Call to Order and Roll Call
The2nd meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary was held on Friday, July 1, 2011, at 10:00 AM, in Room 171 of the Capitol Annex. Representative John Tilley, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members: Senator Tom Jensen, Co-Chair; Representative John Tilley, Co-Chair; Senators Perry B. Clark, Carroll Gibson, Jerry P. Rhoads, John Schickel, Dan "Malano" Seum, Katie Kratz Stine, Robin L. Webb, and Jack Westwood; Representatives Joseph M. Fischer, Kelly Flood, Joni L. Jenkins, Mary Lou Marzian, Mike Nemes, Darryl T. Owens, Tom Riner, Steven Rudy, and Brent Yonts.
Guests: Joe Farless, Pennyrile Allied Community Services; Bruce B. Brown, Alicia Polston and Lisa Mann, Lake Cumberland Community Action; Kristine Frech and Florence Tandy, Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission; Rob Jones, Community Action Kentucky; James Ritchey; Joan Byer, Jefferson Family Court; Ronnie Nolan, Kentucky Educational Collaborative for State Agency Children; Teresa James and Michael Cheek, Department for Community Based Services; Lisa Gabbard, Statewide Citizen Review Panel; Travis Fritsch, DV Consulting Services; Michelle Kilgore, DBHDID; Paul Nelson, New Legacy Reentry Corporation; and Wayne Young, Kentucky Association of School Administrators.
Programs for Status Offenders and Suggestions for Statutory Changes
Commissioner Pat Wilson, Department of Community Based Services, Cabinet for Health and Family Services said the department is responsible for the treatment and care of status offenders but not their detention. She described the manner in which cases arrive at the department: a report of child abuse or neglect; or a court commitment generally of a child with no prior record for being a runaway, truant, or being out of control. Commissioner Wilson attributed truancy referrals to stringent truancy laws that brand a child as a truant after three unexcused absences or tardy and being a habitual truant after the second or subsequent charges of truancy.
Commissioner Wilson reported the department is currently serving 1,221 youth, of which 945 were in out-of-home care (foster care). Twenty-one percent had a substantiated abuse or neglect report; the average stay in foster care was 21.6 months; the average age of a status offender in foster care was 16.9 years; and status offenders accounted for 13.5 percent of the foster care population. The number of children in foster care varies greatly by county with some counties having no children in foster care. Over 45 percent of the out-of-home placements are in private agency homes with the cost of foster care being $37 million, of which $12.5 million is General Fund dollars with the remainder coming from various federal programs. Commissioner Wilson said that detention and removal from the home are not the answer to solve the child's problems. There must be an assessment of the child's problems, not just the symptoms, and a multisystemic treatment plan developed that may include substance abuse treatment, mental health programs, behavior modification, and other interventions.
Commissioner Wilson noted the Administrative Office of the Courtsí truancy diversion program has been very effective in reducing truancy and tardiness in the counties where it is utilized and has a very low recidivism rate. In response to a question from Senator Gibson about which federal programs are utilized, Commissioner Wilson responded that 4E funding, Medicare, and AFDC funding are utilized. She said intensive in-home counseling services cost $5,000 per year per family, much less than the cost of incarceration or foster care, and are 70 to 80 percent effective.
Representative Yonts asked why some schools are not using truancy diversion programs and other programs. Commissioner Wilson said that she did not know. Senator Schickel asked why children end up in DCBS care; Commissioner Wilson said these children might run from a placement, continue to be truant, or violate a court order, resulting in the court ordering them to detention. Senator Clark said these programs need to find the reason behind the child's problems and not just look at the symptoms. Senator Webb asked how many children were in intensive in-home treatment programs on a county by county basis, and Commissioner Wilson said she would check and provide the information to the committee. Representative Flood said judges need to know the reasons for the child's behavior prior to any hearing at which they may be ordered to foster care, detention, or various programs. Senator Stine asked if there is a correlation between truancy and the student dropout rate in Kentucky. Commissioner Wilson said she was unaware of a correlation.
Community Based Programs for Assisting Juvenile Status Offenders and Public Offenders; Suggestion for Statutory Changes
Robert Jones, Executive Director of Community Action Kentucky, said Community Action Kentucky is comprised of 23 regional programs that provide alternative programs for status offenders including life skills, anger management, family team building skills, GED and vocational programs. These programs are used by the courts and the Department of Community Based Services to help troubled youth.
Lisa Mann, Lake Cumberland Community Action Agency, described the programs as including mentoring, fatherhood services, a migrant program during crop growing season, carpentry training during which participants build low income housing, and working with the Department for Community Based Services. She indicated a need for more funding to expand and enhance their programs.
Joe Farless, Pennyrile Allied Community Services, described his agency's programs as including in-home programs, family preservation, abuse, neglect, and neglect, and beyond control programs. The programs receive families and children referred by the Department of Community Based Services, court designated workers, or self-referrals. The programs provide intensive in-home counseling and treatment. Mr. Farless described problems with regional mental health facilities as having more than they can handle with waits of several weeks for an assessment appointment and even longer waits for treatment. His agency utilizes the North Carolina Family Assessment scale and the Washington State homebuilders program. Every dollar invested in the programs saves $2.70 to $2.80 in other costs.
Kristine Frech, Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission, described the success of truancy mediation and diversion programs in northern Kentucky, particularly programs in Walton-Verona and Bellevue, which utilize in-home truancy intervention. Ms. Frech indicated the success of the truancy diversion programs required the cooperation of school boards, school principals, and pupil personnel officers. She also described a very successful job training program involving carpentry and related skills for youth in the building trades where they participate in the agency's weatherization programs. Senator Gibson asked about funding for these programs, and Ms. Frech responded that $17 million was provided by the federal home weatherization program and provided 847 jobs.
Court Programs for Juvenile Status and Public Offenders; Suggestions for Statutory Changes
Patrick Yewell, Executive Officer, Department of Juvenile Services, Administrative Office of the Courts and Eric Gray, Court Designated Worker Supervisor testified about the court designated worker program, established in 1986. The program deals with preliminary complaints against juveniles referred to the court system. In the past year, there were 40,000 new juvenile complaints with 10,590 of those being status offenses. The number one complaint was truancy and the number two complaint was being beyond control. Mr. Yewell reviewed programs administered by court designated workers. The programs are used both for status offenders and public offenders. The courts are using an evidence-based assessment tool to determine the child's needs and best course of treatment and intervention programs. He discussed the benefits of diversion programs versus other options such as detention and foster care.
Mr. Yewell said the truancy diversion programs are very successful but that only 61 counties, and 149 schools, utilize them with an overall success rate of 90 percent. Schools that use the program favor it, and it results in more money for the schools through higher average daily attendance. The Kentucky Supreme Court has recently adopted Family Court Rules of Practice and Procedure to ensure there is consistency throughout the state in the application of programs. Alternative services for juveniles are not available statewide. He urged that more funding be devoted to expansion of these highly successful programs.
Senator Jensen noted all of the counties in his district participate in the truancy diversion program, except Laurel County. Mr. Yewell said he personally presented the program to the Laurel County Board of Education, who declined to participate in the program. In response to a question from Senator Gibson, Mr. Yewell said court designated workers are college graduates. Senator Stine asked if truancy contributes to Kentucky's dropout problem, and Mr. Yewell said he feels there is a direct correlation between habitual truancy and dropouts.
Programs State Agencies Offer for Status Offenders, Public Offenders, and Other Children at Risk; Suggestions for Statutory Changes
Ronnie Nolan, Executive Director, Kentucky Educational Collaborative for State Agency Children, said his program works with the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Department for Community Based Services to provide educational programs for institutionalized state agency children with assistance from 54 school districts which provide the teachers and teaching materials. He said institutionalized children attend school 210 days per year at an annual cost of $10.3 million. Forty-five percent of these children have an identified disability. Forty-two percent come from the Department of Juvenile Justice, 52 percent from the Department for Community Based Services, and four percent from mental health programs. The programs are successful with 75 percent improving in reading and math and 50 percent of participants improving by half a grade level. Representative Yonts said there is dissatisfaction with teaching methods, the focus on schools sending everyone to college, and neglecting vocational education. He described one company as having jobs for 80 welders and no students with welding skills to take them.
Review of 2011 House Bill 123 Relating to Status Offenders; Suggestion for Statutory Changes
Representative Flood asked that, due to time constraints, discussion of House Bill 123 and changes to it be delayed to a future meeting.
Kenton County Jailer Terry Carl said it is very expensive for counties to house status offenders. Police frequently take juveniles to detention, and the courts routinely order status offenders to detention. He said Kenton County spends between $100,000-120,000 per year for detention of status offenders, about $94 per day plus medical expenses for the detained juveniles. He believes there is a direct correlation between truancy and juveniles becoming adult criminals, and urged the adoption of treatment and community programs to divert children from detention. He cited the success of Campbell Lodge in providing residential treatment programs for juveniles.
Review of Executive Order 2011-350 Reorganizing the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Programs
Charles Geveden, Deputy Secretary, Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, Commissioner LaDonna Thompson, Department of Corrections, and Tim Carmen, Director, Division of Probation and Parole, reviewed the provisions of Executive Order 20114-350, reorganizing the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. The executive order was approved by voice vote without objection.
The meeting adjourned 12:15 p.m.