Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Receive Federal Funding to Reinvent Youth Care and Prevent Juvenile Delinquency

Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD)Credit: Commonwealth Media Services

HARRISBURG, PA — In a mission to equip young people with the means to lead safe and robust lives, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) recently revealed a partnership aimed at preventing juvenile delinquency. PCCD and the City of Philadelphia received a total of $1.275 million in funding to promote evidence-based prevention and intervention services.

This initiative is part of the federal Building Local Continuums of Care to Support Youth Success program. Rooted in the holistic and community-driven continuum of care framework, this initiative creates local solutions to youth issues through mentoring, after-school programs, and other prosocial activities. This endeavor is designed to strengthen communities and improve public safety.

For over a decade, Pennsylvania has made substantial efforts in reforming the juvenile justice system. Although the state has witnessed a steady decrease in the number of young people engaged in the juvenile justice system, several issues continue to pose immense challenges. Concerns surrounding escalating mental health needs, gun violence, racial and ethnic disparities, underutilized pre-arrest diversion strategies, and workforce hurdles remain significant.

PCCD Executive Director Mike Pennington noted that the funding plays a crucial role in understanding the needs of the youth better. Pennington believes that the grant will allow creating a comprehensive statewide plan based on the experiences of impacted youth and their families. This plan would guide the state’s youth-focused services and propose strategies centered on funding, policy, and program reform.

The PCCD has received $825,000 to support an 18-month statewide planning and assessment initiative. This initiative, executed in collaboration with WestEd’s Justice & Prevention Research Center, aims to identify critical gaps that create barriers for youth and their families and prevent unnecessary youth implication in the juvenile justice system.

In constructing Pennsylvania’s Continuum of Care Statewide Plan, PCCD’s approach will be threefold: data gathering, mapping and assessment, and plan development. The process will prioritize key areas, including the voices and experiences of impacted youth, families, and stakeholders, integration of racial equity principles, and developing a ‘continuum of care’ framework for the youth in Pennsylvania.

The City of Philadelphia has also received $450,000, which it plans to use to create comprehensive support for youth and their families. In collaboration with other organizations, Philadelphia will reassess its systems and processes to ensure that they center the needs of families and youth. City officials have guaranteed that the selection of services provided to the youth will correspond to their needs across the juvenile justice spectrum.

Lisa Varon, Deputy Director for the Philadelphia Office of Criminal Justice, highlighted the vital opportunity to ensure that diversion and community-based alternatives are available wherever suitable. She emphasized that public safety would be the crux of this endeavor, brought into sharp focus through a holistic prevention, intervention, and restorative approach.

The funding will undoubtedly serve as a significant stepping stone in transforming youth care in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia. By focusing on a community-driven approach and recognizing the challenges that today’s youth face, these efforts aim to mold a future that is safer, healthier, and more prosperous for the young members of our society.

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