Family Youth Services Part Two: And Still Not Just Veteran Families

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Last week, I wrote about the problem our local youth bureaus were facing due to funding cuts, and particularly about the youth Bureau in Massapequa, the Yes Community Counseling Center (

). From that article two questions arose: what are some of the details surrounding the funding cuts, and how do those cuts directly affect our veterans and their families. As most veterans know, while the services provided by the VA to the veteran are "top shelf," the services provided by the VA to the veteran's family are almost nonexistent. Any reduction in community-based services will affect the family of veterans, and do so significantly. As to the details surrounding the funding cuts, read on.

So Say The Association of New York State Youth Bureaus

The Association of New York State Youth Bureaus has provided detailed information about the proposed funding cuts to our communities' youth bureaus. What follows is some of what they have said.

The Association of New York State Youth Bureaus represents New York s Youth Bureau Systems which is comprised of 109 county and municipal youth bureaus providing quality youth development, prevention, and intervention services to over 2 million youth, since 1945.

Understanding the troubling fiscal and economic climate in New York State, there is no doubt that tough decisions need to be made. However, this crisis brings an opportunity to restructure youth prevention, intervention and development services in New York State without dismantling the current system. Unfortunately, the Governor s SFY 2009-10 proposed budget does just that - dismantles a current effective, cost-efficient long standing youth bureau service system. In so doing, absolving New York State from oversight, while at the same time muddling detention-services with prevention-services through the use of a 'county block grant.'

The proposal absolves the New York State Office of Children and Family Services responsibility of youth development and prevention by allowing for a county block grant approach that will be disjointed, with no state oversight and no accountability to youth prevention services. The proposal eliminates the current youth bureau system as it stands in Executive Law, Article 19a and instead proposes a block grant where the Chief Executive Officer of a municipality designates the lead agency for the purposes of administering the grant.

The proposal reduces funding and eliminates any matching requirements which will force youth bureaus out of business and could potentially eliminate preventive services. Counties may be forced to choose between mandated detention services and youth prevention services, with less money than ever available.

Most disturbing is a retroactive January 1, 2009 effective date, which today, leaves all youth bureaus uncertain of funding and therefore of existence.

An Alternative To The Executive s Proposal For Youth Programs Block Grant

1) Keep Executive Law 420 Article 19a to maintain the current youth bureau system;

2) Reverse the repeal of the SFY 2008-09 appropriations.

3) Establish a statewide task force to look at the current youth development, prevention and intervention system and make recommendations for a youth prevention system which cost effectively serves the best interest and needs of the 2 million youth receiving services;

4) Delay the January 1, 2009 block grant effective date until prudent review of the current system and the needs of all youth, including high-risk youth, is conducted;

5) Work collaboratively to develop Youth Prevention Funding and remove any State mandated services (Secure and Non-secure Detention Service) from any proposed Youth Prevention Funding stream;

6) Consolidate additional State youth prevention funding in a Youth Prevention funding stream, which allows for leveraging of public and private funding, including federal funds.

7) Assure that such funding streams reaches youth in all counties and cities, towns and villages in New York State;

8) Uphold the responsibility of the NYS Office of Children and Families Services for system accountability; approving local plans; guiding cost/benefit methods and calculations; providing technical assistance; training and capacity; developing outcome and performance criteria, evaluating outcome measurement and conducting resource development work;

9) Sets aside certain funding for youth development, prevention and intervention training and capacity building to include training at the local and statewide level by sharing best practices, enhancing monitoring and evaluation, researching national models, and adhering to positive outcomes.

A Parting Comment

Any review of the dollar-amounts surrounding this issue points out the not-too-significant total dollar value associated with youth bureau funding when it's funding is compared to the New York State budget taken as a whole; admittedly some have argued otherwise. However, what cannot be argued is the significant impact on the youths of our community that our communities' youth bureaus and agencies have had, and should continue to have. How anyone can even consider reducing the youth bureau funding suggests that those considering this reduction have either been given other than sage advice or no good advice at all.

--- Regards, Walt Schmidt