Systems Change & Shrinking Budgets: Improving a Juvenile Justice System despite Declining Resources

By Stephani, Cheryl | Corrections Today, February 2004 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Systems Change & Shrinking Budgets: Improving a Juvenile Justice System despite Declining Resources

Stephani, Cheryl, Corrections Today

Creating something from virtually nothing, spinning straw into gold, making stone soup and feeding the village, taking a few loaves of bread and a few fish and providing for a multitude of people--these and other traditional stories may have modern day implications for juvenile justice professionals. As is depicted in the Bible, tackling the seemingly impossible (feeding a large crowd of people) with extremely limited resources (a few loaves of bread and some fish) is amazing both in the end result (no one went away hungry) and the sheer audacity of the initial undertaking. Who would have thought that it could be done? Surely, one would need much more than was apparently available to fill those hungry stomachs.

In this era of shrinking resources, declining populations and growing complexity of youth treatment issues, how does an agency meet the demand for new and better services to address the rehabilitation needs of juveniles? Can an organization deal with a fiscal crisis and still move in a direction that provides better outcomes for juveniles and their families?

Amid shrinking resources, program closures, underfunded treatment interventions and difficult legislative sessions, the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration (JRA) decided to examine options for improving services to youths committed to state care. Facing an already insufficient base budget, the leadership team forged ahead to significantly change interventions for youths, developing and implementing an integrated treatment model that holistically addresses treatment interventions for youths and their families from admission through aftercare.

The Challenge: Retrench or Retool?

Along with 47 other states, Washington has been faced with monumental budget deficits during the past few years. Balancing the state budget meant making deep cuts in existing programs and services. In Washington, JRA lost $14.8 million during the four-year period from fiscal years 2001 through 2004. Some of the reductions were due to a downturn in the population of youths committed to state longterm residential care. With JRA's base budget driven by population forecasts, a decrease in the population means a reduction in beds, and beds were reduced across the entire continuum of residential care. Two medium-security youth forestry camp programs were closed within three years, minimum-security group care beds were lost and entire housing units were mothballed on the remaining secure campuses. Although staff philosophically acknowledge that a reduced need for long-term residential juvenile services is a positive situation, the loss of friends and colleagues due to facility and unit closures took its toll on staff morale and optimum programming opportunities for youths.

In addition to bed reductions, service reductions occurred. Although cutbacks were successive and the impact to programs was felt over time, the comprehensive list of programs and services that were reduced or eliminated is staggering, particularly in parole aftercare programs. Employment programs, day reporting programs, counselor assistant services, key elements of the intensive aftercare program, staff specialists for substance abuse and sex offending treatment issues, and administrative and support services are all gone or have been significantly reduced. State employees received no cost-of-living increases for two years and saw their health care premiums increase.

At the same time, legislative appropriations did not provide the resources necessary to meet the mental health needs of youths in the system. Both the acuity of the treatment needs for these youths and the proportion of the population with significant mental health issues were growing. Today, more than 60 percent of the youths committed to JRA care either have a significant mental health issue identified on the standard mental health diagnostic tool, the DSM-IV (excluding oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, pedophilia or substance abuse as a single issue), are taking psychotropic medications or have been suicidal within the past six months.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Systems Change & Shrinking Budgets: Improving a Juvenile Justice System despite Declining Resources


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?