Children brought to D.C. Superior Court by jurors, witness and defendants used to disrupt trials by playing in the hallways or turning court personnel into baby-sitters.
Since 1974, a child care service sponsored by the volunteer group Friends of Superior Court has largely eliminated the problem, but the program's financing runs out Thursday.
More than a dozen alcoholics are sitting in the D.C. jail because of offenses related to their drinking. They have been accepted by a nonprofit residential rehabilitation program. Stepping Stones, but have not been released because of that agency's uncertainty over its financing.
Both of these programs, along with about 20 others, previously were funded by U.S. Law Enforcement Assistance Administration grants to the District of Columbia. This year the city's request for $1.4 million from LEAA was rejected, and the 20 programs are competing with each other for a fraction of that amount - $300,000.
The District's spending plan for the fiscal year 1977 grant arrived at LEAA nearly seven months late and was not acceptable under LEAA standards, the federal agency ruled last April.
LEAA denied all but $200,000 of the city's funding request - that portion sought for juvenile justice programs - and offered instead, a $300,000 grant if the District can submit by the end of June an acceptable proposal for spending it.
D.C. Corporation Counsel John R. Risher and managers of the private and government agencies that operate the affected programs blamed the rejection of the initial plan on personnel problems in the Office of Criminal Justic Plans and Analysis, which is governed by the city's Criminal Justice Coordinating Board.
For nearly a week, members of the board and the office, both of which have been reorganized under Risher-s direction, have met day and night in efforts to decide what programs should be funded under the reduce allotment.
Managers of the public and private agencies that expected to operate programs with money from the larger LEAA grant have complained they are being unfairly penalized and forced to compete with one another because of the planning office's failures.
A subcommittee of the board separatly interviewed each of the affected agencies last week end and is scheduled to vote tonight on which programs should be financed. A final vote by the full board is scheduled Thursday.
"It really seems unfair that the program and the clients should be punished for a planning error that was not their fault," said Mary Holman, director of the Child Protection Center, an antiabuse program at Children's Hospital.
Alan Schuman, director of the Superior Court social services division said he felt "ambivalent" while defending has program before the subcommittee. "I found myself rooting for my program and all the others too," Schuman said.
"There are some hard choices involved," admitted Geoffrey M. Alprin, the deputy corporation counsel appointed by Risher to oversee the planning office. "We lost $1,141,000 and some programs just won't be able to go."
Dick Welch, director of Stepping Stones, said his agency, which receives private and church donations but is dependent on the LEAA money, will have to shut down if it is denied funding or move to another jurisdiction that has money.
Judges at Superior Court again will have to endure restless children in their courtrooms after Thursday, unless the child care service is chosen, director Mary Ann Purce said. In addition, persons unable to afford bond will have to return to jail if the affected agencies that provide third party custody to the indigent persons do not get money.
About 290 people are released to third parties through agencies by financed LEAA money in 1976, according to the Bureau of rehabilitation.
The District's 1978 LEAA funding also may be in jeopardy, Risher said in an open letter to the criminal justice program agencies recently. Risher said many persons of "extremely sound judgement," believe the city cannot meet the July 31 deadline for submittee its 1978 spending plan.
LEAA since has given the District a $24,000 technical assistance grant to hire a consultant to help prepare the 1978 plan, in addition to agreeing that the city may submit it as late as September, Alprin said yesterday.