After three years of conversations and study, Scott County leaders say they're poised to approve a funding proposal to get a long-talked about youth assessment program off the ground.
"It's been a long time coming," Jeremy Kaiser, Scott County director of the Juvenile Detention and Diversion Programs, told the Scott County Board of Supervisors Tuesday. "I think this will have direct impacts on public safety, juvenile crime as well as juvenile detainment."
Supervisors met to discuss a memorandum of understanding among the county, city of Davenport, city of Bettendorf and United Way Quad Cities for the establishment of a youth assessment program connecting youth and families to preventative behavioral and mental health services to lower juvenile crime.
The program would provide "a coordinated, single-entry site that will assist" youth and their families in Scott County with "early identification, intervention and comprehensive assessment to appropriate services that will ultimately lead to the reduction of crime," according to a letter to Bettendorf City Council members from city staff.
According to the proposed agreement, Davenport, Bettendorf and Scott County would provide five years' worth of initial funding for the program, during which time local leaders would continue to examine a long-term, sustainable funding model, including public and private sources.
Davenport would contribute $1 million in seed funding from nearly $41 million it's slated to receive in federal COVID-19 relief funds. Bettendorf would provide a one-time payment of $300,000. Scott County would provide a total of $700,000 in equal installments over five years.
United Way would serve as the fiscal agent, managing and administering the funds and a contract with Family Resources to provide assessment, referral and case management services. Sarah Ott, chief strategy officer for the city of Davenport, which is serving as the lead agency, said United Way was in the process of finalizing a contract with the service provider.
Family Resources was chosen through a request-for-proposal process overseen by United Way and city of Davenport, which a national advocacy group has said was flawed. Family Resources was the only service provider to submit a proposal.
Stephanie Hernandez, director of initiatives with Family Resources, said the nonprofit hopes to be serving kids by the start of next school year, and is currently hiring for three new full-time positions to run the program -- two care coordinators and one assessor.
"We need to provide additional services to individuals in our community, assessing and supporting those families before they’re in crisis," Hernandez said. "We need early intervention to identify where the needs are for families before they fall into the system, whether is DHS, sheltered care, juvenile court and detention – any type of out-of-home placement for youth. We need to warp services around them early to meet their needs, and I hope our community rallies around this collaborative effort."
Hernandez noted "Family Resources can't do it alone."
"This is not about Family Resources providing the service, but how do we partner with other organizations to provide the needed services to address our youth and families presenting issues, working with referral partners such as schools and anyone that works with youth and families," she said.
Bettendorf City Council members were expected to vote Tuesday night to approve the agreement. Scott County supervisors are expected to vote Thursday to approve the agreement. Davenport aldermen will review the agreement during Wednesday's committee of the whole meeting and are expected to vote to approve the agreement at their regular meeting next week.
While Family Resources has offices in Davenport, a lot of the youth assessment program's work will be de-centralized, with assessment staff and case workers going out into the community and performing assessments in schools, homes "and trying to make it as easy as possible to go to where the families are to access these services," Ott told supervisors Tuesday.
Ott said city and county officials are still evaluating a law-enforcement component of a Youth Assessment Center that would likely be co-located with a new, expanded Juvenile Detention Center. Such a component would provide "quick, holistic assessment of youth following contact with law enforcement," according to Davenport city officials.
"This will help judges and case workers make more informed decisions and move youth through the justice system both expeditiously and effectively," according to a city memo.
Officials, though, stressed the community-based youth assessment program is separate and distinct from discussions by Scott County officials about building a larger detention center.