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UNION COUNTY ENTERS INTO CONTRACT TO PROVIDE 15 BEDS AT JUVENILE
DETENTION CENTER WITH DIVISION OF UNACCOMPANIED CHILDREN’S SERVICES Contract could provide more than $1 million in annual revenues to County
LINDEN--The County of Union has announced that it has entered into a contract with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (DH&H) to provide 15 beds at its Juvenile Detention Center in Linden. The contract will generate more than $1 million in annual revenues to County coffers. The contract is effective immediately.
The children held in the detention center under this agreement have been involved in the juvenile justice system and have left their country of origin for multiple reasons such as to rejoin family members already in the U.S., to escape abusive family relationships, fleeing political or religious persecution or to find work to support their families in their country of origin. Through its Division of Unaccompanied Children’s Services (DUCS) the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services is responsible for providing a safe and appropriate environment from the time these children are placed in custody, reunified with family members or sponsors in the U.S. or until they are removed to their country of origin by the Department of Homeland Security.
Additionally, the county is in negotiations with the same agency to provide shelter care services at its children’s shelter for those children not required to be housed in a secure environment.
In his executive budget letter in January, County Manager George W. Devanney had proposed the exploration of leasing beds at the center for additional revenues.
County Human Services Director Frank Guzzo negotiated the contract with DUCS, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Administration of Children and Families, and the Office of Refugee Resettlement. The agreement is the first of its type in the tri-state area, and one of only five such arrangements in the nation.
“This is an example of entrepreneurial thinking that will assist abandoned children who truly need society’s help,” Freeholder Chairman Alexander Mirabella said. “Besides being a revenue generator for the County, this is a great human services accomplishment and I congratulate our County Manager and Director Guzzo on making this happen.”
In March, 2008, the County replaced its thirty-four bed detention facility with a new, state of the art, 76-bed secure facility. While the new facility is first and foremost a secure detention center, its overarching theme is to promote the concept of normative justice where secure detention is viewed as an opportunity to change behavior in a way that will benefit the offender, family and the community at-large.
During the 24 month construction period leading up to the March 2008 opening, Union County was also chosen by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the State of New Jersey to become a Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI) site. The JDAI case processes and system review that followed, coupled with the County’s own juvenile detention expediting team that provides a case plan and follow up for every juvenile in the County’s system, has brought a systemic change to our Family Court system. These changes helped create alternatives to detention through support and use of community based programs and developed partnerships with child welfare agencies that resulted in a dramatic decrease in the average daily detention census at the detention center.
These changes have kept the daily census at 28 residents and assisted the county in maintaining its philosophy of using detention as an option of last resort.
“This has allowed us to pursue revenue generators that might not otherwise been available if the county had not concentrated its efforts on creating alternatives to detention,” said Human Services Director Guzzo.