PHILADELPHIA – Today, Mayor Jim Kenney joined Councilmembers Helen Gym and Kenyatta Johnson along with The Youth Residential Placement Task Force (Task Force) Co-Chair Estelle Richman and Task Force Member Tyrone Jones of the Young Adults Leadership Committee, to outline priorities to improve care for youth. The report details how the City plans to drastically reduce the number of youth placed in residential facilities, create community-based alternatives to placement, and ensure quality care when residential placement is needed.
The Task Force was established by City Council following hearings about abuse in residential placements that impacted children, youth, and families in the child welfare, juvenile justice, and behavioral health systems. The Task Force Report outlines 19 recommendations designed to reduce overall use of residential placements, provide placements closer to home, and enhance community-based programming. Priority was also given to creating better ways to establish authentic partnerships with youth and families, including the creation of peer support programs.
Over the last year, a diverse and engaged Task Force comprised of advocates, City departments, the School District of Philadelphia, and City Council, along with youth and parents hosted public sessions attended by 170 people. In addition to feedback from the public, the Task Force also hosted system leaders from other jurisdictions to learn about how they have effectively brought youth closer to home by locating services in the community and worked in close consultation with the leadership of the First Judicial District.
The Task Force aligned with a vision that:
- The health and long-term well-being of youth and their families are the priority, ensuring that no child will be harmed and that every child will be cared for in a way that promotes their healing;
- The City will continue to greatly reduce the number of youth in residential placement settings, using these settings only when public safety or treatment needs require doing so;
- A high-quality continuum of community-based services will be provided before, during, and after placement; Improves transparency and ensures that all system decision-makers—from youth and parents to judges—have the information they need to successfully support young people in the community;
- Recognizes and actively works to eliminate the racial, gender, and LGBTQ-GNC disparities in our current system;
- Includes youth and families as decision-makers;
- Prioritizes a youth’s right to educational success;
- Ensures individualized youth needs are met; and
- Propels youth to lifelong success.
Although City departments and the court have worked in partnership to reduce the use of residential placements by 55 percent over the last five years, the Task Force agreed that more must be done to demand quality and make further reductions. There are still about 800 young people in these institutions, mostly outside of Philadelphia. The majority are teenagers of color, a disproportionality the Task Force said must be addressed.
The education needs of youth in residential placements were also addressed in the report, noting that youth need access to the full range of educational opportunities available to other students in public schools. Also critical is the ability for youth to not lose educational momentum while in placement. The Task Force recommendations address changes that will improve the ability of youth to continue to accumulate transferrable credits and stay on track to graduate. The report also calls on the State to provide more oversight of both the quality of the programming and education at residential facilities.
Read the entire report at www.phila.gov/hhs.
Quote from Mayor Jim Kenney: “This report builds on the ongoing work of City departments to reduce residential placements and reflects how much more we must do to keep kids safe. I want to recognize the young people who told their stories and provided their recommendations for this report. It takes bravery and courage to speak up, and their input has been truly invaluable.”
Quote from Task Force Member Tyrone Jones: “I was glad for the opportunity to come up with recommendations that provide youth with better experiences. We want and need to be heard. I joined the Task Force to see change for the child who comes after me and want to see programs that heal and help us with things like jobs and college.”
Quote from Task Force Co-Chair Estelle Richman: “It has been a pleasure to work with a group of individuals dedicated to improving the outcomes for youth in residential settings. The input from youth and families with lived experiences educated everyone on the need for action now.”
Quote from Task Force Co-Chair Patricia Fox: “Involvement in the Task Force provided me with an eye-opening experience for which I am grateful. From the dedicated Task Force members to the families and youth familiar with the system, I learned one important thing: improvement and immediate changes to the system are essential to protect and ensure our youth a positive future.”
Quote from Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson: “We owe it to our youth to make sure they come out of the system better than they went in, not worse. Youth residential placement should be safe, supportive, and rare. Our report is faithful to those values. This was as thorough and inclusive a task force as I’ve ever seen, and I’m proud of the work we’ve done.”
Quote from Councilmember Helen Gym: “This task force was formed in response to the voices of young people who called for transformative change after they experienced pain and violence in institutions, and in memory of sixteen-year-old David Hess, who was murdered at the hands of staffers entrusted with his care. I am proud of the work that this task force has accomplished so far, and more importantly, I’m committed to the next steps of this work: strengthening city contracts and state licensing to protect all of our kids. This report should be a roadmap and a moral charge for reform.”
The Youth Residential Placement Taskforce is comprised of:
- Patricia Fox, Retired – Philadelphia Police Department, Former Deputy Police Commissioner
- Estelle Richman, Retired – Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (today known as Department of Human Services), Former Secretary, PA Department of Public Welfare
- Keir Bradford-Grey, Defender Association of Philadelphia, Chief Defender
- Cherie Brummans, The Alliance of Community Service Providers, Executive Director
- Frank Cervone, Support Center for Child Advocates, Executive Director
- Donna Cooper, Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), Executive Director
- Joan Erney, Community Behavioral Health, CEO
- Cynthia Figueroa, Department of Human Services, Commissioner
- Deborah Freedman, Community Legal Services (CLS), Executive Director
- Chekemma Fulmore-Townsend, Philadelphia Youth Network (PYN), President & CEO
- Vanessa Garrett-Harley, Criminal Justice & Public Safety, Deputy Managing Director
- Kristen Gay, Silver Springs- Martin Luther School, President/CEO
- Eva Gladstein, Health and Human Services, Deputy Managing Director
- Helen Gym, Philadelphia City Council, Councilmember; Chair of Council’s Children and Youth Committee
- Stephanie Haynes, Philadelphia Family Pride, Executive Director
- Shyara Hill, Juvenile Law Center, Youth Representative
- Melodie Jackson, Parent, Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS)
- Kenyatta Johnson, Philadelphia City Council, represented by Joshu Harris
- David Jones, Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS), Commissioner
- Tyrone Jones, Young Adults Leadership Committee, Youth Representative
- Gabriella Labella, Disability Rights PA, Staff Attorney
- Karen Lindell, Juvenile Law Center, Senior Attorney
- Robert Listenbee, District Attorney’s Office, First Assistant District Attorney
- Karyn Lynch, School District of Philadelphia, Chief of Student Support Services
- Maura McInerney, Education Law Center, Legal Director
- Robert Schwartz, Temple University Beasley School of Law
- Raheemah Shamsid-Deen Hampton, Pennsylvania DHS, Bureau of Children and Family Services Southeast Region