(Posted March 3, 2017)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Madison County’s juvenile court division has earned a substantial increase in the money it receives from the Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS). As a result, Judge Christopher J. Brown is increasing the size of his staff and acquiring more space at the courthouse.
Every year, DYS allots a base amount of funding to each of the state’s juvenile courts based on the county’s population. Madison County received $74,136 in fiscal year 2016 (July 1, 2015-June 30, 2016) and FY2017 (July 1, 2016-June 30, 2017).
On top of the base allotment, courts can earn additional money, called reclaimed funds, by meeting state standards on how they serve youth offenders, file paperwork, and accumulate felony adjudications. Since taking office in February 2015, Brown has led his staff in implementing new efficiencies and programs, and the changes have paid off. In FY16, Madison County received $26,527 in reclaimed funds. In FY17, that amount jumped to $117,813.
That’s not all. DYS rewarded Madison County with another $51,070 this year for implementing detention alternatives—programs that keep youth offenders out of jail. Madison County’s new programs are community service and truancy mitigation. With the latter, a diversion coordinator works with parents and youths to curb truant behavior and, therefore, cut down on truancy cases going to court.
All totaled, Madison County went from $100,663 in DYS funds in FY16 to $243,019 in FY17.
“The grant money is there for the taking. You just have to go and get it,” Brown said.
Brown started his judgeship with three full-time staff members in the juvenile division. Using DYS money, he has increased his staff to five full-timers and is adding two more—an additional filing clerk within the next couple of weeks and another probation officer by early summer. His probate staff has grown, too, from three full-timers to four.
With a larger staff comes a need for more space. On Feb. 27, the county commissioners granted Brown use of the former municipal court office located down the hall from his juvenile/probate offices in the courthouse basement. The office has sat vacant since the new municipal court building was completed in 2015.
Brown plans to move his grant administrator and some of his probation officers into the space. The move will create a better flow of traffic and provide youth offenders with more privacy, he said.
Brown also is using DYS funds to purchase a minivan for probation officers to use for school visits and transporting youths to community service projects and mental health and drug treatments. Currently, probation officers use their own vehicles.
Madison County is using every penny it receives from DYS because unused funds must be returned to the state for redistribution to other counties.
“Our goal is to use the money we have for the kids we serve,” said Kellie Portman, grant administrator.