On June 18, Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) introduced reauthorization legislation for the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, which authorizes competitive grants through the U.S. Department of Justice to help reduce crime among youth and recidivism in the juvenile justice system. The proposed legislation would increase federal funding for prevention, intervention, and treatment programs designed to reduce juvenile crime. The bill also addresses the pretrial detention of young people in adult jails and the detention of status offenders.
On June 19, Reps. Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Jerry Weller (R-IL) introduced the Fostering Connections to Success Act, which would provide supports for children in foster care and their non-parent, related guardians. If passed, the bill would provide the option for states to provide select foster care services to children up to the age of 21 who are in secondary or postsecondary education, participating in an employment program "designed to promote or remove barriers to employment," or are employed at least 80 hours per month.
Runaway and Homeless Youth Act
The Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) supports local and state programs for homeless youth. On May 6, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced a RHYA reauthorization bill, entitled the Runaway and Homeless Youth Protection Act (S. 2982), in the Senate Judiciary Committee. RHYA expires on September 30, 2008.
The National Network for Youth organized an April 29 briefing before the Senate Judiciary Committee that included first-hand stories from practitioners and youth. House leaders introduced a RHYA reauthorization on March 4 and referred it to the Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities on April 17. Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) is the bill's principal sponsor in the House.
On May 14, the House Education and Labor Committee approved the Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act (H.R. 5876). Aimed at reforming boarding schools, boot camps, and wilderness schools, the act would take steps to end abusive practices, such as the denial of food and shelter and the use of physical restraint as punishment.
Runaway and Homeless Youth Act
On March 4, 2008, Rep. John Yarmuth (R-KY) introduced the Reconnecting Homeless Youth Act of 2008 (H.R. 5524) in the House of Representatives. The legislation would reauthorize the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act through 2013. The authorization would include $150 million for residential services and $3 million for runaway prevention. The measure would offer improvements in outreach and preventative care, establishment of emergency management plans, and development of a national runaway and homeless youth research and evaluation agenda.
On February 21, the Coalition for Juvenile Justice held a briefing on the reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). At the briefing, presenters spoke about the recommendations they had for improving the bill. Included in these recommendations was a strong commitment to increased funding for services for youth offenders when transitioning out of institutions and reentering the community. This recommendation would include adding a requirement for extensive case planning upon reentry. Presenters also spoke about funding for delinquency prevention. Currently, most prevention is located in Title V of JJDPA. The presenters discussed how funding for this title has been cut over the years, and how much of the funding that exists is in the form of earmarks, which reduces the title's overall effectiveness. Presenters hoped that JJDPA reauthorization would be introduced in May.
On September of 2007, the Gang Abatement and Prevention Act of 2007 (S.456) passed in the Senate. The bill enhances gang crime law enforcement and revises criminal penalties for violent crimes. On October 2007, Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (D-VA), Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, introduced H.R. 3846, the Youth Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education (Youth PROMISE) Act. The legislation focuses on evidence-based prevention and intervention measures as an alternative to bills focused on taking punitive measures to reduce gangs and gang violence.
In a January 29, 2008 briefing, Rep. Scott discussed possibilities surrounding passage of the bill, indicating the possibility of a vote on a House version of gang prevention legislation in the coming months. Rep. Scott indicated that he would work to include the language from the Youth PROMISE Act in any reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), should it come up for debate. At this time, congressional leaders have not planned for any action on JJDPA.