Yesterday was a milestone for the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE.org); you helped us top the 5,000 unique visitors a month threshold. We saw it coming from the first day of the New Year. Each day together you are piling up hundreds of page views and more and more of you are signing up for the JJIE.org newsletter. So if you are interested in juvenile justice issues, you are not alone. We are convinced that somewhere among the 5,250 of you, there are core groups who want to connect with other like-minded people.
Georgia’s Department of Human Services Commissioner Clyde Reese III has joined in the chorus of agency chiefs outlining for lawmakers the challenges ahead for state agencies charged with keeping children safe amid the most recent wave of massive budget cuts. His 30-minute presentation Thursday [view it here] before members of the joint House and Senate appropriations committee comes on the heels of new Governor Nathan Deal’s announcement last week that all state agency budgets on average will be slashed by four percent during the remainder of the fiscal year ending in June. In his first state-of-the-state address, Governor Deal also warned that another seven percent decrease should be expected for fiscal year 2012. Newly appointed Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Amy Howell presented her planned cuts before the same committee on Tuesday. Reese tells JJIE.org that the budget shortfalls will undoubtedly make work tougher for his agency, which oversees the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS), Aging Services Division (DAS), Child Support Services Division (DCSS) and Residential Child Care Office (RCC).
The man who Governor Sonny Perdue tapped seven months ago to serve as Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner is leaving his post after only seven months on the job. Garland Hunt officially departs this week following Governor-Elect Nathan Deal’s decision last month to name DJJ Deputy Commissioner Amy Howell in his place. Hunt is a lawyer, an ordained minister and co-pastor of the Father’s House church in Norcross, and a corrections industry veteran. He spoke to JJIE.org’s Chandra R. Thomas about his brief tenure overseeing a state agency with some 4,300 employees who are charged with monitoring and caring for some 20,000 youngsters. Many people were surprised to see you replaced after such a short time in the position. How do you feel about the decision? As I stated in the letter I sent to the staff, I certainly regret not being appointed to the position but I respect the governor-to-be’s appointment.
High school dropouts have been a national concern for decades and there have been lots of studies on why teens drop out and how to keep them in school. Now, researchers are debating how many teens have actually dropped out and the numbers vary wildly, from 3 million to a whopping 11 million teens. As JJIE.org reported last month, the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics released a report in December documenting that about 3 million 16 to 24-year-olds were not in high school and did not have a high school diploma. The Center did not include dropouts with a GED or dropouts who were institutionalized. Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies used the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and estimates a much higher number: 6.2 million.
In the season of warm fuzzy sweaters and family get-togethers, many young people in Georgia have but one New Year’s resolution – a safe place to sleep at night. An unknown number of teenagers and young adults are alone and homeless in Georgia. Who they are and where they are – no one knows much about them. For the first time Georgia is undertaking an ambitious project to count a representative sample of these homeless youth statewide, and develop a uniform reporting system. Funded by the Governor’s Office for Families and Children, the project takes place during the last week of January. The Homeless Youth Count Project is part of a bi-annual census of homeless people of all ages, mandated by HUD. As part of this initiative The State Department of Community Affairs is sending out a questionnaire to service providers in 152 counties, which for the first time, will ask for specific information about homeless young people, 24 and younger.
The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE.org) has confirmed from a confidential source that the girl charged in the death of a toddler left in her care is actually 10-years-old not 11, as has been extensively reported. The age of the girl facing felony murder and child cruelty charges in the death of two-year-old Zyda White is just one of many new details JJIE.org has learned about the babysitter, whose name has not been released. Sandy Springs Police spokesman Lt. Steve Rose has confirmed more details about what allegedly happened on September 18. Police said the mothers of both girls were co-workers at a Chili’s Restaurant near Perimeter Mall. They worked the evening shift at the restaurant on the night of the incident, according to Rose.
Georgia’s former Juvenile Justice Commissioner has a lot to say about the state of the system. Orlando Martinez was once credited with helping to address what a federal report called “egregious” conditions in the state’s juvenile detention system, but he resigned abruptly from his post in 2003 amid fallout over his decision to close a troubled Augusta youth prison. Although he no longer serves in an official capacity in Georgia, Martinez still calls the state home and he keeps a close eye on the system. In part one of a two-part series, he spoke to JJIE.org’s Chandra R. Thomas about all things juvenile justice in Georgia, including concerns about rampant racial disparities and the need for better mental health treatment. It’s a broad question, but how do you think Georgia is doing in general in the area of juvenile justice?