Weekly Notes: 2012 spending could pass soon; Day 1,002; report on future for youth-serving nonprofits

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***Day number 1,002 of the Obama administration and still no nominee to serve as administrator of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Turning back the clock to 75 days before the president’s inauguration, JJ Today started a column about a post-election town hall meeting about the prospects for juvenile justice reform and improvement with much enthusiasm: 

“You just witnessed a whole lot of pent-up energy.”

That was how former OJJDP Administrator Shay Bilchik began his short address Thursday to wrap up a town hall meeting among leaders in juvenile justice, a panel of their colleagues, and Charles Ogletree, who figures to be a prominent part of president-elect Barack Obama's Department of Justice.

Bilchik couldn't have put it better. Although the event sponsor, the American Bar Association, had said the event would go on with representatives from whoever won the presidential election just two days earlier, Obama was the clear pick among reform-minded JJ people after eight years of witnessing, as Coalition for Juvenile Justice's Tara Andrews put it, "the decimation of OJJDP as we know it."

It would have been hard to predict that three years later, OJJDP would be standing on the precipice of irrelevance to the juvenile justice field, but that is the case. The agency spends more money on missing and exploited children and mentoring (each) than it now does on juvenile justice and delinquency prevention (total).

It is ultimately Congress that decides how much to spend on what, but a widely disliked budget request and a leaderless agency clearly left juvenile justice funding vulnerable at the worst possible time to be vulnerable.

Regardless of how OJJDP and Justice have managed over these leaderless 1,000 days, the holdup on a new leader is at the White House. There have been repeated botched selections and most recently, the name (or names) of acceptable OJJDPcandidates whom Justice found acceptable has been sitting at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  

***The Senate got through a slew of amendments to appropriations bills this week, and it looks like the Commerce/Justice/Science appropriations bill will pass in early next month  and then be attached to a “minibus” spending bill that would set 2012 spending for those three departments, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Agriculture. We have already covered what that spending bill includes for juvenile justice: steep cuts to Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act lines.

Even at the reduced figures, the Senate juvenile justice spending level is much higher than the House Appropriations Committee offered in its bill. But passage of the minibus pretty much shuts the door on movement of funds from other OJJDP accounts into the JJPDA lines. Lower JJDPA allocations will cause some states, particularly big ones, to think hard about continuing to participate in the act.

Speaking of which…

***JJ Today spent Thursday covering the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee mark up aimed at reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). And apparently as we sat through amendment after amendment, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) was busy scaring juvenile justice advocates with his amendment to the Justice spending bill. In a nutshell, the bill would require most Justice grantees to find 25 percent local matches to grants and would subject 10 percent of all grantees to audits every year.

The amendment alarmed advocates. Act4JJ, a coalition of about 350 organizations, quickly fired off a memo in opposition to the amendment that included this about its 25 percent match requirement:

“Further shifting of costs to states and localities would have the likely result of pushing states to exit from participation in the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), legislation which provides critical protections for youth involved with the courts.”

That is not something you see advocates or OJJDP bring up very often, so it caught our eye. This isn’t the first time Grassley has offered such an amendment, and it looks to us like it is at least partially motivated by his continuing frustration with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Grassley and a few other Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee were riled with the fact that the national BGCA organization was paying a high salary to its CEO and storing $54 million in offshore accounts (which is completely legal) while closing clubs in poor housing developments, for which they had received federal funds specifically to open.

Grassley’s amendment includes a caveat that no grants in the spending bill could go to “a nonprofit organization that holds money in offshore accounts.”

The amendment was defeated 54-46.

***Not much to report juvenile justice-wise from the original draft of the Senate’s bill to reauthorize the ESEA, and none of the 70-plus amendments offered pertained to juveniles either. Title I, Part D is the tiny section of ESEA that most directly pertains to educational services for juvenile offenders, and it appears that the Senate’s work does not change anything there. The bill does identify juveniles as a population for grantees to focus on within the Promise Neighborhood and Improving Literacy Instruction initiatives.

However, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) managed to get an amendment passed into the bill that would require state and local education agencies to work with child welfare agencies on keeping foster youth in their school of origin. We’ll chalk that up as a tangential win for juvenile advocates, too, because the continuous uprooting of foster youth from school to school can lead too often to dropping out, and of course dropping out frees up some youth in already challenging situations to make all kinds of bad decisions vis a vis drugs and delinquency.

***The Alliance for Children and Families, with hundreds of members providing services for children in the juvenile and child welfare systems, released “Disruptive Forces,” a fascinating assessment of the near future for nonprofits, earlier this week. You can click here for our coverage of the study and the reception it got at the Alliance’s national conference this week, but we would also encourage you to read the actual report.

In many ways, it presents a management outlook that mirrors the policy outlook professed by proponents of juvenile justice reform. The policy argument is that states and localities that rely on costly options rooted in old ways of thinking will continue to produce horrendous recidivism rates and little rehabilitation of juvenile offenders. “Disruptive Forces” lays out the argument that nonprofits who do not embrace the advantages offered by emerging science, technology and research will fail to compete for funding and success in the new world of human service financing.