Thirty five Juvenile Review Board (JRB) programs across the state including Waterbury Youth Services Inc.’s were in danger of potentially shutting down after the Connecticut General Assembly neglected to allocate funds for JRBs in its 2019 budget adjustments last May. But an emergency stop gap measure issued by the State of Connecticut Office of Policy and Management (OPM) gives a 12 month lifeline to eligible JRBs, including WYS's.
The State's program provides one year grants to assist local municipalities in supporting JRBs that were previously funded through state appropriated dollars provided by the Department of Children and Families (DCF).
In order for Waterbury Youth Services (WYS) to be awarded funds, the Waterbury Board of Alderman had to pass a motion that would allow the City to enter into contract with OPM, which they did on September 10th. WYS is now scheduled to receive $154,442 to fund its JRB program through August 31, 2019.
Juvenile Review Board (JRB) programs have been used widely and successfully for more than a decade across the state to keep youth with low-level misdemeanor offenses from entering the juvenile justice system.
JRBs offer a community-based alternative to deal with school, family and minor criminal incidents so that no child enters the juvenile justice system without having exhausted appropriate community resources. JRBs give youth the chance to learn from their mistakes and tools to make better choices in the future by connecting them and their families to support programs.
“This funding will provide the opportunity to keep 150-200 youth who committed misdemeanor offenses from entering the juvenile justice system” says Kathi M. Crowe, Waterbury Youth Services Inc.’s Executive Director. “It will help us sustain our current five JRB panels as well as expand to a sixth truancy-specific panel that will address the chronically absent and truant students through a non-judicial path.”
In a typical year, Waterbury Youth Services Inc.’s JRB deals with 150-200 cases. Last year, 96% of the youth who went through their program were not re-arrested.
Waterbury Youth Services Inc.’s JRB consists of a Program Manager, two Case Managers and is largely supported by volunteers who have experience in child development, education, adolescent behavior, family dynamics, youth development, and/or juvenile laws and procedures.
The value of JRBs can not be overstated. “The JRB program at WYS offers a great service to these children, offering them an opportunity to reflect on their past behavior; identify what their individualized needs are and work with the staff and volunteers, through the JRB, to move forward in a productive manner,” says Diane E. Haggis, Ed. D, who has volunteered for three and a half years on Waterbury Youth Services Inc.’s JRB. “As a long-standing member on two separate JRB teams within Waterbury Youth Services, I am honored to be a part of the comprehensive service that is provided to our youth.”
The JRB can require students to undertake counseling, conflict resolution classes, therapy, substance abuse services, mentoring, tutoring assistance, or a variety of other programs. The Board can also recommend that students write essays or letters of apology, or perform community service.
Cases are referring to Waterbury Youth Services by City Police, Schools, Court, DCF, as well as other sources. Youth must remain in WYS’ JRB program for six months.
“We’re relieved that OPM came up with a solution for funding JRBs for the next twelve months and grateful to the City for approving the grant award,” says Ms. Crowe. “Our JRB excels at getting to the bottom of why the youth did what they did in the first place then connecting them with the support services they need to address these problems. We value our youth and WYS’s JRB gives them a chance to succeed in the future.”