In an effort to help homeless young adults leaving foster care and keep more teen-agers with severe behavioral problems within the state, Children and Families Commissioner Kevin Ryan announced today $15.6 million would be spent to more than double state-supported residential placements for them in New Jersey.
The department is dedicating $12.9 million of the money to add 86 residential placements for children with mental health and behavioral problems. This will supplement the 160 beds the state already maintains.
Additionally, the state is providing $2.67 million to community organizations that will add 112 placements for youth, ages 18 to 21, who are homeless and may be making the transition from the child welfare system. The state already funds 150 beds for this purpose.
“The new placements … represents the single largest expansion in transitional housing for homeless and aging-out youth in the state’s history,” according to a statement released by Children and Families Commissioner Kevin Ryan. He announced the plan – a joint effort between his department, and the Department of Community Affairs and the Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency – during a Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee meeting this morning.
“Keeping our kids as close to home as possible while providing the services they need to heal and grow is an ongoing challenge and a top priority for Governor Corzine and this administration,” Ryan said.
Reducing the number of kids outside the state is a priority under the child welfare reform plan that is enforced by a federal court judge. As of Dec. 1, 2006, the most recent data available on the state’s website, 297 children were placed outside the state in residential centers by the children’s mental health system.
The state has long struggled with opening new facilities for kids, having to abandon at least one 40-bed project in south Jersey two years ago after encountering resistance from some communities.
The initiative also includes the first-ever program in New Jersey geared toward providing targeted residential services to gay and lesbian youth. Anchor House in Mercer County has agreed to provide these services. The New Jersey Development Corporation in Passaic County also agreed to serve youth leaving foster care who a disability – “a vulnerable population that previously had few placement options available to them,” the department’s statement said.
The agencies that won the state contract for young adults are: â€¢ Corinthian Housing in Essex County, 18 new beds. â€¢ Covenant House in Essex County, 15 new beds. â€¢ Volunteers of America of Greater New York in Hudson, Bergen, Middlesex and Union counties, 10 new beds. â€¢ Robin’s Nest in Gloucester County, 10 new beds. â€¢ Catholic Charities in Hudson County, eight new beds. â€¢ Catholic Charities in Monmouth County, eight new beds. â€¢ Making It Possible to End Homelessness in Middlesex County, six new beds. â€¢ Tri-City’s People, Corinthian Housing and Covenant House in Essex County, six new beds. â€¢ Garden State Homes in Middlesex County, five new beds. â€¢ Collier Services in Monmouth County, five new beds. â€¢ Children’s Home of Burlington County, four new beds. â€¢ Cape Counseling in Cape May and Atlantic counties, four new beds.
The agencies that agreed to provide residential treatment services for seriously ill kids are: â€¢ New Jersey Mentor of Somerset, 45 new beds. â€¢ CFG Health Systems of Marlton, 19 new beds. â€¢ Bonnie Brae Residential Treatment and Special Education Center of Liberty Corner, 12 new beds. â€¢ The Children’s Home of Mount Holly, five new beds. â€¢ The Lester A. Drenk Behavioral Center of Hainesport, five new beds.