Saturday, October 27, 2007

Bexar partners with religious charity to divert youth from TYC

With the Texas Youth Commission no longer accepting misdemeanant offenders, and new TYC rules pushing kids onto parole much sooner than in the past, counties must now manage more problem youth in the community or in locally funded post-adjudication facilities who previously might have spent years in TYC, out of sight, out of mind.

Most impacted are the five largest counties, who account for around half of all TYC commitments. So I was pleased to see Bexar County (San Antonio) experimenting with alternatives to TYC placement, partnering with a Baptist charity to provide "intensive family preservation services." According to Haley Smith at The Baptist Standard ("Bexar County youthful offenders find second chance with KAPS," Oct. 26):
A growing number of South Texas juvenile offenders are hearing good news—jail is not their only option—thanks to an expanding relationship between the Juvenile Probation Department and Kids Averted from Placement Services.

KAPS, a program of Baptist Child & Family Services that has provided intensive family preservation services for youthful offenders for nine years, recently received an additional $325,000 from Juvenile Probation. This has allowed the program to increase from four to six the number of three-person teams—which translates into helping an additional 56 families a year.

“We think programs such as KAPS are ultimately going to take the place of (incarceration in Texas Youth Commission facilities) and other traditional methods,” said Jeannine Von Stultz, director of Mental Health Services for Bexar County Juvenile Probation who championed the funding increase.

Bexar County courts, realizing the positive effects of KAPS, are ordering the counseling for more teens as the last chance before being sentenced to juvenile detention. Because of the substantial length of the waiting list to get into the program, juveniles often get in trouble with the law again and find themselves back in court before they receive the chance to benefit from KAPS’ services—one reason behind the additional funding.

“Our waiting list is anywhere from 25 to 30 families at any given point who usually wait a time period of about three months or longer,” said Janie Cook, BCFS executive for teen and youth services. “The additional funding should cut the waiting list in half.”

Until recently, the Texas Youth Commission was assigned to handle young people through the age of 21 who had committed a variety of misdemeanors. However, because of serious allegations of physical and sexual abuse, TYC now is allowed to handle offenders who commit serious felonies until age 19.

Due to this change in policy and the fact many youth in TYC were released early from their sentencing, the state gave money back to juvenile services, which—in turn—redirected a portion to KAPS.

Because research that shows non-traditional counseling programs such as KAPS produce a better success rate than traditional psychotherapy methods, the juvenile probation department continues to rely on KAPS, Von Stultz said.

“I believe the reason for this is that the families sent to these programs usually have multiple issues in addition to the legal issue at hand regarding their child. Often things as simple as transportation keep the family from going to their assigned counseling,” Von Stultz explained.

“KAPS goes into the family’s home, breaking through initial apprehension and practical barriers such as transportation, to get to the heart of the matter.”

KAPS’ goal is to support the family as a whole, offering other resources not part of traditional treatment methods and addressing practical needs such as food and housing.

“When families come to be part of the KAPS program, they obviously are not always happy about the court order. But by the end, they usually tell us that they appreciate the fact that we don’t give up on them. Our staff is pretty tenacious,” Cook explains. “Many of these families feel that the system has let them down, and we want to show them that’s not the case.”

With the additional funding, KAPS is forming two new teams to meet the growing need to minister to the youth assigned to their care. As part of the team expansion, KAPS is in the process of filling four new staff positions, including two case managers and two case manager aides and one therapist, to increase capacity to handle more teens.

Although 75 percent of the funding will go to serve young people who might have originally ended up in TYC, the money also provides adequate resources to improve the KAPS program as a whole.

“The ultimate goal of the Juvenile Probation Department and KAPS is to serve the kids in our community, using TYC as a last resort,” Cook said. “Any additional funding we receive helps significantly in these efforts.”


Anonymous said...

This is how it should be. Families do much better receiving services away from the probation center.

Providing comprehensive services to the entire family, before the child is commited to TYC will have a long lasting impact.

While private funding is great, this model should also be adopted by the state's department of rehabilitiation services. Imagine that, the state actually helping youth and their families to complete the terms of their probation and develop skills which will prevent further involvement with law enforcement.

Anonymous said...

I would like to say it is not necessarily the psychotherapeutic method that isn't successful in treating kids. It is the cooperation between caseworkers and therapists who break down the barriers to families participating in treatment, and providing access to other necessary stabilizing services,which allows the therapeutic process to be effective. Probation, Health and Human Services, Mental Health, and Rehabilitiation should all be serving their clients as teams, not as seperate entitities requiring separate appointments and exponential problems, frustrations, bureacracies...


Anonymous said...

And this is the way to keep the kids closer to home so that the family and community become part of the rehabilitation plan. Kuddos to San Antonio and the Baptist charity.

Anonymous said...

We live in a fast paced complex society. Assisting a family to participate in their community in a way that meets their needs and cultural values benefits everyone.

This approach would benefit everyone that has been cought up in the "judicial net".

Anonymous said...

Would a Muslim child benefit as much as a Baptist child?

Too bad the Government is dependent upon charity to be effective.

Don't mistake my point of view, I do think this approach is valuable.

Anonymous said...

What a stupid thing to say...

I am sure the Baptists will provide services to any youth's family who is willing to receive them, especially a Muslim.

Anonymous said...

You may know a different group of Baptists than I do. Perhaps they think too much about the intellect of others and not enough about what they write.

The comment was meant to be thought provoking, that's all.

Anonymous said...

I personally do not trust Baptists.

25 years ago I stpped going to church because I realized that God wasn't interested in politics or religion.

That pretty much lets Baptists off the hook for being on God's side.

Anonymous said...

I believe 10:28 got what he wanted.
People tend to forget that it was Southern Baptists who initiated getting prayer out of school in Texas, fearing the increasing Mexican-American Roman Catholic population would require their children to hear "Hail Mary" and similar "propaganda". As much as I may exalt the glory of God, Allah, Yahweh (aren't allowed to spell it correctly in the original tongue, so stay off my butt) and any other version of "He whose name is too great to be spoken by man" et al, I do not exalt any religion of man. I admire, respect, honor and support anyone who's faith brought them to a place where they willingly and without glory "fed them when they were hungry, clothed them when they were naked and visited them in prison." The immoral, criminal acts done in the name of God seem to outnumber those honorable acts done in his name, so there is a lot of balancing to be done. Being a WASP, I have limited knowledge of other faiths and even less of other religions, so pardon my falling back on Christianity as I learned it. I don't recall Jesus asking the color, religion, sexual orientation, occupation or language of the 5,000 when he fed them; nor did he ask the woman at the well how many husbands she had had... I do recall that he brought to the attention of his followers that Samaritans were to be honored. Most of all, I remember that his followers assert that "WHO-SO-EVER believeth in me shall enter the kingdom of God." He also allegedly died on the cross for ALL our sins, hopefully including hubris, where men put their own desires and beliefs above their God's. Please note, I use "allegedly" not in denial; faith comes not from knowing, but from believing and, in believing knowing my connection with my God, not your God or your connection.
I would like to suggest that Baptists are not above opening their hearts, their minds and their arms to people in remains to be seen if they can avoid making conversion to their personal belief system a requirement

Anonymous said...

Always a critic...
7:46 - I will pray for you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, unlike d'Pope, I am not infallible and can use all the help I can get here on earth. As for the afterlife, I already accepted the promise.

Anonymous said...

11:03 - Read Matt. 7:21-23. Hope this doesnt apply to you.

Anonymous said...

One can also look at Gal 5:2. I realize Matthew may be/have been correct, I choose to believe my savior, not is follower.

Anonymous said...

the thought was really not provoking...most baptist denominations (i.e. not southern baptist) go out of there way to meet people's needs and tell people about Jesus. At times the bent can be a little legalistic but anyone doing this deserves a standing ovation, regardless of any attached spiritual message...

"Baptist Child & Family Services is a San Antonio based agency of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. This human services organization has locations and programs throughout Texas and three foreign countries: Mexico, Moldova and Sri Lanka. Programs managed or offered through BCFS include residential services for emotionally disturbed children, assisted living services and vocational training and employment for special needs adults, mental health services for children and families, foster care, pre-natal and post-partum health services, and international humanitarian aid for children living in impoverished conditions in developing countries....

KAPS (Kids Averted from Placement Services) serves families of adjudicated youth 12-17 years of age. KAPS functions as an intensive multi-systemic program addressing all areas of family life.

KAPS uses teams of professionals comprised of a licensed counselor, case manager, and case manager aide. Each team works with up to 7 families at a time, with each family receiving services for 3-4 months. Services are conducted in the family's home and school for their convenience. Staff is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for crisis intervention.

Accessing the KAPS Program

All KAPS clients are referred for services through the Bexar County Juvenile Probation Department in San Antonio, Texas.

Training: Home management skills, budgeting and parenting
Counseling: Individual, family, marital and group
Classes: Anger management and drug prevention
Crisis intervention
Solution focused therapy
Referral services"

I say Amen!

Anonymous said...

How is this for a diversion program:

29, 2007, 5:13PM
More youths are tried as adults in Harris County
Half of state's underage teens in adult prisons sent by Harris County

Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

Since state and local authorities declared war on juvenile crime in the 1990s, Harris County courts consistently have prosecuted more underage teens as adults than four other major Texas counties combined.

As a result, Harris County accounts for half of all underage teens in the state's adult prisons, despite youths here accounting for just 15 percent of all juvenile crime in Texas, according to a review of state and local statistics.

Judges and prosecutors expect the number of teens in prison will continue to increase. The recent sex and abuse scandals within the Texas Youth Commission prompted legislators to require offenders to be released at 19 rather than 21 or be sent to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

"The irony is that the Legislature's intent was to keep more kids out of institutions" by overhauling TYC, said Judge Michael Schneider of the 315th District Court. "It may cause more kids at younger ages to end up in the adult system."

Prosecutors may seek more adult certifications of juvenile sex offenders because of the lowered age cap on TYC stays.

"If a sex offender enters TYC at 16 or 17, that's only about two or three years," said Assistant District Attorney Bill Hawkins. "That's not enough time to rehabilitate them."

Texas permits courts to certify juveniles as young as 15 to be tried as adults for murder and other violent crimes.

For the past decade, Harris County has prosecuted more juveniles as adults than Bexar, Dallas, Tarrant and Travis counties combined.

In 1996, Harris County certified 170 juveniles amid a public crackdown on violent youth crime. That number steadily dropped to roughly 55 a year between 2003 and 2005.

But certifications jumped to 90 last year, when the county saw several violent cases involving teens, including Ashley Benton, then 16, who was certified to stand trial as an adult in the stabbing death of 15-year-old Gabriel Granillo. Her case ended in a mistrial.

The courts have maintained a similar pace this year with 67 adult certifications as of September. A judge has not yet decided whether Bobby Davis, the 15-year-old from Baytown who authorities say drove a stolen Jeep into a train, killing his brother and three friends in June, will stand trial as an adult.

Although the Benton and Davis cases have heightened awareness of juvenile violence, prosecutors say homicides are down. Statistics show most of the youth cases sent to adult courts involve crimes with guns, typically robberies.

Showing any mercy?
Still, some observers say Harris County's approach to juvenile crime is harsher than elsewhere in the state.

"Once they get in this system, it's a meat grinder," said W. Michael Coulson, one of about 25 court-appointed attorneys in the juvenile courts. "For the most part, they're on a rocket sled headed for TDCJ, unless something really big steps in the way."

In January, the 263rd District Court sentenced Courtney Tolliver, 16, to 25 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon in a 2006 mugging.

"The (adult court) judge really had no mercy," said Dennis W. Richards, Tolliver's defense attorney. "They shouldn't have certified him in the first place. He had so many mental issues and problems at home."

Harris County judges typically approve 90 percent of certification petitions filed by prosecutors. And once prosecutors have filed a petition, it is nearly impossible to challenge certification, Coulson and others said.

"The process has become somewhat perfunctory," said Marc D. Isenberg, a juvenile defense attorney.

In most cases, attorneys have 24 hours to review documents before a certification hearing. Defendants cannot appeal certifications until after a case has been closed in adult court.

Most juvenile offenders facing certification are poor, so their court-appointed attorneys, who struggle with heavy caseloads, may not have the time or resources to challenge prosecutors.

Anonymous said...

Everyone in TYC knew that would be a result of SB103. Who knoes if the lege even thought about it.

Anonymous said...

But, 1:35, the Chronicle strongly suggests that Harris County was already the leading source of certifications anyway, even before SB103.

It seems that local governments will respond by expanding their existing practices for dealing with juvie offenders, and in HC's case, that means locking as many up as possible.

Did the lege think about this effect? Maybe not. But if they did, this result would seem to complement the turn toward adult corrections in TYC itself.

Overall, an "interesting" response to an abuse scandal that everyone at the time felt highlighted the need to move away from an adult corrections model.

With more kids in the pipeline to adult prison, or to large juvie facilities run by prison officials, the chances that more offenders will be abused are increased.

So much for "fixing" juvenile justice. A disastrous gift that keeps on giving, apparently.


Anonymous said...

I can't even begin to tell you how low morale is at our facility and how personally depressed I am working for this agency.

The "leadership" implements head-scratching policies (pepper spray, uniforms) while the main problems that afflict this agency (staff turnover, overpopulated facilities, and few treatment staff) continue unabated.

I've never been this depressed in my life. There is no support or guidance or intelligence from Central Office.

Anonymous said...

BB, I agree with you that it is ironic that more juvenile will be certified into the adult system, where they are probably more likely to be abused than they would have been at TYC. And I agree the Harris County already led the state in certifications, but they have reportedly increased those numbers, which TYC staff figured they would.


Anonymous said...

Let the little sob's rot! I am the one that Courtney Tolliver robbed at gunpoint and I can honestly say I hope he dies a slow painful death.