Montpelier, Vt. Governor Douglas today signed into law a comprehensive juvenile judicial reform bill which thoroughly modernizes the practice of law in juvenile court involving at-risk, vulnerable children and youth. Im very pleased to be taking this important step to reform how we serve our states most vulnerable young people in the judicial system, to ensure their best interests remain our highest priority in any court proceeding, stated Governor Douglas. The Governor signed H.615, An Act Relating to Juvenile Judicial Proceedings, in a State House ceremony accompanied by judges, legislators, child protection advocates and many other stakeholders. The new law codifies important contemporary principles of child protection, family preservation, and juvenile justice and provides legal authority for many of the nationally-recognized best practice court procedures that have evolved over the past decade. It also aligns some of Vermonts practices with federal law, required for continued IV-E funding for foster and adopted children. Agency of Human Services Secretary Cynthia D. LaWare added, This law will significantly improve how we handle judicial court cases so that the unique needs of the families involved can be addressed consistently and compassionately. It is an excellent example of how the Governor, the Agency, our partners in the judicial system and the legislature can work together to bring about important and meaningful change. Highlights of the new law include a complete revision of the youthful offender and child welfare statutes including: creating a hierarchy of custodial preference at the initial stages of a juvenile court proceeding that emphasizes family placement whenever possible; adopting federal standards for situations when removal of children from the home is necessary for their well-being; and conforming juvenile proceedings law with current social work and legal practice for children in need of supervision and delinquency cases. A growing awareness of a childs need for permanent placement in a safe and loving home has driven the use of such court practices as timely introduction of needed social supports, location of absentee parents and kin, and timely resolution of child protection cases in court, said Steve Dale, Commissioner for the Department of Children and Families. This legislation provides clear legal authority for many of these forward thinking court practices and will enhance our departments response to juvenile cases across the board.