Virginia's Judicial System

Parent Education Network

As reported in the March issue of Resolutions, the 2000 General Assembly passed House Bill No. 1178 making participation in a parent education program mandatory in contested child custody cases, unless an exemption is granted by the court. This legislation follows House Joint Resolution 591, which authorized a parent education advisory committee to develop a model curriculum for parent education seminars. The committee, under the leadership of Geetha Ravindra, met for six months to create the model. A summary of the guidelines developed by the committee can be found in House Document No. 26, 2000.

HB 1178 provided for a delayed enactment period of one year, with the mandate commencing July 1, 2001. This one-year delay is to allow for parent education seminars that conform to the recommended guidelines to be identified or established in all districts in the Commonwealth. To assist with these needs, a group of parent education professionals organized to form the Parent Education Network (PEN).

PEN is a professional organization that serves as a resource for training and continuing education of parent educators/facilitators, and also serves as a resource for the judiciary, legislature, and the legal community. Its goal is to ensure quality parent education seminars as outlined in HD No. 26.

Among the founding members of PEN are parent education providers who served on the Parent Education Advisory Committee for the Supreme Court of Virginia and are committed to assist in the implementation of HB 1178. Membership for PEN is open to anyone who subscribes to this organization's goals. It is the hope of PEN members that mandated parent education in Virginia will have the same positive impact on families as it has in other states—an increase in more equitable, child-focused parenting plans and a reduction in litigated cases.

A workshop on both the parent education guidelines and PEN will be presented by a panel of PEN members at the Fall VMN conference in Williamsburg. Those wishing to receive PEN membership information may contact Mara Servaites at the Mental Health Association of the New River Valley (540-951-4990) or Ann Warshauer at the Parenting Education Center (703-846-8769).

State Justice Institute Grants

SJI is authorized to award grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts to State and local courts, nonprofit organizations, and others for the purpose of improving the quality of justice in the State courts of the United States. Under the category of Dispute Resolution and the Courts, project proposals are solicited for research, evaluation and demonstration projects to evaluate or enhance the effectiveness of court-connected dispute resolution programs. Specific topics of interest include: examining the timing for referrals to dispute resolution services, and the effect of different referral methods on case outcomes and time to disposition; evaluating innovative court-connected dispute resolution programs for resolving complex and multi-party litigation, environmental hazards, managed health care, minor criminal cases, probate proceedings, and land-use disputes; testing innovative approaches involving community partnerships, particularly in the contexts of juvenile and restorative justice, and examining the benefits such partnerships offer in ensuring the quality of dispute resolutions programs; evaluating innovative applications of technology to facilitate dispute resolution processes; and developing methods to eliminate race, ethnic, or gender bias in court-connected dispute resolution programs, testing approaches for assuring that such programs are open to all members of the community served by the court, and assessing whether having a mediator pool that reflects the diversity of the community it serves has an impact on the use of mediation by minorities and its effectiveness.

If you are interested in developing a proposal for an SJI grant, please contact the Department of Dispute Resolution Services at 804-786-4542.

This page last modified: February 26, 2001