That idle hands and idle minds are the work of the devil and a major cause of juvenile delinquency has been an honored truism of child savers for centuries. Even entire organizations can be overwhelmed by idleness – just look at the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJ).
On paper, OJJ (with a budget of $519.9 million) appears to have plenty to do in the perpetual struggle against youth crime. The reality, under Administrator J. Robert Flores, is another matter.
A recent reorganization has stripped OJJ of much of its former capabilities. OJJ, says a former staffer, “is almost shut down.” Congress has earmarked virtually all of OJJ’s $88.6 million in national discretionary grants, leaving nothing for OJJ’s Demonstration Program Division to demonstrate except the folly of congressional earmarking. The Alexandria, Va.-based National Center on Missing and Exploited Children makes all significant decisions for OJJ’s $67.6 million Child Protection Program Division. That leaves the State Relations and Assistance Program Division, which works closely with state juvenile justice planners and the chairs of the State Juvenile Justice Advisory Groups (SAGs).
OJJ’s once prodigious flood of publications of considerable use to the field has turned to the occasional (and sometimes misleading) trickle. Not that many in the juvenile justice field are complaining. Few look to the affable but cagey Flores or OJJ’s other political appointee, deputy Bill Woodruff, for advice.
But OJJ has now decided that no grantee can give official advice, either – not while entirely under the thumb of Attorney General John Ashcroft. At least not to OJJ, the Department of Justice, the president and, most emphatically, not to Congress.
That’s crippling news for the D.C.-based Coalition for Juvenile Justice (CJJ), directed since 1995 by David Doi, a staffer for 11 years at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The 24-year-old CJJ represents the SAGs in the states that participate in the OJJ-administered Juvenile Justice Act of 1974. (Wyoming and Montana do not.) The SAGs and their chairs are appointed by each state’s governor, and with Republican governors outnumbering Democrats by 29 to 19, the CJJ’s national board is hardly a nest of Bolsheviks.
Since the 1980s the CJJ, under various names, has received an annual grant from OJJ; in 2002, it totaled $669,375. That grant, which ended Aug. 31, was used to employ a staff of 10, including deputy Nancy Gannon. Like Doi, Gannon is a veteran of the gun control movement – to which this Justice Department is notoriously averse.
Under the Juvenile Justice Act as reauthorized in 2002, OJJ “shall provide technical and financial assistance to an eligible organization composed of member representatives” of the SAGs. Neither the Act nor Congressional appropriations language actually names CJJ as the grantee, an omission that speaks to what one Democratic staffer calls CJJ’s “lack of juice” on Capitol Hill, and its consequent vulnerability to capricious funding decisions by Ashcroft’s Justice Department.
The mission of CJJ is to represent the states’ views on all juvenile justice issues. That has always put the group at variance with whoever is OJJ’s presidentially appointed administrator. But what in previous Republican and Democratic administrations would have been considered reasonable policy disagreements that are the lifeblood of democracy are now seen as acts of anti-Bush administration perfidy.
With the arrival in 2001 of the new president, CJJ and the ineffectual Doi tried to play it safe. The group did work with others to improve earlier reauthorization bills in Congress. Unfortunately for the CJJ, it developed a reputation on Capitol Hill as being most concerned with maintaining the modest powers of the individual SAGs and the funding for its national office. The more substantive and politically divisive issues – such as youth access to guns, waiving juveniles to the adult criminal justice system and minority over-representation in lock-ups – took a back seat. That didn’t prevent Doi from writing, in a self-congratulatory “Personal Reflections” in the group’s September 2002 newsletter, that “CJJ does not take a back seat to any” of the dozens of other organizations that worked for a responsible bill – a claim that many of those organizations would dispute.
That disconnect between self-image and political reality is not lost on Flores. CJJ’s efforts of appeasement notwithstanding, Flores notified the group in March that an utterly obscure law – the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FAC) – calls for receiving “good advice” from an advisory board to the U.S. government. Apparently, CJJ has been offering bad advice for two decades and no one noticed until former Navy SEAL Woodruff, Flores’ deputy, spotted the problem. In a July memo, Flores wrote, “For OJJDP to permit the Board of Directors of a grantee to continue to serve as an advisory committee would violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the FAC.”
Calling CJJ a mere “grantee,” Flores wrote, “It came to my attention that – at the least – there was an inherent appearance of a conflict of interest in having the Board of Directors of one OJJDP grantee serve as a supposedly independent advisory committee to OJJDP, Congress, and the President.” Ever so sorry, implies the OJJ administrator but, “directly, rather than through an interested, grant-supported organization, we can assure the public that unfettered input and advice from the field is being given, reflective of the individual positions of each State’s juvenile justice issues, rather than the monolithic position of a Board of Directors of one nonprofit corporation.”
The new “unfettered” advisory committee will have one SAG member per state, with that person vetted by OJJ through approval of each state’s three plans for spending OJJ formula grant funds. Further flipping the SAGs the bird, each SAG will have to pay for its delegates to attend a once-a-year meeting, where OJJ alone will set the agenda.
Just imagine the agenda possibilities: encouraging marriage for juvenile offenders in adult prisons; the role of faith-based groups in preventing the stranger abductions of children; secular humanism’s plot to adopt the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child; evaluating OJJ’s publications through their absence; or junior membership in the NRA as a protective factor in preventing youth theft of luxury cars. Perhaps Ashcroft will order the conference held in Guantanamo Bay.
Under the new setup, the CJJ will be relieved of three of the five functions spelled out in Section 241 (f) of the Juvenile Justice Act: reviewing federal policies, advising the [OJJ] administrator, and advising the president and Congress. In its new grant application – still pending at press time – CJJ will also be relieved of $325,000, which will instead be spent directly (OJJ claims) on the new advisory committee.
But the woes are far from over for Doi and the SAG board of directors. One charge that Flores levels against CJJ is that its “understandable expansion” in membership includes groups and individuals not currently serving on SAGs. Doi refused to answer basic business questions for this article, saying: “I don’t think it’s going to be useful to talk about it in Youth Today.”
CJJ’s 2001 federal tax returns report $97,625 in dues from SAGs, and aside from registration fees for its conferences, only $5,052 in “other revenue.” That doesn’t even cover Doi’s 2001 salary of $114,020.
In other words, the group is vulnerable to criticism for opening its membership beyond SAG members, but has gained no financial or constituency growth through its phantom membership expansion.
But there’s more. The Justice Department has sent Congress some “technical amendments” to the Juvenile Justice Act. Those amendments would drop the law’s requirement that OJJ “assist” a SAG national group, inserting language that OJJ “support such organizations in carrying out” an annual conference, and in disseminating information on juvenile justice programs and policy matters. Translation: Eliminate any legal requirement to fund CJJ and permit hiring some docile Beltway Bandit private contractors next year with the remainder of CJJ’s $344,000 grant from OJJ.
But CJJ is like a novice poker player in a game with card sharks, whose dumb luck might save it from being totally cleaned out. First, Justice sent the changes only to the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, trying to slip it past the House Education and Workforce Committee, chaired by Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), which also has jurisdiction over the JJ Act.
The committee staffer handling juvenile justice is Bob Sweet, who during Bush I was the OJJ administrator from 1990 to 1992. Informed (not by CJJ) of the proposed changes, Sweet was emphatic that the JJ Act won’t be opened for any amendments. “It’s very unlikely there are going to be any changes in the JJ Act,” Sweet said. A Democratic staffer on the committee concurred.
Now CJJ, with its budget already halved, is placing its hopes for survival on the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen.Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), the reigning king of federal pork, who has a long-standing interest in juvenile justice and delinquency prevention. Pushing Stevens hard is Vicki Blankenship, the Alaska SAG chair, who is in line to become the CJJ chair next year. If there is a next year.
When Winston Churchill and FDR met secretly off the coast of Newfoundland in 1941, they pledged in the Atlantic Charter to create a world where “freedom from want and fear” would be the universal norm. That praiseworthy goal continues to inspire others, including Charles F. Feeney.
Feeney donated almost his entire fortune, made through Duty Free Shoppers stores in international airport terminals, to a foundation known since 2001 as the Atlantic Philanthropies (assets: $3.8 billion). The foundation has its financial operations in Bermuda and its headquarters in New York. Because of its Bermuda corporate home, the foundation was able to do business as “anonymous” until the sale of the duty-free retail business in 1997. One operative says the foundation “operates in the shadows.” It doesn’t publish an annual report or file American tax returns, which would be open to public inspection.
Over the past 18 months, Atlantic Philanthropies, under CEO John Healy, has been charting a new course. Thrown overboard is support for higher education, nonprofit sector and philanthropy infrastructure groups such as the Aspen Institute and Independent Sector, and for programs that provide pre-collegiate education. Atlantic Philanthropies’ revamped purpose is “to bring about lasting changes that will improve the lives of disadvantaged and vulnerable people,” Healy writes in a July letter to interested parties. To that end, four program fields have been chosen: aging, health, reconciliation and human rights, and disadvantaged children and youth. All but the health program will make grants in the United States.
One thing won’t change, says spokesman Peter McCue: Atlantic Philanthropies “will not accept unsolicited requests for funds.” Under Mr. Feeney’s “Giving-While-Living” philosophy, the foundation will spend what McCue estimates at $300 million to $350 million in each of the next 12 to 15 years, or until the spend-down is completed.
The specifics of the still-to-hatch disadvantaged children and youth program remain opaque. It will operate throughout the British Isles, Bermuda and the United States. Annual spending in this country is also murky, but will eventually be in the $50 million range. The foundation’s senior vice president of programs, Alan Ruby, characterizes 2004 and 2005 as “exploratory years.”
Another staffer says modest “getting to know you” grants will come first. The details will be sorted out when “a world class leader” is hired, hopefully by January, Ruby says.
Some staffers are already shifting assignments. Tom Costello, a veteran of Irish youth work, will serve as a program director in Dublin. In the New York office, Galli Aizenman, Nicolette Marshall, Sherri Sommers and Jill Weitz will work on the emerging program, under the as-yet-unknown boss.
Ruby says Atlantic Philan- thropies’ new U.S. effort will be casting for aspiring “direct-service organizations” utilizing
“preventative models” that are “looking to be great.” As described by Ruby, a former senior official responsible for youth affairs in the Australian government, Atlantic Philanthropies’ thinking somewhat parallels the program of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation. In recent years, Clark has focused on building the capacity of selected direct-service agencies.
A key difference, says Ruby, is that while Clark has focused mostly on the East Coast, Atlantic Philanthropies will operate nationwide. But Clark has blurred its own scope of work and added two national organizations: New York-based Girls Inc. (under Director Joyce Roché) and the Portland, Ore.-based Friends of the Children (under Director Catherine Milton). Clark also continues its long-standing support of the Atlanta-based Boys & Girls Clubs of America (directed by Roxanne Spillett).
Another foundation of interest to Atlantic Philanthropies watchers is the San Francisco-based French American Charitable Trust (FACT), set up in 1989 by Feeney’s relatives (including his daughter, Diane Feeney). One of the priorities in its $3.5 million annual grant making is “social and economic justice” through “funding capacity-building organizations” that assist low-wage workers. Examples of FACT youth-related grantees include the Applied Research Center in Oakland, Calif., ($50,000), Youth Action in Albuquerque ($40,000), and Southern Echo in Jackson, Miss. ($100,000). One thing FACT has in common with Atlantic Philanthropies is that it doesn’t accept unsolicited proposals.
Atlantic Philanthropies has long been known for its reticence in drawing attention to itself, or signaling future intentions. Perhaps an August grant of $1.4 million from Atlantic Philanthropies and the Robert Wood Johnson Foun- dation to the Iowa Caregivers Association, a group representing nursing home workers, is instructive. The grant, says an Associated Press report, is “aimed at building a more stable work force in the face of growing demand” for long-term care for the elderly. The need for staff development “comes against a backdrop of the profession’s low wages and high turnover.”
Sound familiar? Were Atlantic Philanthropies to set a similar course for its disadvantaged youth program, it could expect an enormous return on investment. Its total giving of $1.49 billion in higher education grants (through the end of last year) stands in sharp contrast to the no-giving-while-you’re-living higher education crowd, with their eager endowment depositories banking much of America’s “surplus” wealth. Visualize what $1.1 million spent in upgrading youth workers in Iowa would net compared, for example, with an Atlantic Philanthropies $1.1 million grant to the Harvard Graduate School of Education for the aptly dubbed Project Zero – a fishy endeavor to “document and promote greater understanding of group learning in K-8 classrooms.”
(Confession: Nose Knows, a high school dropout, has both an equally fishy degree and zero professional standing from said institution.)
Atlantic Philanthropies’ entry into youth work is welcomed by all – except the groups now walking the plank. One fading program area, pre-collegiate education, will pose a particular challenge. There is but an isthmus, if any ground at all, between some of Atlantic Philanthropies’ current pre-collegiate education grantees and programs aimed at disadvantaged youth.
Consider the 14-year-old New York-based Posse Foundation (directed by Deborah Bial), with a staff of 32 and a current grant of $475,000. The Posse Foundation’s “strength-based program,” says Bial, locates groups of 10 disadvantaged high school seniors with superior leadership potential and prepares the entire “posse” to attend one of 18 cooperating colleges, including Vanderbilt in Nashville and Brandeis in Waltham, Mass. Upon graduation they are expected to “effect positive changes” in their home community. So far, some 721 youth have entered college with Posse’s assistance, provided through the New York office and those in Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles (with D.C. opening this month). Except for the intriguing posse angle, the youth services provided are an apt description of what hundreds of community-based organizations, most operating without benefit of a formal national affiliation, attempt to provide for poor teens.
With the buoyancy of the youth service field at a low ebb, Atlantic Philanthropies’ against-the-tide decision to enter the disadvantaged youth field will cheer even the saltiest able-bodied seaman.
Contacts: Atlantic Philan-thropies (212) 916-7300, www.at lanticphilanthropies.org; French American Charitable Trust (415) 288-1305, www.factservices.org; Posse Foundation, (212) 405-1691, www.posse.org.
French American Charitable Trust, selected grants (2002). All are for general support.
• Applied Research Center, Oakland, Calif. ($50,000) – provides support and training to progressive community groups, helping them to develop policy analysis and leadership skills.
• Center for Third World Organizing, Oakland, Calif. ($50,000) – a national center for organizing that sponsors and develops new groups and social change efforts affecting “poor people and people of color.”
• DataCenter, Oakland, Calif. ($50,200) – a nonprofit public access research library that provides information to social justice activists, community groups, policy organizations and media activists.
• Southern Echo, Jackson, Miss. ($100,000) – a statewide, grassroots, leadership development, education and training organization that develops new grassroots leaders and organizers in black communities in Mississippi and the surrounding region.
• Youth Action, Albuquerque, N.M. ($40,000) – a national, youth-led organization that prepares young leaders to work in the social justice movement.