Children's Defense Fund-California, Youth Justice Coalition, Urban Peace Institute and Anti-Recidivism Coalition have joined together to voice concern about "voluntary supervision" by the Los Angeles Probation Department over youth who have no prior court or probation involvement. In their report, "WIC 236 - 'Pre-Probation' Supervision of Youth of Color With No Prior Court or Probation Involvement," the youth advocacy organizations argue that supervision by a law enforcement agency, like probation, is not the appropriate response to a demographic of overwhelmingly youth of color who are struggling with mostly school performance problems, like poor grades and attendance.
California’s Welfare and Institutions Code section 236 (WIC 236) is the statute that grants probation departments across the state the authority to intervene, through direct or indirect services, in the lives of any young person, including those who have not been accused of violating the law. It is a practice law enforcement officials believe deters youth delinquency but some community organizations are questioning whether this practice is doing more harm than good.
Numerous research studies have demonstrated that law enforcement’s work with low-risk youth can be ineffective or actually serve to “widen the net” – increasing rather than preventing eventual youth involvement with the court, detention and incarceration systems.
In 2014-15 in Los Angeles County, more than 17,000 youth who had no history of court or probation involvement were labeled “at risk” and being engaged by probation as well as district attorney officials in their schools or communities. The organizations hope to engage other governmenommunity-based stakeholders and county agencies in examining WIC 236 supervision. Ultimately, they argue for shifting resources away from law enforcement entities towards education and community-based interventions that more appropriately serve youths' needs..
Research has clearly shown that removing LA County youth from their families and placing them in a foster care or group home setting as a solution to their developmental challenges is ineffective and imposes significant fiscal costs to the county. The educational, emotional and social costs to our youth and their families are even greater. By creating financial incentives to reduce the number of youth placed in out-of-home placement facilities by probation or child welfare in LA County, the Title IV-E Waiver program presents a tremendous opportunity for LA County to invest significantly in improving relationships between youth and their families, and their communities.
This policy brief highlights opportunities presented by the Title IV-E Waiver program to improve the lives of LA youth and their families by allowing LA County to re-direct funds from out of home placements towards programs and services that improve outcomes for youth and families while youth remain in the home. It further advises LA County to seize the opportunity to place youth and their families at the center of services and supports known to improve the lives of youth and their families through the strategic use of Title IV-E Waivers.
Read the full report here.