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Legislative Update 3.27.15

Monday, March 30, 2015  by sarah

This Week At The Capitol:

As the Committees begin to hit their deadlines, things are beginning to slow down just a bit. 
Of course the budget continues to be top priority and clearly remains the elephant in the room. 

On Wednesday evening, the Office of Fiscal Analysis reported that THIS YEAR’S budget deficit has grown to nearly $190 million.  If the Comptroller’s office agrees and certifies that number, then technically, that would trigger the Governor to call the Legislature into session in order to mitigate that deficit.  OPM has said that there could potentially be yet another round of rescission cuts made, however, that remains to be seen.  I will keep you up to date.

As for next year’s budget…I have spent the better part of the last two weeks speaking with members of the secondary education subcommittee, explaining why YSBs should not be cut and how they could be funded.  I have explained that JRBs run by YSBs have been doing the same work, (for 30+ years), that the SBDI micro program purports to be doing for a lot less money and YSBs should be made whole before expanding that particular program.  Legislators have for the most part been receptive, however, the subcommittee is now working behind closed doors to craft their part of the budget.  I will do my best to gleam any information I can and report back to you as soon as possible.

Invitations have gone out to specific Legislators to be panelists for YSB Day at the Capitol.  If I’m not mistaken, I believe the date is set for May 6th.  I encourage all YSB Directors to bring their kids up for the day.  If you choose to do so, I suggest contacting your Legislators PRIOR to coming to the Capitol so they can set aside time to meet with you.  It is very likely the Legislature will be in session that day and Legislators will be busy.  So please, make contact with them in advance.

As always, please contact me at your convenience should you have any questions or concerns about these or any other Legislative matters.  Also, please share this information with your members as you see fit.

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Paying Too Much for Children’s Services, Not in Our Backyard

Thursday, March 12, 2015  by sarah

Paying Too Much for Children’s Services, Not in Our Backyard

They come to us abused, abandoned, medicated and weary of lives chained to poverty.  They come to us in pursuit of employability skills, leadership training and the opportunity to provide service to the community.  Who are “they”? They are the 40,483 youth that sought services from us, Youth Service Bureaus. There are 102 YSBs in CT that serve 145 cities and towns.  All community-based, most Bureaus are municipal departments while a small number are private, non-profit organizations.  Youth Service Bureaus are statutorily defined in CT General Statutes, sec. 10-19m that states in part… “A Youth Service Bureau shall be the coordinating unit of community-based services to provide comprehensive delivery of prevention, intervention, treatment and follow-up services.”  The legislature established a cost-sharing grant partnership in 1978 between local municipal government and the state to provide a base grant to communities that desired to establish a Youth Service Bureau.

Thirty-seven years later Youth Service Bureaus not only act as the “coordinating unit of community-based services”, but in addition, provide a broad range of direct services designed to effectively and efficiently respond to diverting youth from the juvenile justice system, offer mental health counseling, provide leadership training, bring support to foster families, coordinate summer youth employment, and the list goes on. So what? Good question.  Youth Service Bureaus save you, the taxpayer, money – that’s right! We provide efficient and cost-effective services. How much can YSBs save you?  I love it when you ask the right questions!  It is well-documented in this state that providing special services for behavioral, emotional and/or educational purposes in out-of-town placements or to incarcerate a youth can cost greater than $100,000 a year per referred student. But let’s be conservative and average that cost to $50,000/year.  Based upon annual data that YSBs collectively report to the State Department of Education in 2009-2010, 40,483 unduplicated youth were served via combined local, state, federal and private funds in the amount of $29,000,000 (the State Department of Education share is approximately $3.1 million).  Look at these numbers carefully.  YSBs utilize the $3.1 million dollars and leverage nearly ten times that amount from other sources. The cost of providing services to one youth by a YSB is approximately $704/year. One hundred YSBs, one student from each Bureau multiplied by either $50,000/student or $704/student – I invite you to do the math.  Okay, I’ll help. The difference in cost is a choice between $5,000,000 per year and $70,400 per year.

 

What about the quality of programs that YSBs provide?  In a 2011 evaluation report conducted by the Center for Applied Research in Human Development at UCONN, researchers analyzed data from student self-reports from YSBs across the state.  The following excerpt captures how students experience YSB programs: “The average subscale scores on each of the three program qualities measured by the (evaluation tool) also are listed. The three subscales are: (1) Emotional Safety and Well‐Being, (2) Challenge and Involvement, and (3) Supportive Environment. The vast majority of participating youth either agreed or strongly agreed with each of the items on this measure. Additionally, the average scores on all three subscales were above 5, indicating strong overall agreement that all three domains of program quality were present in the YSBs. The two strongest scales were Emotional Safety and Well‐Being and Supportive Environment which were both well above 6 on the 7‐point scale. This suggests that YSBs offer programs in which a large majority of youth feel safe and secure, and respected and supported by staff. A large percentage of youth also report that YSBs offer activities that are challenging and engaging.”

 

Are we desperately searching to close budget gaps in Connecticut?  Yes, but we, YSBs, are devoted to keep young people in the community accessing natural support systems that can follow a youth well into young adulthood.  The budget gap conversation has been and is certain to be complicated, multi-layered and potentially contentious.  In this complex debate, there do exist some easier answers.  Looking back to the wisdom of 1978 may uncover one of those easier answers.

 

There is a network of YSBs in this state, the CT Youth Services Association (CYSA).  CYSA provides advocacy, training and linkages to regional, state and federal resources on behalf of its YSB membership. Look us up at www.ctyouthservices.org   You’ll be glad you did – I think you’ll be impressed!  I continue to enjoy my work at the community level; a pursuit since 1977.  I remain confident that YSBs create value for Connecticut youth and families and are a value to tax payers.  I am energized by the consistent high quality of service YSBs provide their respective communities.  CT Youth Service Bureaus under the umbrella of the CT Youth Services Association – we save you money and help change lives!

It is for all these reasons that I oppose the Governor’s proposed budget cut of $1.3million from the YSB $3.1million line item.  I urge you CT citizen to add your voice to our plea – keep YSBs level funded – what is it I said above? Oh yes; we save you money and help change lives!

 

Alan M. Slobodien, MA

Director – Vernon Youth Service Bureau

Advocacy Team Member – CT Youth Services Association

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Norwich Bulletin - Juvenile Review Boards - Troubled Children Get Second Chance

Tuesday, February 10, 2015  by sarah

Juvenile review board; Troubled children get second chance

Copyright 2015 Norwich Bulletin Distributed by Newsbank, Inc. All Rights Reserved

 

February 8, 2015 Sunday

Ryan Blessing rblessing@norwichbulletin.com (860) 4254205

Alternative to court helps turn lives around

Ryan Aubin, of Griswold, said he’s a big believer in taking a small-town approach to keeping children out of trouble. And it’s working in his town, he said.

“It’s the old-fashioned approach of, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’” Aubin, the town’s Youth and Family Services director, said. “It has huge benefits to communities.”

Aubin is talking about the town’s juvenile review board, which just got off the ground last summer.

The board is designed to keep young first-time nonviolent offenders out of the state’s juvenile court system. Cases are typically referred from police, schools or the juvenile court.

“So far we’re up to five kids who have successfully completed the diversion program,” Aubin said. “We’re hoping to go from about one case per month to three to five.”

Griswold and other local communities are able to bolster their juvenile review board caseloads, thanks to more grant funding this year from the state Judicial Branch and the Department of Children and Families.

Montville revived its juvenile review board three years ago, and has been referred 93 cases to date, Youth Services Director Barbara Lockhart said. Lockhart also is president of the Connecticut Youth Services Association, a statewide network of youth service bureaus. Out of that total, only three cases have been sent to juvenile court.

Montville’s review board started around 1995, but subsequently became defunct, Lockhart said.

“There was some resistance about the referral process,” she said. “Police cooperation is essential for success. I’m very fortunate. I have a very good relationship with the police in Montville, specifically the resident state troopers in Montville the last few years.”

Montville resurrected its board three years ago. Before the juvenile review board, all cases would have gone to juvenile court.

The board generally addresses cases of children and teens up to 17 years old, Lockhart said. Several years ago, the state raised the age of juvenile offenders to 17, bringing 17-year-olds into the juvenile justice system.

Typical offenses handled by the board include possession of small amounts of marijuana, fights between youths, vandalism, shoplifting and delinquency.

“It’s really up to the police,” Lockhart said. “Generally if a child has committed a crime that’s heinous in nature, it’s likely that child has been arrested before, and the police will know that and say it’s not a good case for JRB. And they’ll bring it to me anyway and together we decide if it’s more appropriate for the youth to go to juvenile court.”

Members of juvenile review boards and local youth services departments say the boards are better suited to meet the needs of a child. Local agencies, they say, can provide one-on-one case management and monitoring, referrals to treatment services and opportunities for community service, for example.

“Both police and town administrative cooperation really helps with the success of these diversion programs,” Lockhart said.

In a typical program such as in Montville, all juvenile arrests are administered by one police officer, called the gatekeeper. “He or she will look at all the juvenile arrest cases and determine if each is appropriate for juvenile review board,” Lockhart said.

 

Usually, the boards take first-time offenders, though there are exceptions, Lockhart said. “If a child gets arrested for shoplifting at age 11 but didn’t have the opportunity to come to the board, and then was referred at 15 for a school altercation, we’re not going to refuse that kid,” she said.

The board is comprised of representatives from the Department of Children and Families, schools, police, juvenile court officials, clergy and community members.

Lockhart meets with the child and his or her parents to discuss the particular case. If the case is deemed suitable for the review board, the parent and child can choose to sign a contract. In exchange for a lesser punishment, the offender gives up some rights he or she would get in juvenile court. For example, an attorney is not present at a juvenile review board hearing.

“Basically, we try to get to the bottom of why they did what they did in the first place,” Lockhart said.

Diversion contracts for children can vary, from performing community service or other work to making restitution for property damage or writing an essay or apology letter.

Often, children receive counseling services. “There’s a very strong connection between mental health and juvenile behavior,” Lockhart said.

Other stipulations can include that the child must not be sent to the principal’s office or that he or she must improve a grade.

Cases typically are open for 30 to 60 days. But new provisions that are part of the DCF grant mean that cases must stay open for six months.

That’s an improvement for case workers such as Lockhart, because it gives them a longer sampling window, and a better idea of how effective the boards are.

Because offenders are younger than 18, the cases are shielded from public view according to state privacy mandates. But those who take part in the diversion programs are asked to leave feedback as part of a survey all participants complete.

Anonymous responses from Montville children indicated they found value in the program.

“Everyone here seemed like they really cared about me, and did not see me as a bad kid,” one offender said.

“Because of the place I did my community service for the (board), another opportunity became available for me to become more involved there,” another said.

The review board system keeps a child who commits a minor first-time offense out of the juvenile court system and keeps their record clean. But if a child doesn’t comply with the assigned punishment within 30 days, the case can be returned to the referral source, such as juvenile court or the police.

The Northern Juvenile Review Board, which is part of the Thompson Ecumenical Empowerment Group, serves Thompson, Putnam, Woodstock, Pomfret, Eastford and Union.

The board has seen 45 referrals since it began in 2012. Twenty-one of those have been successfully discharged, board coordinator Jennifer Plaza said.

“We’re just trying to get these kids on a different path and to make better choices,” Plaza said.

Plaza said the Northern Board received almost $13,000 from the DCF grant, plus $4,000 from the Putnam Bank Foundation.

The funds will be used to support youth employment programs, counseling and treatment and transportation, among other things, she said.

Griswold received $6,000, according to Aubin, and eventually plans to use more grant funds to hire a case manager.

Juvenile review boards also exist in Norwich and Colchester, which received $3,000 in DCF funds.

“Our top problems here are with truancy and defiance of school rules,” said Valerie Geato, Youth and Social Services director in Colchester, where 27 youths have been referred to the juvenile review board since its inception in 2012.

In Norwich, Kelly Middle School’s new resource officer, Josip Peperni, said that after a child completes a juvenile review board sanction, engagement is key.

“I talk with the student and tell them that with me, the slate is clean. Once the arrest happens, that’s for that specific incident,” he said. Peperni stresses to the child the importance of learning from the bad decision he or she made.

“How can we go from this point forward so that we don’t repeat it,” he said. “My big thing is to have an avenue where they can come and talk to me about whatever problem they might be going through. They’re 12, 13 years old. They’re going to get in trouble, but we try to minimize that. They’re old enough to start thinking about consequences of their actions before they get into trouble.”

Peperni and the youth services directors say that keeping children out of the court system gives them a much better chance of successfully graduating and going on to college or other forms of higher education.

“The juvenile court is set up for a specific purpose. It’s there, but we try to minimize using it. It’s not the best alternative by any means for any child.” he said.

 

 

 

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Thank You for Another Great Conference!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014  by sarah

 

Hello CYSA Members:

I wanted to take an opportunity to thank all of the members of our “YSB family” who attended the 42nd Annual CYSA Conference on Friday October 3rd. I also want to thank all of you for your vote of confidence by extending my role as CYSA President. It is an honor to represent all of Connecticut’s Youth Service Bureaus which are members of the association. The past two years we have accomplished a great deal as an association, which has benefited YSBs in many ways: financially, legislatively, and professionally. Our voices are being heard louder and more often at state agency tables, we have secured grants, hired consultants, retained the services of our dedicated lobbyist, and both welcomed new faces to the YSB family, and bid fare well to veteran YSB professionals who left a lasting impression on me, and I am sure on many of you as well.

I was pleased that we were able to secure LT. Governor Nancy Wyman as our key note speaker for this years’ conference, especially due to her very tight schedule these days. I especially appreciated that she seemed to really understand and recognize the fact that we are on the ground & on the front line, advocating for and serving CT’s children, youth, and families every day!

I would like to thank our corporate sponsor Rushford: A Hartford HealthCare Partner, our exhibitors, and presenters who attended the conference to share their services, information, and expertise. Thanks to our MC, Michelle Piccerello and our awards presenter, Cephus Nolen for keeping things on schedule! I have received a great deal of positive feedback from people regarding the break-out sessions. I enjoyed presenting with Joel and Barry Goff on effective ways to use data (we actually made it sort of fun!) And let me not forget to thank all of the people who worked tirelessly to put the conference together. A great deal of time, effort, and coordination go into putting this event together for all of you. To the CYSA Professional Development Committee, which includes our CYSA consultant Sarah Bourdon, please accept my “kudos” for a job well done!

I look forward to another successful year and realize now more than ever that YSBs are up to the Challenge everyday: Doing More with Less!

Special thanks to: LT. Governor Nancy Wyman, Dr. Agnes Quinones (SDE), Fran Carino (State’s Attorney Office), Dr. Foye Smith (Court Support Services Division), Dr. Barry Goff (Charter Oak Group), Michelle Doucette-Cunningham (After School Network), Andy Fleischman (Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters), Marc Bassos (East Hartford Youth Outreach Coordinator), Erica Bromley (CYSA Juvenile Justice Liaison), Joel Rosenberg (AHM YSB), and the clinical staff from Milford YSB.

 

Also a big thank you to our conference exhibitors: Wende Cooper, CASAC; Michelle Doucette Cunningham, CT After School Network; Donna Zaharevitz, CT. Council on Problem Gambling; Kelly Cronin, Kelly’s Kids; Andrew Moore, Nat’l. League of Cities; and Jim Cantoni, Realizing Dreams.

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Kelly Cronin's Resignation

Monday, July 28, 2014  by sarah

Dear CYSA Members:

 

I became aware of Kelly Cronin’s resignation form Waterbury Youth Services just last week myself, and though initially surprised, I realize that Kelly’s devotion to the youth and families of Waterbury is simply a reflection of how she felt about and valued her own family. The city and the residents of Waterbury have been lucky to have her as a part of their lives for over 30 years, giving 110% everyday of her career.

 

Kelly has every reason to be proud of the success of the Waterbury Youth Services System, because she is responsible for a great deal of its success. I know that she valued the WYSS Board and her staff immensely, and has left the agency with well-trained, and dedicated people to try and help fill some very big (and often tall and colorful) shoes! I am sure that Jackie Caulfield will do a great job as the interim director, as she has been wonderful to work with as well.

 

I have worked with Kelly over the past 18 years as a YSB Director, and the past 10 years as a member and officer of the CYSA Board, and I have looked to her for advice often, always with trust and admiration. I have a feeling we have not seen the last of her working with kids and families, and I for one will be grateful to keep her on my team!

 

Sincerely,

 

Barbara A. Lockhart

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