TeamChild at risk of losing the funding game Associate Editor “What would you do with a 14-year-old, retarded pregnant girl charged with battery on her mother?“Or a child, cared for by her octogenarian great grandmother, who is severely mentally ill and harasses her equally aged next-door neighbor to get an exciting ride in a police car?“How might one hope to arrange effective supervision of probation for a child whose own parents are incarcerated?”Second Judicial Circuit Judge Jonathan Sjostrom posed those very tough questions in a February 4 open letter.This Tallahassee juvenile delinquency judge already knows the answer:Let TeamChild, a program combining the skills of social workers and lawyers— through the Second Circuit Public Defenders Office, Legal Services of North Florida, and Florida State University College of Law’s Advocacy Center—tackle these most difficult cases of children charged with crimes.But as successful as TeamChild is in serving all of the needs of the whole child charged with a crime, the program is in danger of ceasing to exist because it is running out of money. Generous three-year start-up funding totaling $1.38 million from The Florida Bar Foundation for the TeamChild program ran out in June 2003. Last year’s legislative budget crisis nixed the hope of the program being funded through the Department of Juvenile Justice, as anticipated.“We are holding it together with spit and polish,” said Second Judicial Public Defender Nancy Daniels, who employs a social worker in her office to refer juvenile delinquent cases to legal services lawyers.“I’ve seen all the good it’s done with many, many delinquent children and their families. We need manna from heaven. If we had our druthers, we would have a steady funding source.”Instead, Kris Knab, executive director of Legal Services of North Florida, is furiously applying for mini-grants, dipping into her own pocket, squeezing a few thousand from the Tallahassee police chief, organizing Jazz for Justice benefits, arranging to reap some proceeds from donated goods at a thrift shop, and otherwise begging for more to keep the $121,500-a year program running that serves 112 clients in Leon and Gadsden counties. She has enough money to keep the program afloat through June. Legislators, she wonders, are you listening?“These children are on the edge of falling into nothingness for the rest of their life. Once they go over the edge, it’s hard to get them back up,” Knab said.“They’ve been labeled and kicked out, because at some point, too, your family gets disgusted you are a burden. This program is catching them right there at the edge of disaster and turning them into total successes.”She is quick to add: “Not all of them. We can’t catch all of them.”But there are so many successes to celebrate.Victor Williams, the social worker at the Second Judicial Circuit Public Defender’s Office, can put names and faces on those successes. Without TeamChild, Williams said he knows children will be placed inappropriately in juvenile delinquency residential commitment programs that won’t meet their real needs, because they don’t address the underlying issues that contribute to criminal activity: the need for special education services and mental health care, for starters.“I know most of the clients and their families, and it’s pretty cool to really help out,” Williams said. “I’ll be at a grocery store and bump into a kid’s mom, who tells me she appreciates her kid is on the honor roll now.“Or I may see someone who was a problem kid who DCF (Department of Children and Families) placed with a sister, and he tells me, ‘Yeah, man, I’m staying with my sister and I’m working on my GED at Lively (Vocational-Technical School) now.’“This program gives the client a sense that someone is listening to their needs,” Williams said. “And we don’t just drop the case. When problems arise, they know they can call me, and I can speak with a civil attorney and get things done. It makes parents feels like there is someone to reach out and touch.”TeamChild’s triumphs go beyond anecdotal stories.Proven success has been measured by an independent evaluation by Stefan Norrbin, a professor of economics, and David Rasmussen, dean of the College of Social Sciences at FSU.The goal of their 2002 study was to find out whether or not TeamChild significantly reduces the arrest rate among troubled youth who had been previously arrested two to three times a year. The evaluation found that the TeamChild program lowered post-treatment arrest rates by 45 percent. And the project generated between $2.44 and $3.91 of benefits for each dollar spent by saving law-enforcement and social-services costs, and as well as losses suffered by victims.“Whether a kid recidivates isn’t affected,” Rasmussen explained in an interview. “But if they do recidivate, it’s not as often. These kids are incredibly troubled, and there’s been lots of child abuse. The idea of saying they will never do anything again is probably heroic.”TeamChild, he concluded, is a cost-effective, beneficial alternative to “not just warehousing kids terribly cheated by society, by their parents actually, as a matter of fact, because they have had no one to advocate for them.”“The results are excellent on this one-year study,” said Kent Spuhler, director of Florida Legal Services. “If you look at that study, they were saying, ‘Boy, we really want to study these children two, three years from now, because it looks like the results will be even more impressive.”Spuhler said the TeamChild project advocates “ran into the perfect storm.”“You do something that you hope will work. We conceptualized it. Fortunately, The Florida Bar Foundation is willing to do risk funding, so they were able to put the money in the project when it was our idea. Then, when our idea was proven to work, we had the budget storm (during last year’s legislative session),” he said.And there was a shipwreck of funding that has left a scramble to piece it back together.“What we find is families have legal barriers, not just social service barriers. And if you don’t get rid of the legal barriers, social service work doesn’t have an opportunity to achieve success,” Spuhler said.The original TeamChild program was created in 1995 in Seattle, Washington, and has been replicated in Leon and Gadsden counties, as well as Broward County, with great success through the Foundation start-up funding. (Broward County’s TeamChild program serves only girls and the county’s special children’s services taxing district has prevented the program from shutting down, Sphuler said.)TeamChild’s fans include a cross-section of court officials, including Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente, who chairs the Steering Committee on Families and Children in the Court; Pat Badland, chief of the Office of Court Improvement at the Office of the State Courts Administrator; Second Judicial Circuit State Attorney Willie Meggs, president of the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association; Daniels, president of the Florida Public Defender Association; and Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell. They have written letters of support in a desperate search for funding that runs out in June.In his letter, Judge Sjostrom summed up TeamChild with a strong endorsement:“Our laws promise to both punish criminal conduct and also to address social, educational, mental health and other basic needs that, when neglected, breed juvenile crime. In my experience, TeamChild was indispensable in keeping the second part of the promise to the most troubled children.“Without TeamChild, each case would simply be processed as just another juvenile crime. I cannot pretend that we succeeded with all such children. But without TeamChild, many, many more children would have been lost in the system.” TeamChild at risk of losing the funding game March 1, 2004 Jan Pudlow Associate Editor Regular News
Gagliano died April 13.Funeral services were heldWednesday. A full obituaryappears on page 25. Laurence Downes, CEO of New Jersey Resources, a major supporter of Jersey Shore Partnership, recalled how he was impressed by Gagliano’s vision back in 1996. “Thanks to his leadership and tenacity, the partnership has been a driving force in the protection and preservation of our beaches and coastal communities. The Jersey Shore is Tom’s legacy and all of us who live and work here are indebted to him.” By Christina Johnson Gaffney, a retired U.S. Navy vice admiral, said he was proud to have been a recipient of the JSP’s Thomas Gagliano Leadership Award. “I received it one year. It was great,” he said. Paul Gaffney, the former president of Monmouth University between 2000 and 2013, got to know Gagliano while working closely with him on an effort to save the military bases in New Jersey. “He definitely knew New Jersey politics better than anyone else who served on the commission,” said Gaffney. Retired state Sen. Joe Kyrillos was a longtime friend and colleague in politics. “Tom became a giant in Monmouth County,” he said. “The proof of that is he’s been out of public life for 30 years and people are talking about him, days after his death, in a very significant way.” They also worked together on the Jersey Shore Partnership. “He was concerned for the growth, stability and prosperity of the county, especially the beaches. He understood the value of tourism and understood that keeping the beaches in good shape was important to tourism. In his later years, Gagliano used his experience to help create the Jersey Shore Partnership (JSP), which successfully advocated for the establishment of a $25 million shore protection fund. Its annual fundraiser at Sandy Hook, scheduled for June 10 this year, brings local supporters together. “He was a great man and agreat visionary,” said MargotWalsh, executive director ofthe JSP. “He saw a need andjumped on it, making sureour beaches are protected.” RED BANK – Family, friends, colleagues and political leaders mourned the passing of former state Sen. S. Thomas Gagliano, who was active in Monmouth County and state politics for decades. A Republican who lived in Oceanport, Holmdel, Rumson and Red Bank, many remembered him this week as a statesman who cared deeply about this area.