GREENBELT – Most of the county’s youth services bureaus have had their funding restored for fiscal year (FY) 2017, but the Greenbelt CARES program is still pleading its case. As previously reported, all four youth services bureaus (YSB) in Prince George’s County were not originally granted funding from the Governor’s Office for Children (GOC), even […]
GREENBELT – Most of the county’s youth services bureaus have had their funding restored for fiscal year (FY) 2017, but the Greenbelt CARES program is still pleading its case.
As previously reported, all four youth services bureaus (YSB) in Prince George’s County were not originally granted funding from the Governor’s Office for Children (GOC), even though money had been designated for them in the state budget passed by the General Assembly and signed by the governor. About $600,000 was not released state-wide.
Now, the GOC has decided to fund the YSBs in the cities of College Park, Bowie and District Heights, according to Erin Montgomery, spokeswoman for GOC. She explained the initial denial was due to the way the county’s local management board (LMB) submitted its funding proposal.
“The proposal did not separate out the programs in the budget or services. Based on the performance measures reported by Greenbelt CARES, the one program was not funded, which affected all the youth services bureaus in Prince George’s County,” Montgomery said. “The Governor’s Office for Children met with the Prince George’s County Local Management Board and they agreed to submit a modification clarifying the program descriptions and budgets for the youth services bureaus individually. As a result, a new award notice was issued.”
However, because the performance data reported for Greenbelt CARES, the YSB run by the city of Greenbelt, did not meet GOC standards, the funding for that specific YSB was not provided for this fiscal year.
Liz Park serves as the executive director of Greenbelt CARES as well as the chair of the Maryland Association of Youth Service Bureaus. She said the decision is a partial victory.
“We were very happy that the Governor’s Office for Children recognized they had made a mistake. I was very relieved those three cities can continue with their grants and continue with their programs,” she said.
However, Greenbelt CARES is still being denied about $65,000, and four other YSBs in Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties have also still not been funded, she said. The funding deficit could have serious consequences for the organizations and the children they serve.
“I think ultimately if that funding is cut, then the city will have to make some decisions about what programs will be cut,” Park said.
YSBs across the state offer services such as counseling, crisis intervention, suicide prevention, alcohol and drug counseling and programs in schools, as well as provide referrals to other sources of help.
The city of Greenbelt is appealing the GOC’s decision. City Manager Michael McLaughlin wrote a letter to Arlene Lee, executive director of GOC, dated Aug. 17, expressing the city’s disagreement with the decision. In it, McLaughlin says the program was not informed that it was not meeting standards or given the chance to improve.
“There was no prior notice or communication from your office, or any other state agency, that improvements were needed or that our funding was in jeopardy,” he wrote.
Previously, Montgomery said agencies were informed in September 2015 that the state would be making changes and asking YSBs to demonstrate their effectiveness to ensure greater accountability from fund recipients.
But Greenbelt feels the performance measures the GOC is using to determine effectiveness are flawed. GOC uses data from the Child and Adolescent Functional Assessment Scale (CAFAS) in making the determination. Park says GOC only used one data point from that scale to judge the YSBs, which is not how the scale is meant to be used.
“They chose one data point, and they didn’t even share with the local management boards and the youth services bureaus that that was the data point that would be used to make these decisions,” she said.
McLaughlin’s letter says that data point was the change in CAFAS total score. Furthermore, he claims the scale’s standard is “51 percent to 58 percent of those who have completed treatment should show improvement. Greenbelt’s percentages of 60 percent in FY 2014, 53 percent in FY 2015 and 81 percent in FY 2016 meet or exceed this norm.”
Additionally, he wrote that Maryland law calls for the Department of Juvenile Services to also evaluate the YSBs’ effectiveness by looking at how youth required to be in the programs are doing once they complete their treatment.
“One hundred percent of the youth evaluated in 2012 and 2013 by Greenbelt CARES were found to NOT have been re-adjudicated,” he wrote.
Members of the General Assembly are planning to hold a hearing regarding how these YSB funds were handled this year. Originally set for Aug. 3, that hearing has been re-scheduled for Sept. 20, Park said.
“I would hope in the future they (GOC) would be more open and transparent,” she said.
Although Greenbelt CARES did not have its state funding restored, Montgomery said the GOC is working with the LMB to find alternative ways to finance its programs.
“While we will not fund the Greenbelt YSB due to performance, we identified a mechanism for the Local Management Board to provide funding and technical assistance to Greenbelt CARES to improve performance, so that is now a local decision as to how to proceed,” she said.