Albert P. Russo, director of the Department of Human Resources, announced last week that DHR will relocate youthful offenders and personnel from Maple Glen, a detention center in Laurel, Md., to halfway houses in the city. DHR has been seeking to open four new juvenile homes by Aug. 1.
The Aug. 1 date represents the deadline set by the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration for the department to fully implement the program funded under LEAA's Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Act program. Default would result in the city repaying LEAA $200,000 in grant funds.
As of last week, the department said, 26 youngsters charged with truancy or behavior problems remained in Maple Glen and Cedar Knoll, another Laurel detention center. These are youngsters who have been placed by the courts in the PINS program (People In Need of Supervision.)
Maple Glen's 56 employees, the department said, will be transferred to positions at DHR youth group homes and facilities for delinquent youths.
"All details have been finalized for the total deinstitutionalization of all PINS youth, male and female, adjudicated and non-adjuducated," said Russo.
"This indicates that DHR is committed to finding alternate ways for providing care for children and youth. This thrust is going to continue."
Russo said the program's major advantage to youngsters is that it "enhances their reintegration process into the community."
"We're going to deinstitutionalize them and decriminalize them after that," added William Barr, administrator of DHR's Social Rehabilitation Administration.
At present DHR controls 12 homes in the city, designed to shelter youngsters considered by the courts to be delinquents, shelter cases or persons needing supervision.
The first home for PINS, the New Group Home located at 82 V Street NW, was opened May 5. It is equipped to shelter 12 girls.
Of the new facilities, two homes located at 1444 Harvard St. NW and 1459 Girard St. NW, will be operated by DHR for 28 youths - 14 in each home, the department said.
Two other homes will be subcontracted by DHR for 16 youths - eight in each house. They are: 1539 P St. NW, operated by Triangle Communications Associates, Inc., and 1375-77 Quincy St. NW, operated by Quiney Street Group Homes Facilities Corp. The new homes will bring DHR's total youth facilities to 16.
"This number of community-based facilities is new to us," said Thaddeus Taylor during a recent visit to the New Group Home. "It's a national trend that there will be more community-based facilties to deal with status offenders in a human way."
In addition to relocating the youngsters, Taylor, who is chief of the department's Bureau of Youth Services, said his office would utilize other DHR resources to insure "that all the students will receive maximum benefits."
Psychiatric counseling will be provided to the youths through DHR's mental health administration, said Taylor. Medical care will be offered through Medicaid and the bureau of family services. A social worker and psychologist will be made available to the homes through a newly devised office - the office of clinical services. Former Maple Glen teachers will be used as educational specialists. And a tutoring and recreation program will be handled by department staff and community volunteers, he said.
Taylor said the plan should be fully implemented by October.
Sidney Parker, administrator of Aftercare Services, Social Rehabilitation Administration (SRA), said the department is also having a special team evaluate resources in private, community-based facilities to assess their value to DHR's program.
"The department is aware of the availability of those services," added Taylor, "and we appreciate the quality of the service they provide. We need as many good resources as we can find."
Parker said DHR is also providing seven vans to be used for transportation by the homes.
Both Taylor and Parker expressed a desire to expand DHR's volunteer program. They presently have 18 volunteers working in the home.
"It would nice if we had more volunteers to assist us," said Parker. "It only takes a few days to be oriented by our volunteer staff. Then you're assigned to the home of your choice to assist in tutoring, sewing - whatever service you can provide."
The volunteer program, said Parker, would further benefit youngsters by allowing them to adapt to different personalities. This, he said, is one of the reasons homes have rotating counselors rather than live-in couples.
"We're not about having children adjusting to certain personalities," he said. "We want children to adjust to all personalities."