Weekly Notes: Dwindling federal funds impact on compliance; teen and youth court training in Vegas; and more

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***Day 953 of the Obama administration and still no nominee to serve as administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Will the White House pick a person in time for OJJDP to parade them around at Juvenile Woodstock in October? Who knows. The likeliest scenario: If Congress returns and the House quickly passes a version of the Senate’s bill ending confirmation requirement for the position, the president could appoint someone to OJJDP and that person could be schmoozing the halls of the National Harbor conference center by October.

If Obama makes a nomination before the conference, it might make for an uncomfortable  situation. The nominee would, of course, attend the conference, but he or she would be forced to be tight lipped until confirmed. It would be difficult for the nominee.

The only name bandied about for the job in recent memory is Jane Tewksbury, who heads the Department of Youth Services for Massachusetts Office of Health and Human Services. It was nearly a year ago that her name was first mentioned on YouthToday.org in connection with the OJJDP job.

We asked Paulette Song, OHHS spokeswoman and owner of a fantastic name, if Tewksbury would be attending the national conference.

"She may or may not attend," said Song. Alrighty then!

***One act that will definitely be performing at Woodstock is the newest iteration of the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice. Its organizing meeting will be Oct. 11 – starting at 830 a.m. -- the day before the main events begin. Fannntastic.

***Pre-conference grantee meetings will begin on Oct. 10, with training for state compliance monitors and new juvenile justice specialists. Another 8:30 a.m. start by the way; there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts in this conference center, right?

We’re going to guess that the phrase “more with less” is thrown around liberally in those sessions, because the federal money going to states for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act compliance was cut in 2011 and might be drastically reduced in 2012.

We’ve often wondered whether, if federal funds continue to recede for compliance and other state activities, states would opt out of JJPDA participation. The formula funds come to states from OJJDP in return for adhering to the four core requirements of the act; failure to comply with a requirement leads to a 20 percent cut to the formula funds. Lower amounts of federal funds mean states will have to increase their financial stake in monitoring juvenile justice services, or that the status quo would be maintained by doing…MORE WITH LESS.

So would states decline to participate in the funds-for-compliance arrangement if the funding declined enough? There were really two arguments we could think of against that happening. One is altruism: states want to do the right thing when it comes to helping troubled youth.

The other argument is sort of the opposite of altruism. A state could nominally participate in the act, blow off compliance with the four core requirements, and just collect 20 percent for doing nothing.

We asked a juvenile justice specialist about the latter notion recently. It’s not quite that simple, we learned. Here is a paraphrase of a longer explanation our expert gave JJ Today: A state’s formula grant award is reduced 20 percent for each core requirement it misses. Once a state is out of compliance, it must spend half of its award specifically on what caused the failure to comply.

So let’s take a minimum allocation state that was out of compliance on all four. It would lose 80 percent of $600,000, leaving it with $120,000 in formula funds. Half would have to go to addressing compliance issues, leaving $60,000 for anything else. The “anything else” includes, among other things, administrative costs and funding for the state advisory group.

Now, administrative costs are limited to 10 percent of the total award ($12,000 in this case), and the state would be required to match that. But the act also requires states to maintain at least one full-time person as a juvenile justice specialist. So either the state would need to hire a full-time person at $24,000 per year, or the state would have to kick in more than the required match. Not an easy sell to state appropriators in the current blood-from-a-stone times we are in.

Meanwhile, there would be $48,000 left in federal money to spend on other ventures.

So in summary, this hypothetical minimum-allocation state would be spending at least $12,000 of its own money, plus $72,000 in federal money (half of the award plus the $12,000 for a full-timer) on complying with federal standards that, in this hypothetical case, it had already chosen to ignore in favor of simply collecting 20 percent for passing Go. And the reward for all that would be $48,000 to spend on juvenile justice.

In this admittedly cynical example, the state has spent $12,000 of its own juvenile justice money to make $48,000 in federal juvenile justice money while throwing another $60,000 in federal money away just to pay lip service to compliance.

That hardly seems worth the effort.

***Check out this story by Winnie Hu of the New York Times on a new law in New Jersey that requires schools to document and control bullying without new staff or money to do so. In East Hanover, N.J., Hu reports, students will be allowed to anonymously report bullying to the police through the state's Crimestoppers hotline.

What police do with that information will be interesting. The Obama administration has also made it clear that the Department of Education expects schools receiving federal money to take bullying seriously. Involving law enforcement, if the result is the arrest of some children, has the potential to involve a whole lot of students in the juvenile justice system and sap resources that could be used for more serious juvenile offenders.

***A few good reads for the holiday weekend (or after):

The International Association of Chiefs of Police released the findings from a survey of law enforcement officers on juvenile justice training. Two key findings here:

1: There are eight issues that the nearly 700 respondents identified as “most pressing”: substance abuse, physical abuse, repeat offenders, bullying, gangs, internet crimes, runaways and school safety.

2: Half of the law enforcement agencies represented in the responses had either decreased or abolished their training budgets in the last five years.

Click here to read the report.

The National Juvenile Justice Network issued “Bringing Youth Home,” which highlights the efforts in some states to decrease the number of juveniles who are placed outside of their community during adjudication.  The paper uses Alabama, California, Washington, D.C., Florida, Kansas, New York, Ohio and Texas as examples.

Click here to read the report.

***The Global Youth Justice Training Institute will host a session on Dec. 6-8 in Las Vegas on establishing or expanding teen and youth courts. The training will address identifying appropriate juvenile offender referrals, training youth and adult volunteers, providing mandated peer-imposed sanction programs, implementing operational and administrative procedures, funding opportunities and grant writing. Click here for more details.