Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Call to Action: Help Protect Our Youth!

Friends and youth advocates around Illinois we have a problem,

It has just been announced that Governer Quinn's Fiscal Year 2010 budget axes the state budget for necessary youth services by 15%. I, along with The Chicago Area Project (CAP) the Illinois Collaboration on Youth (ICOY), and Illinois Council of Area Projects (CAP), together representing a coalition of more than one hundred (100) community-based agencies and organizations throughout the State, believe cuts in Youth Services, as proposed in the Governor’s FY 2010 Budget, will seriously erode the ability of community-based agencies to have a meaningful impact on the lives of young people in high-risk situations. With a proposed reduction of 14.80% (higher than in other areas of DHS) the system of community-based youth services is shouldering a disproportionate share of the burden. These programs represent a coordinated continuum that intervenes in the lives of youth in high-risk situations – many of whom are involved in, or about to enter, the juvenile justice or child welfare systems – making our communities safer places in which to live.

Call your legislators attention to the budget pages and “grants” lines that are listed below and asking them to restore funding to youth services.

Youth services programs are less costly and less restrictive forms of support, and are now seriously at-risk due to chronic under-funding. In our current economic condition, budget cuts may be necessary, but disproportionate cuts targeted at youth services are unfair to vulnerable youth and more expensive to taxpayers in the long term.

Community Services: Budget Page 7-26,
Under “Grants” Line “Community Services” Proposed CUT: $893,500

The product of 70 years of cooperation between the State and Chicago Area Project, this program prevents juvenile crime and violence, and diverts youth from the criminal justice system through the development, organization, and operation of grass-roots community organizations that manage programs for youth and families, plan and implement community betterment and development programs, and allow youth to safely pursue constructive and productive activities in economically disadvantaged communities.

Comprehensive Community Services: Budget Page 7-26, Under “Grants”, Line “Comprehensive Community Services” Proposed CUT: $1,661,000

These programs provide shelter and family reunification services to runaway and homeless youth, and accepts 24 hour, seven day a week referral from police and DCFS Child Welfare and Protective staff for youth and families in crisis situations. This program focuses on youth age 10 to 17 that are in danger of entering the Child Welfare System. It seeks family reunification, or the development of independent living capacity for affected youth.

Unified Delinquency Intervention Services: Budget Page 7-27 Line “Unified Delinquency Intervention Services” Proposed Cut: $459,900

UDIS programs provide the last hope for youth about to be committed to the Department of Corrections. Results over the past 28 years have indicated that intensive intervention at this final state has succeeded in redirecting large numbers of youth, and saving the state huge amounts in incarceration costs.

Teen REACH: Budget page 7-27 Line “Youth Programs” Proposed CUT: $2,450,000

This program funds intensive educational assistance programs for at-risk youth in danger of failing or dropping out of school. Programs are provided after school and during other out-of-school times, thus giving youth alternatives to gangs, violence and the risk of substance abuse.

Juvenile Justice Reform: Budget Page 7-27 Line “Juvenile Justice Reform” Proposed CUT: $550,800

These programs divert youth from the Juvenile Court, and refer them to intensive counseling and other psychological services, support services, and community advocacy and basic community support activities. Juvenile Court Judges and State’s Attorneys in number counties have recognized the effectiveness of these efforts as opposed to traditional involvement of identified youth in the juvenile justice system.

Since youth cannot vote and can't afford to make generous campaign contributions to those in power to influence policy, those of us with some political power need to advocate on their behalf. Please stand up for our at-risk youth by calling or writing your Legislators in the Illinois House and Senate. Thanks for your support.

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