YSI: Live from the National Partnership for Juvenile Services!

After spending last week at one of the country’s biggest child welfare pow-wows – the annual Alliance for Children and Families conference – Youth Services Insider is back in the Midwest. Up this week is one of the major annual juvenile justice convenings, the National Symposium hosted by the National Partnership for Juvenile Services (NPJS) in Louisville, Ky.

What’s fun to do out here in downtown ‘Ville?, we asked our server at local BBQ Doc Crows, noshing on hushpuppies and such with Free Minds Book Club founders Tara Libert and Kelli Taylor (Brenda and Dylan couldn’t make it…that’s a little free 90210 humor for ya!)

“It’s mostly based around bourbon,” the server conceded, after ticking off a few bars. That’ll work!

NPJS is a collective formed in 2004 to house and unite the members of four more niche groups:

  • Council for Educators of At-Risk and Delinquency (CEARDY)
  • Council for Juvenile Detention (formerly the National Juvenile Detention Association)
  • Council for Juvenile Corrections (formerly National Association for Juvenile Correctional Agencies)
  • Council for Juvenile Justice Trainers (formerly Juvenile Justice Trainers Association)

YSI spent most of day one at the meeting of the NPJS board of directors, hoping to get a feel for how the group was doing and what it was paying attention to. A few things we picked up:

Partnership Healthy…and Growing?

After an ugly end to NPJS residency at Eastern Kentucky University, the organization seems to be healthy. Its board approved a healthy audit, and the symposium itself yielded 500 pre-registered attendees, partially achieved by a partnership with the Coalition for Juvenile Justice (CJJ), the national representative for state advisory groups on juvenile justice.

CJJ held its Southern Regional meeting on Sunday and Monday, while NPJS began its sessions on Monday afternoon. That had YSI thinking: could a merger of CJJ into NPJS work for both sides?

It was certainly not broached at the board meeting, but YSI knows for sure discussion on the subject took place years ago to no avail.

It could make more sense now. CJJ has been without an executive director since Nancy Gannon-Hornberger left in August.  The organization has received a $500,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation to produce its annual Models for Change; it is a large chunk of CJJ’s annual revenue, and it could disappear soon as MacArthur winds down its  juvenile justice reform initiative.

Prison Rape Elimination Act Standards a Looming Concern

“PREA Is Not Coming…PREA Is Here”

That comment was made at the board meeting by Council for Juvenile Detention President (and NPJS Chair) Terry Martinek. It nicely summed up the sentiment shared by many board members, which is that federal audits on PREA standard compliance are coming soon and many facilities are not even clear yet on what those standards mean.

It is not the first time YSI heard this; click here for previous coverage. Look for a big push from  NPJS to train and educate on PREA standards.

“The scary thing is everyone has an interpretation” of the standards right now, Martinek said.  “Don’t go based on your interpretation.”

The board also approved an official position statement that brings NPJS in line with the PREA standards on juvenile facility staffing:

“The National Partnership for Juvenile Services advocates that regulation, policy, procedure and practice ensure a minimum ratio of one direct care staff to no more than eight juveniles during waking hours, and a ratio of one direct care staff member to no more than sixteen juveniles during sleeping hours, with a minimum of two direct care staff on duty at all times regardless of population.

That is the staffing ratio that PREA requires of juvenile facilities by October of 2017.

Taking the Lead on Education

The NPJS board also took steps to start augmenting its education agenda. It approved a motion from CEARDY President Randy Farmer to build a coalition of organizations to push for national certification of juvenile facility educators.

National certification can secure better pay for juvenile educators. But tecause the National Certification Board requires long-term data collection and videotaped classes as part of the application process, it is virtually impossible for facility teachers to be certified.

The National Certification Board has already informed Farmer that it is sympathetic to CEARDY’s desire for a separate process, but it would cost approximately $150,000. Farmer now has his board’s blessing to piece together a group to go after that money.

One of his allies will be the Correctional Education Association, which the board approved as its first-ever “reciprocal” member. That means the two entities have agreed to mutual membership at a yet-to-be-determined level, and that NPJS will have a spot on the CEA board. CEA President Rhea Bowman already sits on the NPJS board.

It took some back and forth at the meeting to formally approve the reciprocal arrangement, which does somewhat preclude NPJS’ ability to compete for members with CEA. But the NPJS newsletter from earlier this year suggests that the arrangement has been in the works for some time, and it might not be the last for NPJS.

“In 2013, NPJS will develop similar affiliations with organizations whose primary focus may not be the juvenile justice field, but may have a strong interest in the welfare of our youth and staff,” the newsletter from January of 2013 said.

More tomorrow after YSI takes in some workshops!

Youth Services Insider is mostly written by Chronicle Editor-in-Chief John Kelly

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John Kelly
About John Kelly 1128 Articles
John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.