working through details regarding the completion and use of the form in different scenarios. Coordinate with your local CYDC coordinators around the latest version. This aligns with Family First efforts to further support increased utilization of kinship families. We know that permanent or temporary placements with kin help maintain familial relationships and cultural connections, support parent reunification efforts, and often prevent further trauma and result in better outcomes for children and youth when they aren’t able to remain safely in the home.
  • Adopting a validated risk and needs assessment tool to be used statewide to assist: 1) juvenile courts in determining the actions to take for each juvenile subject to the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, 2) the Division of Youth Services in development of case and reentry plans and the determination of supervision levels for juveniles committed to DYS, and 3) juvenile probation departments in the development of case plans and the determination of supervision levels for juveniles placed on probation.
  • Adopting a research-based detention screening instrument for screeners statewide to inform placement of juveniles in a detention facility. Note: The revised Juvenile Detention Screening and Assessment Guide (JDSAG) will be piloted starting in 2021 in order to be validated.; 
  • Adopting a validated mental health screening tool and assessment for probation. Note: The MAYSII has been selected.; 
  • Identifying, in collaboration with the Delivery of Child Welfare Task Force (established in SB 18 254), shared outcome measures for service providers receiving state funds and serving juveniles placed on probation and parole;
  • Identifying shared outcome measures for diversion, juvenile probation, and DYS, including a common definition of recidivism.
SB21-071 Summary

SB21-071 in a snapshot:

  • For the Fiscal Year 2021-22 and each fiscal year thereafter, the number of available juvenile detention beds statewide is limited to 215.
  • A working group must develop a mechanism for judicial districts (JDs) to loan detention beds to other JDs in cases of need.
  • A working group for criteria for placement of juvenile offenders, which must include at least three representatives from county departments of human services, will:
    • Establish a set of criteria for both detention and commitment for the purposes of determining which juvenile offenders are appropriate for placement in the physical or legal custody of the department of human services. This set of criteria must promote a more uniform system of determining which juveniles should be placed in the physical or legal custody of the department of human services.
    • Examine the availability of alternatives to youth detention and the use of detention beds, and examine necessary investments in alternatives to youth detention, including less restrictive placements that serve alleged and adjudicated juvenile offenders and community-based services that allow alleged and adjudicated juvenile offenders to live with family or kin.
    • Develop performance standards and outcome measures to evaluate the degree to which alleged and adjudicated offenders are in the least restrictive setting with appropriate services. 
    • The performance standards and outcome measures must: evaluate whether the number of alternative placements, range of services offered by such placements, and community-based services available meet the needs of youth in each judicial district and county; and determine whether and how specific data and outcome measures must be reported to evaluate the efficacy of less restrictive placements and community-based services.
    • Advise the department concerning policies, procedures, and best practices related to serving youth in the least restrictive setting.
    • Review data and provide recommendations: To enhance the continuum of community-based services and placement options for alleged and adjudicated juvenile offenders, including recommendations to improve availability and quality of less restrictive alternative placements and community-based services for youth; Regarding any further reduction of available detention beds and the allocation of detention beds across the state; Future data collection and reporting to assist the working group in completing its duties.
    • On or before July 1, 2023 and on or before July 1 each year thereafter, the department of human services shall submit a report that includes: an analysis of the data collected in accordance with and progress toward meeting the performance standards and outcome measures; the status of implementation efforts; an analysis of the continuum of in-home and out-of-home placement options and supports for alleged juvenile offenders, including:
      • the availability and demand for less restrictive alternative placements in each judicial district and county
      • the availability and use of funding for less restrictive alternative placements in each judicial district and county
      • the availability, demand and use of funding for community-based services in each judicial district and county, offered to alleged and adjudicated juvenile offenders that assist in allowing children to live with family or kin
      • An analysis of barriers to placing youth in less restrictive alternative placements
      • The number of youth in detention awaiting placement in a less restrictive community setting
      • An analysis of the number of youth placed in less restrictive alternative placements, by type, and the length of stay
      • An analysis of the involvement if youth and their families and their satisfaction with less restrictive alternative placements. 
Assessments

There are several assessments used in and across the juvenile justice system in Colorado from the time of arrest, detention, pre-trial release, evaluation for out-of-home placement with county departments, probation, and commitment to DYS. Whereas the independent assessment process for QRTP placement includes a full psychosocial assessment that will inform level of care and clinical recommendations, no other assessments used with the juvenile justice population are level of care tools. However, there is still uncertainty about the various assessments. Some questions that are coming up in communities are:

  • Will community safety & risk assessments ever conflict with the level of care recommendations from the independent assessment? 
  • How do we build court awareness and trust in the assessments so that everyone has a common baseline to inform case planning? 
  • How can we ensure assessments across the child welfare and juvenile justice systems that are not level of care tools, are coordinated to continually assess least-restrictive placement options in tandem with service needs and supports?
  • How do we ensure the Qualified Individuals have access and the ability to review the different assessments across CYDC, probation, DYS, and others when relevant and appropriate? The Family First Juvenile Justice workgroup is creating a juvenile assessment guide to guide these discussions with the court, juvenile justice, and human services stakeholders.

Action Items

Utilize the available resources related to Family First and Juvenile Justice Populations
  • The DRAFT Family First Juvenile Justice System Flowchart shows the intersection of Colorado’s juvenile justice, child welfare systems and Family First, as well as highlights changes as a result of SB19-108. It highlights where prevention could be considered, as well as, where the independent assessment process for QRTP placement must be followed.
  • The QRTP Benchcard was created to help judicial officers and members of the legal community understand rules and regulations that should guide their work related to placing a child or youth in a QRTP.
  • A catalog of survey responses regarding services and approaches that are working well in county practice, specific to preventing out-of-home placement and further involvement for juvenile justice-involved youth, is available for jurisdictions to learn from each other. 
  • Juvenile Justice and Family First Reforms Survey Response Summary: The goal of this survey was to gather data on: how informed juvenile justice stakeholders feel and how much training they have received about Family First; identify training and education gaps for particular roles; gauge interest on engaging with partners around different aspects of Family First; and, gather perspectives around how Family First and Juvenile Justice Reforms are intersecting locally. Individual survey response summaries are also available for each judicial district.
  • The Juvenile Justice workgroup is currently developing 1) a resource that will capture the various assessments used in the juvenile justice system; 2) a youth and family version of the Juvenile Justice System Flowchart; and 3) more training resources for additional juvenile justice professionals. 
View and share the available trainings related to Family First and Juvenile Justice Populations
  • A Recording of CHSDA’s Session on Juvenile Justice and Family First Reforms (July 2021) is available to county Directors.
  • In July 2021, judicial and delinquency partners in the 18th judicial district (Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert, Lincoln) hosted an event to increase knowledge of system reform efforts around Family First and Juvenile Justice Reform SB19-108. The event recording, presentation materials, and follow-up Q&A are available as a resource to all jurisdictions interested in facilitating similar conversations.
  • A QRTP Benchcard training is available for the juvenile justice community. Additional bench card trainings are available for GALs, county attorneys, child welfare directors, CASA volunteers, and judicial officers. 
  • Colorado’s Children, Youth and Families (CCCYF) Virtual Convening Plenary on the Family First Prevention Services Act is a training resource available to the judicial community.
Meet with local partners

Use your local Best Practice Court Team (BPCT), Juvenile Service Planning Committee, and/or Collaborative Management Program partners to start or continue conversations about the intersections of Family First, juvenile justice, child welfare, and Senate Bill19-108 Juvenile Justice Reform and SB 21-071 Limits to Detention, including: 

  • Use your local crossover youth plan to discuss ways to identify youth who might be eligible for prevention services to prevent out of home placement, earlier on. Discuss what services are available in your jurisdiction, as well as service gaps and local needs. 
  • Review the QRTP process and discuss with your jurisdiction partners how to complete it for youth who are delinquent.
  • Assess least-restrictive options in the placement continuum in your jurisdiction and work through various case scenarios where crossover youth will go if they: 
    • do not qualify for detention, are not recommended for QRTP placement via the independent assessment process and cannot go home.
    • do not qualify for detention, are not recommended for QRTP placement via the independent assessment process, but the court orders it anyway.
    • do not qualify for detention, are recommended for QRTP placement via the independent assessment and the court agrees, but there are no QRTP beds available.
  • Review the various assessments used across systems that identify treatment and service needs and talk to court partners about the interplay and how best to coordinate decisions using all the available tools.
  • Review the Juvenile Justice and Family First Reforms survey response summary  for your judicial district. Discuss local responses to the open-ended question: How do you see Juvenile Justice and detention reforms along with Family First impacting the placement and services of juvenile delinquents in your local judicial district? What do you see as the biggest challenges? What opportunities are you excited about the most through these reform efforts?

CDHS logoCHDS logo Colorado's Family First Implementation Guide for County Directors is a collaboration between the Colorado Department of Human Services and the Colorado Human Services Directors Association.