ANNAPOLIS – Only about 1.5 percent of girls who enter the juvenile justice system will make their way to residential treatment programs.
In 2010, there were more than 11,000 cases involving female juveniles referred to the Department of Juvenile Services. Girls are referred to DJS by police, schools or social services for violations such as truancy, running away, theft, assault, or possession or use of drugs or alcohol.
Most, about 70 percent according to the department’s annual statistical report, will go home with their cases resolved at intake or on a 90-day informal probationary period, during which they have to pay restitution or do community service.
Some girls cannot go home because of family issues or because the department believes them to be a danger to themselves or others.
Those girls are sent to either the 12-bed Graff shelter in Boonsboro, far from the urban centers from which a majority of the girls come, or to locked facilities like Alfred D. Noyes Children’s Center in Rockville or Thomas J.S. Waxter Children’s Center in Laurel. There, they wait for court dates or placement in a committed program that can provide them with the services, like drug counseling or trauma therapy, that they need.
Only 29 percent of cases involving girls, 3,201 in 2010 according to the report, were forwarded to the State’s Attorney’s office, which determines whether the case will go to court. The state’s attorney drops a quarter of those cases.
Another quarter get sent home on probation, which can include electronic monitoring and services like counseling or mentoring.
Once a case makes it to court, judges make decisions about the type of treatment or supervision girls receive, based on the recommendations of case managers, more commonly called probation officers. Once a judge orders a level of treatment, the department provides supervision and services or finds her a place at a residential treatment facility.
Case managers try to recommend the least restrictive options, said Patricia Flanigan, the community services supervisor for DJS. Almost a quarter of cases find girls on probation.
“Kids do not work well in a locked situation,” said Flanigan, who has worked for the department for 30 years. “Every time you remove a kid from a family, you break something that can’t be fixed.”
In 2010, only 163 girls were committed to the department for placement. Some will end up in Waxter’s locked committed program, and some in group homes like the Allegany County Girls Group Home, or in group homes more targeted for specific types of therapy like mental health or drug treatment.
Because girls are in both the community and in residential placement, the new secretary of the department, Sam Abed, said he is trying to change the culture of the department to better serve girls.
“Girls’ services is something that needs to be internalized into the entire department,” said Abed. “Girls aren’t in just one place. Everyone is responsible for it.”