Juvenile justice grant funds Functional Family Therapy Program

Judge: Costs for juvenile offenders significantly lower with ‘evidence-based’ program

Juvenile Court Associate Judge Richard Brooker addresses the Dougherty County Commission Monday about a $300,000 state/federal juvenile justice grant. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

Juvenile Court Associate Judge Richard Brooker addresses the Dougherty County Commission Monday about a $300,000 state/federal juvenile justice grant. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

ALBANY — The Dougherty County Commission is expected to sign off at its business meeting next week on a $300,000 juvenile justice incentive grant that will allow local officials to continue an evidence-based program approved by the state Legislature last year and used locally for the past nine months.

Juvenile Court Associate Judge Richard Brooker told commissioners Dougherty was one of 10 counties in the state to implement the “Functional Family Therapy Program” through which therapists involve a juvenile offender’s family in efforts to keep the youngster from becoming a repeat offender.

“Our compelling incentive is not to lock the youngsters up, to keep them out of the criminal justice system,” Brooker said. “The program functions on the belief that we’ll get better results (from individual offenders) by working with his entire family. Many of these families have more than one young person, so the hope is that we’ll reach more than the targeted offenders.

“And while we want to keep children out of our jails, we certainly will lock up the ones that are a danger to society. There are financial incentives to this intervention-type program as well: The cost to lock up a juvenile offender is $237 a day, while the per diem cost of working with these youngsters through this program is $53.07 per child.”

Brooker said the Functional Family Therapy Program grew from the state of Georgia’s complete overhaul of its juvenile justice system. Using data collected from several other states, Georgia turned to such evidence-based programs as Functional Family Therapy. The Juvenile Court judge said the county has three trained therapists who go into the juvenile offenders’ homes to work with them in a family setting.

“Fractured families are the cause of a lot of trauma in these childrens’ lives,” Brooker said. “By going into (offenders’) homes, we get a first-hand look at their surroundings. We also alleviate their No. 1 excuse for not making court appearances: ‘I couldn’t get a ride.’”

Brooker said the state allocated $270,500 for the Dougherty program, but a merger last week of the state-based Governor’s Office of Family and Children with the federal Criminal Justice Coordinating Council made the county eligible for an additional $29,500 in funding.

The county is expected to approve the grant at its business meeting next week.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the commission:

— Held public hearings on requests to grant special approval for building additions/site improvements at Berachah Fellowship Church at 1719 Cordele Road and Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church at 1010 Old Pretoria Road;

— Learned that its recent appointee to the ASPIRE Behavioral Health & Developmental Disability Services board, Neferteri Bey, is ineligible to serve on that board because she was recently employed by a Community Service Board affiliate (Lighthouse Nursing Services). Leonard Mintor remains a candidate for the board position;

— Heard a request for funding to construct two solidification pits at the county landfill. Low bidder on the project, J.G. Leone Enterprises of Canton, had the only one of three proposals that met specifications. Leone’s bid was $135,000. Solid Waste Director Scott Addison said the two aging solidification pits at the landfill were built around 1990-1991.