* With more than 200 Chicago shootings since the year began, this is very bad news, indeed…
The mounting toll from the Illinois budget impasse is now reaching vital programs that effectively keep youth out of the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. On Feb. 15, Children’s Home + Aid will suspend crisis intervention services for runaways and youth at risk of delinquency in Englewood and West Englewood.
The services are delivered through the state-mandated Comprehensive Community-Based Youth Services (CCBYS) program, which has been operating without payment since July 1. Children’s Home + Aid was on track to serve an estimated 70 youth this year through the CCBYS program on the South Side of Chicago. The suspension follows months of CCBYS program reductions by providers across the state, a direct result of the budget impasse.
“This is the first of many program suspensions we are forecasting around the state,” said Andrea Durbin, CEO of Illinois Collaboration on Youth, a statewide network of organizations delivering programs, services and advocacy for at-risk youth and families. “Providers tell us they are expecting to make significant cuts in services and staff in February and March. These are the same providers who have been working in good faith since July 1 to meet the needs of kids and families in crisis in every county in Illinois. But without a budget or the possibility of payment any time soon, we will see more and more of these program suspensions and eventually every CCBYS program will close.”
The consequences of the suspension of the CCBYS program in Englewood and West Englewood – communities in Chicago marked by unemployment and violence – are significant and sharply undercut commitments from Gov. Rauner and the General Assembly to increase community-based services. Youth will be turned away from successful, low-cost community programs, and increase the pressure on already strained and expensive systems such as the justice system, schools and child welfare.
CCBYS provides crisis intervention and family reunification services for almost 7,000 youth, aged 10-17, statewide, roughly 3,000 of whom are runaways, locked out of their homes, or otherwise at-risk. These mandated services are provided through CCBYS at an average cost of $1,883 per youth, per year, far less than foster care. As programs suspend operations due to lack of funding, those youth served by CCBYS will be referred directly to DCFS, and many will be pulled into the foster care system.
“DCFS only has about 2,350 youth, aged 10-17, in out-of-home care now,” said Durbin. “The child welfare system is simply not equipped with enough hotline workers, investigators, case managers, or foster homes to respond to an influx of adolescents coming from the CCBYS program. The lives and safety of children and youth will be at risk.”
The fallout from the budget impasse is growing, according to an ICOY survey of CCBYS and Homeless Youth providers across the state carried out at the beginning of January. Forty percent of those CCBYS providers responding have reduced staff and decreased or restricted services since July 1. Among Homeless Youth providers responding, 50% have cut staff and 36% have decreased or restricted services; one program has closed. Based on the survey, ICOY projects significantly more cutbacks, including closings, as soon as February and March.
The likely damage to the most vulnerable youth and families, while actually increasing long-term financial costs to the state and local communities, comes as Gov. Rauner has pledged to reduce the Illinois prison population by 12,000 men and women over the next decade, focusing on rehabilitation programs rather than incarceration.
The budget stalemate also threatens new legislation that went into effect Jan. 1 designed to support at- risk youth with services that can keep them out of the juvenile justice system. Under P.A. 99-254, alleged delinquent minors under 13 are meant to be provided CCBYS services, rather than be held in a detention center. Another new law, P.A. 99-456, calls on community providers to assist schools with interventions to minimize student suspensions and expulsions. Now, with resources squeezed, there are questions about whether the legislation can be effectively implemented.
“The Governor and the General Assembly have had some great ideas about shifting youth from high-end care to community-based services,” said Durbin. “But the lack of a state budget is placing children and youth at risk, starving community-based providers, and haphazardly forcing program closures and suspensions. It’s difficult to see how we make progress as a state under these circumstances,” she added.
Like I said earlier today, you also gotta walk the walk.
…Adding… From Emily Miller…
The bevy of press conferences held by the governor and minority leaders last week addressing issues ranging from government takeovers of CPS to public pension reform gave the press a chance to forget the ongoing damage the budget impasse continues to have on real people across Illinois.
Friday, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois closed 30 programs, cutting off services for 4,700 Illinoisans, and laying off 750 staff. In response, the governor said he was “frustrated,” but did not seem any more willing to make getting to a fully funded budget his number one priority.
Without a budget, Illinois continues to operate like a plane on autopilot running on fumes, and children and families are the ones getting shoved off to lighten the load.
Here’s this morning’s dose of devastation: by now you’ve probably seen the press release from ICOY announcing the suspension of a program called CCBYS that provides crisis-intervention for at-risk youth on Chicago’s south side. These are kids who have been locked out of their houses, who have fled dangerous homes, or who are at risk for being placed into the juvenile justice system.
This is not a “Chicago issue.” CCBYS programs exist in every county in this state. Each day the governor and lawmakers fail to agree on a budget, children in every house and senate district come one step closer to being left alone with no one to help them. By February and March, the program will be a shell of what it was, and eventually, without funding, every CCBYS program will close.
Until now, CCBYS providers have been able to step in and advocate for the safety and well-being of those children. Children in immediate physical danger received compassionate, professional and immediate care that kept the number of CCBYS cases referred to DCFS for further intervention down to about 11 per month. There’s no immediate formal plan in place to deal with those children, but ultimately it’s a DCFS issue, and the program closure will increase the referral of these types of cases by 2,200%, according to a memo ICOY released earlier this year. In case people need reminding, that hotline referral number is 1-800-25-ABUSE.
And here’s the thing- it’s not rocket science. This is what happens when you don’t have a budget for seven months. We were warned that children would be hurt if a budget was not prioritized. We knew that the children abandoned when CCBYS programs closed would end up costing the state even more when they’re placed in foster homes or institutional settings.
In fact, ICOY issued a memo in September, during our third month without a budget, warning that children would be hurt, citing not only the financial cost of this program suspension, but also the dangerous physical and psychological cost to Illinois children closing these programs would have.
But instead of passing a budget, the governor and leaders continue to sit back and play games that, for them, have only political ramifications. For Illinois children, the games grown-ups are playing are life-threatening.
Last Friday Illinois walked away from 4,700 vulnerable Illinoisans. This morning, Illinois abandoned 34 children in one neighborhood. Anyone who doesn’t get that the children and families in their neighborhood are next isn’t paying attention.
Policy and Advocacy Director, Voices for Illinois Children
Co-Coordinator, Responsible Budget Coalition