Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare-Related Spending in the 2014 Spending Deal

Note: This piece was updated on January 16

We may have an actual piece of legislation that sets federal spending for 2014. Both chambers have passed the $1.1 trillion spending bill, and it is hard to imagine a scenario where President Barack Obama wouldn’t sign a bipartisan agreement.

Details on the potential 2014 appropriations were made public yesterday. The Chronicle has compiled many of the lines of significance to those involved with child welfare and juvenile justice.

Click here for a look at the numbers. Following here are observations on some standout figures:

School Safety

A new funding stream dedicated to school safety was inevitable after the Newtown school shooting. President Obama’s notion was to carve $150 million out of the Community Oriented Policing Services budget, and allow states to use that carve-out to hire whoever they felt necessary: more officers, school psychologists, counselors or social works.

The plan here is a $75 million pot, $25 million of which goes to research on the root causes of violence in schools, with specific mention of the two hot-button theories: “gaps  in the nation’s mental health system and exposure to violence in media.”

The other $50 million would be given out for pilot projects on improving school safety, with no caveats thrown in about what strategies would qualify for funding. That could change by the time a funding solicitation comes out.

Juvenile Justice

There are two pots of money that go out to states that comply (or at least try) with the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). One is the Title II formula grants, and the Juvenile Accountability Block Grants (JABG).

The combination of Title II and JABG totaled $140 million in 2010, and fell to $108 million in 2011 as spending stalemates intensified. The total sunk again to $70 million in 2012, and then again to $69 million in 2013.

The 2014 proposal at hand does two things that supporters of the JJDPA won’t like. First, it lowers the total to $55 million, and second, it puts all of that money in Title II and eliminates JABG.

“We are deeply disappointed that the appropriators chose to terminate the much-needed Juvenile Accountability Block Grant program,” said Marie Williams, executive director of the Coalition on Juvenile Justice, in a statement. “JABG funding has enabled states to develop and implement essential system improvements including the hiring of key staff, the development of alternatives to detention, and the training of juvenile justice professionals in evidence-supported and accountability-based practices.”

Another pot tied to JJPDA, Title V prevention grants, is supposed to go to state advisory groups to serve state needs, but is routinely earmarked for other projects by Congress before it’s disbursed.

This year an interesting new pet project was added: $5 million for Juvenile Justice and Education Collaboration Assistance to “encourage evidenced-based responses to youth discipline in schools and lessen the need for involvement of police and courts in youth misbehavior.”

That money might have been plucked from Alcohol Prevention and Gang/Youth Education and Prevention, which both get chopped from $5 million in 2013 down to $2.5 million in this plan.

Another juvenile justice program on the chopping block: Community-based violence prevention, which is slated for $5.5 million, the lowest since it was inserted as an appropriation in 2010.

Unaccompanied Minors

It’s always eye-catching when the happy-to-cut House goes ways above the president’s request. So it is with the Unaccompanied Minors program, which is overseen by the Administration for Children and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Obama asked for about $500 million, which is well above the $302 million set for the program in 2013 and $267 million in 2012. The House-approved figure for 2014: $868 million.

The program essentially mirrors most foster care assistance for children who arrive as refugees, seeking asylum, or as victims of trafficking.

John Kelly is the editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change

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John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.