Call to Order and Roll Call
The5th meeting of the Task Force on the Unified Juvenile Code was held on Tuesday, November 13, 2012, at 1:00 PM, in Room 129 of the Capitol Annex. Representative John Tilley, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Guests: Patrick Yewell, Administrative Office of the Courts; Kari Collins, Dr. Vestena Robbins, and Michelle Kilgore, Department of Behavioral Health; Whitney Wright, St. Catherine College; and Ronnie Nolan, Kentucky Educational Collaborative for State Agency Children.
The minutes of the October 25, 2012 meeting were approved without objection.
Presentation and Discussion of Working Group Reports
Judge Lisa Jones presented the findings and recommendations of the Jurisdiction Working Group. Other members include Deputy Chief Justice Mary Noble, Commissioner Hasan Davis, Commissioner Teresa James, and Boone County Attorney Robert Neace. They concluded that financial mapping is key to developing a system of services for juveniles and families; services must include the whole family possibly utilizing Medicaid funds; information must be shared between all agencies; and no child under 12 should be incarcerated.
The Jurisdiction working group recommendations include statutory changes to specifically define when Family Court has jurisdiction and when District Court has jurisdiction in a juvenile matter; including a definition of “family in need of services” (FINS) to include children and families currently designated by statute as status offenders; a prohibition against the incarceration of children age twelve and under; a definition of which agency and procedure is appropriate when a child has committed a violent crime but is otherwise incompetent based on age, IQ or mental health; status offenses should be decriminalized and removed from the court system entirely, made a social service issue and included in a new classification of FINS; the statutes should be more intentional regarding which agency is more appropriate for handling the needs of a particular child and placement should be designed according to the services provided; school districts should exhaust all community resources before bringing a child to court, with a designated person in each school district to handle children who are status offenders; a bright line rule is needed to define when to incarcerate a child, with some exceptions such as any child charged with a Class C felony or above to protect public safety, a mandated mental health assessment or if the child appears to be at risk for a mental health problem; a common screening tool should be used by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, the Court Designated Worker, and the Department of Juvenile Justice, and deeper assessments should be made by a qualified professional; and every community should have a local emergency holding shelter for placement of a child pending court appearances.
In response to a question from Senator Stine about the minimum age for incarceration, Judge Jones said initially the group felt age ten and under was appropriate, but after learning from the Administrative Office of the Courts that 119 children under age ten had been charged with public offenses in the last ninety days, they concluded age twelve and under was more appropriate.
Superintendent Trimble presented the findings and recommendations of the Truancy working group. Hardin County Judge-Executive Harry Barry was also a member of this working group. Superintendent Trimble said the group looked at the definition of truancy, truancy reporting procedures, requirements for children with habitual truancy problems, intervention methods to return the student to the classroom, safety issues relating to forcing unwilling students to return to school, and alternative schools and programs. They concluded schools and community agencies currently exhaust all available means before placing students in juvenile detention. He stated that three unexcused absences make the student truant, and six unexcused absences make the student a habitual truant. A student is reported to the court designated worker after seven unexcused absences. He agreed with the Jurisdiction working group that age 12 and under is appropriate for incarcerating children. The last thing they want is to see a student placed in detention, but agreed taking detention off the table as a last resort is detrimental to all programs. Superintendent Trimble said children are not placed in detention for truancy, out of control behavior or other status offenses, but as a result of the contempt order by the family court judge.
Peter Schuler presented the findings of the Assessment working group. He said he wished he could have served on the Truancy working group because he disagreed with everything in Superintendent Trimble’s statement. Their recommendations include using a uniform assessment tool which is juvenile specific; it should be administered by a qualified person using evidence-based practices; KRS Chapter 630 should be amended to give court designated workers the authority and funding to handle status offenders; status offenses should be removed completely from the court system and because under the current system, prosecutors send too many status offenders to court; and all agencies must be able to share information about juvenile status offenders from a central database run by the courts with the judge acting as the gatekeeper because of confidentiality concerns. No conclusion was reached regarding confidentiality of juvenile court proceedings.
Ms. Priddy said it is very important to include a family assessment to see the entire picture of why the student is having problems in school, and strongly recommended a family context should be included in the Assessment working group recommendations.
Commissioner James said everyone now recognizes it is critical to include the entire family as well as the troubled child. She said Kentucky needs a system designed to offer up-front services, based on a good assessment, with referrals to services for the entire family.
Commissioner Davis said there are huge barriers between all the agencies involved with juveniles and financial mapping is crucial to creating a unified system of services to better serve children and their families. He agreed it is critical to eliminate information silos so everyone has access to all the information about the child.
Program Mapping: An Overview of Juvenile Service Agencies
Commissioner Teresa James, Commissioner Hasan Davis, and Patrick Yewell, Administrative Office of the Courts, discussed how a status offender moves through the juvenile justice system.
Mr. Yewell said the court designated worker (CDW) is the intake agent for all juvenile offenses. CDWs process nearly 60,000 public and status offense complaints and pre-complaints annually. During any given year, CDWs divert 40-50 percent of all complaints from formal court. Eighty-five percent of diverted cases are closed successfully and do not enter a formal court setting, and as a result do not have interaction with the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) or the Department of Community Based Services (DCBS) as public or status offense cases. He said CDWs assist law enforcement with custody situations if an officer is uncomfortable releasing a child after arrest, and although judges make the final decision on detention, CDWs gather information for the least restrictive placement available. He said he would like to see more truancy diversion, which has been shown to increase school attendance by one to two percent. He agreed financial mapping will make the juvenile justice system more efficient and cost-effective. In response to a question from Ms. Priddy about family assessments, Mr. Yewell said CDWs do everything they can not to fail a child because of actions of the parents. Judge Jones said the courts can ask DCBS to investigate if they suspect abuse or neglect is taking place in the home, and DCBS will share its findings with the court.
Commissioner James discussed the role of the Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) in the juvenile justice system. In 2011, 9,173 youth were in court for being charged with status offenses. Ninety-three percent were habitual truancy, beyond control, and running away. DCBS provides services to children adjudicated as status offenders by the court having been placed on supervision or committed. Children appear in court most often for habitual truancy. The school system is mandated by statute to address truancy with interventions by DCBS after those are exhausted. When a status offender is also charged with a public offense, such as assault of a family member, and that charge is amended down to a status offense, such as beyond control, this creates a challenge for DCBS in determining proper placement because DCBS does not have locked facilities.
Commissioner Davis discussed the role of the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), which includes prevention programs for at-risk youth, pre-trial detention, residential placement/treatment services, probation, community aftercare/reintegration programs, and youth awaiting adult placement or court. DJJ operates eight of the nine regional juvenile detention centers, with Jefferson County operating a detention center independently. Juvenile detention centers only accept youth through Orders of the Court. In 2011, over 6,000 youth were placed in one of the eight DJJ detention centers. DJJ provides a variety of alternatives to detention for public and status offenders, including home detention, short-term emergency shelter, and foster care placements. He said detention creates a greater risk of further involvement with the justice system. Detention Alternatives Coordinators work in the regional detention centers and serve as gatekeepers for court referrals of juveniles to alternatives to detention programs. In 2011, over 4,000 youth were placed on community supervision where they received a variety of services, including case management support from their DJJ worker, family support, home/school visits and treatment provider referrals and contacts.
Commissioner James, Commissioner Davis, and Mr. Yewell tracked the case of Darren, who began his involvement with DCBS, DJJ and the court system in 2001 with a report of neglect. His mother had mental health problems and his father was in prison. Each agency worked with Darren and his siblings over the years and provided services when appropriate. When he was 14 years old, Darren became aggressive and was assigned to a CDW with a beyond control complaint. Following two unsuccessful attempts at diversion, Darren was still habitually truant and charged with several criminal offenses, which landed him in the custody of DJJ. He was placed in a group home for seven months and when he was released, he continued to have problems such as positive drug screens. He spent time at Rivendell and when released attended alternative school. He violated sanctions, was placed on ankle monitoring, left court and removed his ankle monitor and was AWOL for two weeks. When apprehended by the Kentucky State Police, he was placed in a DJJ residential facility. All agencies tried to help this troubled child and their efforts were unsuccessful. All three speakers agreed that financial mapping is crucial to building a better system for juvenile justice and if better and more effective services had been available to Darren and his family upfront, the outcome might have been successful.
In response to a question from Mr. Schuler about the advantages of DCBS over CDW, Mr. Yewell said DCBS has more intensive care and more in-home services. He expressed the opinion that there should be more services available without having to refer the case to DCBS. Courts often refer cases to DCBS because the parents do not have the ability to provide the services. Commissioner James said DCBS has the residential care option using Medicaid funds, and a range of in-home services. She said it would be nice if it did not require commitment to access services, such as psychiatric treatment, which has no waiting list if the child has been committed.
Judge Jones said another advantage is that DCBS can also bring in the parent and family, whereas a CDW cannot. DCBS files a case plan with the court, and the court can require participation from the family.
Judge Jones was also concerned about children with low IQs or mental health problems. Commissioner James said many times children with special needs or autism come into the DCBS system just to get services. Commissioner Davis agreed and said when a child is committed to DJJ, they get the full range of services and there is no waiting list.
Commissioner Hasan Davis, Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), and Kari Collins and Dr. Vestena Robbins, Department for Behavioral Health (DBH), discussed financial mapping, a process of identifying public funds that are expended during a particular timeframe, addressing a certain population or issue. The completed map informs decisions about the use of these funds in the most efficient and effective ways. Ms. Collins said the DBH is working with Doreen Cavanaugh at the Georgetown University Public Policy Institute seeking a federal SAMHSA grant to develop a financial map for a system of care for children and adolescents with behavioral health disorders and their families.
Dr. Robbins reviewed the University of South Florida Self-Assessment and Planning Guide: Developing a Comprehensive Financing Plan, which will be used as a framework to develop a financial map for Kentucky. The guide details seven strategies that have been empirically validated for developing a financial plan. These strategies include the identification of current spending and utilization patterns across agencies, the realignment of funding streams and structures, financing of appropriate services and supports, financing to support family and youth partnerships, financing to improve cultural/linguistic competence and reduce disproportionality in care, financing to improve workforce and provider networks for behavioral health services for children and families, and financing for accountability.
In response to a question from Commissioner James, Ms. Collins said if data and program people are dedicated to the process, the financial map could be ready in about one year. First, a policy group would need to determine the population of focus and the funding stream.
Representative Tilley announced the next meeting will be December 19, when the task force will review and approve final recommendations for the 2013 General Assembly. He thanked everyone on the task force for their interest and hard work.
The meeting adjourned at 3:05 p.m.