Chapter 5: State and Local
Assistance Grants Programs


State Challenge Activities

The OJJDP State Challenge Activities Program provides funds to States to develop, adopt, and improve policies and programs in 1 or more of 10 program areas specified by Congress. Established in 1992, the State Challenge Activities Program is designed to promote systemic change at the State level. Only those States participating in the Formula Grants Program are eligible to receive State Challenge grants. In 1996 and 1997, 54 States participated in the program, which had an appropriation of $10 million each year.

The 10 State Challenge Activities include basic system services, access to counsel, community-based alternatives, violent juvenile offender facilities, gender bias policies and programs, State ombudsman offices, deinstitutionalization of status offenders and nonoffenders, alternatives to suspension and expulsion, aftercare services, and State agency coordination/case review systems.

Both the level of participation in the program and the number of State Challenge Activities chosen by the States are encouraging. Nearly all of the States are addressing at least two activities; one State addressed six activities in 1996 and four in 1997. (See chart.)

During 1997, 24 States addressed the issue of gender bias policies and programs. The common approaches these States are taking include developing appropriate interventions to address chronic status offender behaviors; implementing comprehensive strategies to work effectively with this population, with the goal of developing the full potential of female youth; and providing specific sensitivity and cultural awareness training for professionals working with these youth. Many States also addressed the prevention of suspensions and expulsions from school (21), aftercare services (20), increased community-based alternatives to incarceration (20), and basic system services (15). Only two States selected the establishment of an ombudsman office and coordination of programs and case reviews as their State Challenge Activities.

Following is a description of the 10 State Challenge Activities and a chart showing State involvement.

Challenge Activity A

Developing and adopting policies and programs to provide basic health, mental health, and appropriate education services, including special education, for youth in the juvenile justice system as specified in standards developed by the National Advisory Committee for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention prior to October 12, 1984.

Challenge Activity B

Developing and adopting policies and programs to provide access to counsel for all juveniles in the justice system to ensure that juveniles consult with counsel before waiving the right to counsel.

Challenge Activity C

Increasing community-based alternatives to incarceration by establishing programs (such as expanded use of probation, mediation, restitution, community service, treatment, home detention, intensive supervision, and electronic monitoring) and developing and adopting a set of objective criteria for the appropriate placement of juveniles in detention and secure confinement.

Challenge Activity D

Developing and adopting policies and programs to provide secure settings for the placement of violent juvenile offenders by closing down traditional training schools and replacing them with secure settings with capacities of no more than 50 violent juvenile offenders with ratios of staff to youth great enough to ensure adequate supervision and treatment.

Challenge Activity E

Developing and adopting policies to prohibit gender bias in placement and treatment and establishing programs to ensure that female youth have access to the full range of health and mental health services, treatment for physical or sexual assault and abuse, self-defense instruction, education in parenting, education in general, and other training and vocational services.

Challenge Activity F

Establishing and operating, either directly or by contract or arrangement with a public agency or other appropriate private nonprofit organization (other than an agency or organization that is responsible for licensing or certifying out-of-home care services for youth), a State ombudsman office for children, youth, and families to investigate and resolve complaints relating to action, inaction, or decisions of providers of out-of-home care to children and youth (including secure detention and correctional facilities, residential care facilities, public agencies, and social service agencies) that may adversely affect health, safety, welfare, or rights of resident children and youth.

Challenge Activity G

Developing and adopting policies and programs designed to remove, where appropriate, status offenders from the jurisdiction of the juvenile court to prevent the placement in secure detention facilities or secure correctional facilities of juveniles who are nonoffenders or who are charged with or who have committed offenses that would not be criminal if committed by an adult.

Challenge Activity H

Developing and adopting policies and programs designed to serve as alternatives to suspension and expulsion from school.

Challenge Activity I

Increasing aftercare services for juveniles involved in the justice system by establishing programs and developing and adopting policies to provide comprehensive health, mental health, education, vocational services, and services that preserve and strengthen the families of such juveniles.

Challenge Activity J

Developing and adopting policies to establish:

(i) a State administrative structure to coordinate program and fiscal policies for children who have emotional and behavioral problems and their families among the major child-serving systems, including schools, social services, health services, and the juvenile justice system; and

(ii) a Statewide case review system. The term "case review system" means a procedure for ensuring that --

(a) each youth has a case plan, based on the use of objective criteria for determining a youth's danger to the community or himself or herself, that is designed to achieve appropriate placement in the least restrictive and most family-like setting available in close proximity to the parents' home, consistent with the best interest and special needs of the youth;

(b) the status of each youth is reviewed periodically, but not less frequently than once every three months, by a court or by administrative review, in order to determine the continuing necessity for the appropriateness of the placement;

(c) with respect to each youth, procedural safeguards will be applied to ensure that a dispositional hearing is held to consider the future status of each youth under State supervision, in a juvenile or family court or another court (including a tribal court) of competent jurisdiction, or by an administrative body appointed or approved by the court, not later than 12 months after the original placement of the youth and periodically thereafter during the continuation of out-of-home placement; and

(d) a youth's health, mental health, and education record is reviewed and updated periodically.

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OJJDP Annual Report August 1998