On April 21st, Senators Grassley and Whitehouse hosted an important Congressional oversight meeting involving compliance performance management, OJJDP, DOJ and ultimately – the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (not formally reauthorized since 2002). Experts provided valuable testimony; many important take home points were noted including the Senate’s strong support for reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.
What seemed apparent in the hearing was the recognition of multiple layers of responsibility for the problems – from budgeting and appropriations policy (Congress), to DOJ/OJJDP (regulatory, administrative, compliance) to states (implementation, compliance, integrity).
It is important to fix things and be accountable. Also important are transparency, authenticity and commitment to the policy goals of the JJDPA for everyone involved at every level. We are kidding ourselves if anyone believes that states can realistically reduce Disproportionate Minority Contact on a couple of hundred thousand dollars (such as being asked of the minimum allocation states and territories). Hard to imagine how folks can effectively monitor and comply with the expectations of the Act with current federal appropriations levels. We delude ourselves when advocating for an Act that reinforces this expectation if appropriations and implementation supports are not in place to fulfill policy goals. And we shouldn’t settle. By settling I mean advocating for a policy (in this case the JJDPA) and claiming victory if/when the Act is reauthorized but sufficient funding does not follow. Sure the JJDPA saves thousands of lives and is a terrific federal policy for protecting vulnerable children and youth. Yet we are likely to be complicit in misleading our states and ultimately our kids if Congress, DOJ/OJJDP and the states don’t put into place the proper tools to get the job done.
Colleagues at the National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives, National Implementation Research Network, SAMHSA, Administration for Children & Families (HHS), Children’s Bureau, Corporation for National & Community Service – Social Innovation Fund among others have a growing set of tools, research and ideas for how to truly get the most effective outcomes when investing public and private dollars. It is past time to build the sorts of collaborative and accountable partnerships in government (all levels) to achieve better results. Such partnerships offer the expertise and training that would significantly help in supplementing the existing wisdom found among career government employees. We owe it to our children and families, our taxpayers and all others to ensure that we properly resource and carry out effective policies. Let’s get the JJDPA reauthorized with updated prevention science embedded in the Act, improved regulatory guidelines and management, stronger administration but most of all — proper resources to get the job(s) done.