Dane County Announces Successful Program for Teen Boys Coming to County
August 22, 2006
An intensive residential and corrections program for teen boys is coming to Dane County where County Executive Kathleen Falk calls the proven Milwaukee approach key to protecting public safety, keeping youths out of costly institutions and teaching them how to live as law-abiding persons.
"It's called Focus. Its starting point is public safety," Falk told a Tuesday morning news conference. "Correcting troubling, illegal teen behavior is the target. And saving taxpayer dollars is a benefit."
The proposed Dane County Focus program would be modeled after the successful Milwaukee collaborative system of the same name run by St. Charles Youth and Family Services Inc. - a provider of residential treatment services for youth for more than 85 years.
“Right now, Dane County does not have a local residential care facility for boys which means all of our young males must leave their communities - and their families - if residential treatment and detention are warranted,” Falk said, adding county boys now are sent to juvenile correctional facilities including Lincoln Hills or Ethan Allen. “This distance also makes for a rough and all-too-often unsuccessful re-entry for the teen boy to return to his family and neighborhood -- and that also can mean more tough behavior to contend with by the community.”
Focus would be another piece of the county’s extensive menu of juvenile justice, which includes the detention center and shelter. The detention center and shelter serve as short-term holding places with specific purposes while a treatment plan is put together for the youth.
St. Charles in conjunction with the Milwaukee County Delinquency and Court Services Division and Wraparound Milwaukee developed the Focus program for Milwaukee County residents three years ago. The program aims to divert youth from institutional placements and instead provide education and behavior treatments to program participants in residential care centers.
Dane County’s version of the program, Falk said, would mirror the Milwaukee system where the work also would include transitional services back into their community.
Public safety is a top priority of the Focus program that includes a partnership with Dane County Department of Human Services staff as well as St. Charles staff to provide a continuum of care that begins with Residential Treatment and continues with a safe transition into their home community with the oversight of Social Workers and Intense Supervision Staff.
“The students are always with staff - inside and outside - always,” said Cathy Connolly, president of St. Charles Youth and Family Services which will provide the residential treatment phase of this initiative. “The goal in the Focus program is not to teach youth how to live in residential treatment, but instead to teach kids how to learn to live successfully outside of those four walls. There are programs and work with the kids in the building, but the majority of the work goes on outside of those four walls.”
Talks are under way between Dane County and St. Charles regarding a Dane County location for the Focus residential treatment center, as well as other details. The goal is to have the facility in operation by early 2007. Charles Glynn, who runs the Milwaukee program, also will have oversight of the Dane County system.
The Dane County version is proposed to handle up to 10 teen boys, ages 13 - 16, at any time who likely would stay an estimated 90 to 120 days. The average stay in the juvenile detention center is 7.3 days and the average stay in the juvenile shelter is 9.3 days.
Falk said it costs about $84,000 to house a youth for one year in a correctional institution. And participants who violate the Focus program rules may be sent to a correctional facility. One feature of Focus is it will mean a shorter stay, with the kinds of programming that will help a successful return to the family and community – thereby reducing costs overall. Falk and Connolly said the Focus program offers challenged boys a much better chance because they have their families and other loved ones nearby for support.
Dane County participants allowed into the Focus program will have committed serious offenses that would warrant time in a juvenile facility. However, their institution sentence will be stayed if they follow the rules and meet expectations of the Focus program. These include:
-- A stay of three to four months at the residential center which will require attendance at a specially designed school as well as groups and classes taught by the Focus program staff.
-- Electronic monitoring for 30 to 60 days after release to home or a foster/group home.
-- And, intensive supervision for an additional 60 days after electronic monitoring has ended.
“We are very excited about the opportunity to bring this program to Dane County and work with the staff here,” Connolly said.
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Joanne Haas, Office of the County Executive (608) 267-8823 or cell (608) 669-5606