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DCJS awarded $3.5 million for vulnerable youth

Gov. Ralph Northam recently announced that the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) has been awarded more than $3.5 million in competitive federal funding to help vulnerable youth in Virginia. DCJS has received two awards from the United States Department of Justice through the Office of Justice Programs — $1.83 million under the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Student, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Program and $1.68 million under the Office of Victims of Crime’s Services for Minor Victims of Sex Trafficking program.

“We know that when children are exposed to traumatic events, it impacts their ability to learn and succeed in school,” Northam said. “This public health crisis has presented a myriad of new challenges for our schools, and we have a responsibility to ensure all students have safe environments where they can thrive, whether they are learning remotely from home or in the classroom. These grants will play an important role in strengthening assistance programs and expanding trauma-informed resources for our most vulnerable young Virginians.”

The STOP School Violence grant will fund a 36-month Virginia C.A.R.E.S. project to build Caring, Awareness, Recognition, Engagement and Support in schools. The initiative works to increase mental health awareness and enhance the safety and well-being of educational settings by helping to create positive school climates, awareness of resources, recognition of at-risk behaviors and engagement with the community. The project will consist of a public service announcement campaign on suicide prevention that is estimated to garner more than 5 million social media impressions and the implementation of the Handle with Care and Pathways for Prevention of School Violence programs.

A component of the STOP School Violence Program grant, the Handle with Care program aims to make sure children who are exposed to crime, violence or abuse receive the appropriate interventions that will enable them to succeed in school. Virginia will set up a system for law enforcement to alert dedicated school personnel when a child has been identified at the scene of a traumatic incident so the school can provide the additional support that is needed to help mitigate the impacts of trauma on the child.

The Services for Minor Victims of Sex Trafficking project will develop, expand and strengthen services for minor victims of sex trafficking, including comprehensive wraparound case management services, trauma-informed mental health services, substance abuse counseling, legal services, residential treatment options and a non-traditional host home program.