The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange has obtained an email that says the Georgia Governor’s Office for Children and Families (GOCF) Executive Director Jennifer Bennecke will resign August 15. The email to GOCF’s advisory board members, says Bennecke will not return following maternity leave. According to advisory board member Judge Steven Teske, Bennecke is resigning for personal reasons. JJIE also received a letter to GOCF from the Georgia Office of Audits and Accounts saying it will perform a “special examination” of GOCF’s “performance and expenditures, including Children’s Trust Fund revenues, that may be considered in connection with potential mergers with other organizations.” Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue created GOCF in 2008 by joining together the Children’s Trust Fund Commission and the Children and Youth Coordinating Council into one organization.
The Georgia House of Representatives has nixed the absorption of the Family Connection Partnership and its funding into the Governor’s Office of Children and Families (GOCF), an agency created in 2008 by then-Governor Sonny Perdue. The Senate has not yet voted on the appropriations. Officials of the GOFC had said folding the Partnership into their agency would save the state money and simplify access to information and services. Opponents of the move countered that consolidating the entities could undermine the Partnership’s commitment to community-based decision-making, jeopardize its private funding, and increase the size of state government. The House even included notes emphasizing its decision to quash the proposed transfer of the Partnership, a 20-year-old statewide public-private collaboration with an $8 million budget.
If you were expecting Dickens, forget it. Homeless kids in Georgia do not have a special look. They’re hiding right in front of you. That’s the first thing we learned from Mary, who looks like any other teenager in Atlanta. Her hair is tied up with a pink ribbon on top of her head and several subtle piercings adorn her face and ears. Dressed in a sweatshirt and jeans, she is quick to flash her big, bright smile. Mary is one of an unknown number of homeless young people living in Atlanta. Mary’s experience is not very different from that of many homeless teens. After a stormy relationship with her mother, she was kicked out of her parents’ house on her 18th birthday three weeks ago. “I didn’t get along with my mom, but my dad was okay. We got along,” she said.
I met him after only a few weeks on the bench. His name was Johnny and he was thirteen. He had been detained for disorderly conduct and disruption of school charges. He mouthed off at a teacher using what we call in the legal arena “abusive, profane, and opprobrious” words. In other words, he said “F— you.”
Johnny was of average stature for his age. He didn’t smile, but then again who does while shackled sitting in a courtroom? I was new at this and still trying to get a grasp on this judging thing.
The federal government expects the states to do more to prevent delinquency but is offering up less money to help with the problem. That’s a formula for tension, which became apparent this week as a 15-member federal committee heard state officials’ complaints about the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, according to Youth Today. The committee, which is charged with assessing juvenile justice reform, heard plenty at its second meeting about the OJJDP from Joe Vignati of the Georgia Governor’s Office for Children and Families, among others. Vignati and two others spoke about OJJDP compliance monitoring and funding issues. The three state officials agreed that OJJDP’s training and technical assistant is exemplary, but argued that the lack of funding is hindering efforts to support programs.
Twenty states now receive only a minimum allocation of $600,000 through the OJJDP. Funds for alternatives to imprisonment, such as emergency foster care and shelters, “have dried up,” said Nancy Gannon Hornberger of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice in Washington, D.C.
Among the concerns Vignati raised:
Data on juvenile justice and delinquency is inconsistent between the states.