Friday, December 22, 2006

The issues are complex because the foster care system is underfunded and poorly managed

Judge scolds state on juvenile offenders
Kentucky Post, Feb. 16, 2006, pg. A2.

The state must stop using "emergency" regulations to house juvenile offenders in youth centers, a judge has ruled.

Franklin Circuit Judge William Graham ordered the Juvenile Justice Department to suspend its current practice of housing about 440 youths in its residential centers and supervising more than 1,000 in the community or on probation.

Graham said juvenile justice officials should not use regulations to "fill beds" at such centers, calling that a "bureaucratic sin."

Graham said juvenile justice officials should meet with public defenders, who challenged the regulations, to come up with a better way to evaluate youths and decide where to house them. The two sides are supposed to report back to him in about a week.

"I do not want you to lose track of the fact that you have been directed by the legislature to place these juveniles in an environment that is the least restrictive to their treatment," Graham said at a hearing Tuesday.

Assistant Public Advocate Gail Robinson said too many youths are being sent to one of the state's 12 residential centers instead of being placed in foster care or supervision at home.

"This is a complete transformation of the classification system," Robinson said.

Juvenile Justice Commissioner Bridget Skaggs Brown said the ruling will be appealed.

"I don't know that he understands the complexity of the issue," Brown said.


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