By Leslee Kulba – Silently approved by way of the Buncombe County Commissioners’ consent agenda was required paperwork for how the county would spend $508,064 offered by the North Carolina Department of Public Safety’s Division of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, for Juvenile Crime Prevention Council programs. The appurtenant annual action plan revealed it was a small sum for a very large problem.
It was reminiscent of the time City Councilor Dr. Joe Dunn, to make a point, turned to the yellow pages to count the number of drug abuse and treatment centers in the area. Repeating the exercise recently, 103 services were found under that category, with more under related headings.
In a similar vein, the commissioners recently listened to requests for funding from numerous community organizations. While only about twenty of the requests, representing $1.5 million of over $7.1 million, dealt directly with caring for children; almost all could claim some angle, such as feeding children or providing them with opportunities to engage in sports or academic pursuits, for preventing them from growing up to draw heavily on the criminal justice system, emergency services, and government welfare programs.
Among the most remarkable was the YWCA of Asheville. Founded in 1907, “to provide safe housing for working women,” the YW now serves thirty in its MotherLove program, which connects pregnant teens to services and helps them stay in school. It also offers an Early Learning Program for children under five, a K-12 afterschool Primary Enrichment Program, and Empowerment Child Care “for parents who are in transition, continuing their education, accessing social services, or looking for employment.”
On top of this, the county already provides birth control, Pregnancy Care Management, Medicaid for Pregnant Women, the WIC Supplemental Nutrition Program, Nurse-Family Partnership assistance for first-time mothers, Triple P parenting support, childcare subsidies, Family Medicaid, Care Coordination for Children, Health Choice insurance for children eighteen and younger, food assistance, school health programs, foster care, and intake services for suspected victims of child abuse. It partners with Western North Carolina Community Health Services to provide more services including behavioral therapy, drug treatment, and HIV care.
That said, eighty-six existing local programs were reviewed in the JCPC report to identify gaps in funding. Their missions included targeting obesity, teen alcohol and tobacco abuse, abusive dating, teen pregnancy, perinatal smoking, teen motherhood, gang involvement, runaways, LGBTQ homelessness, and sex offense perpetrated by juveniles. Solutions offered included access to healthcare and other government services, daycare, sports, dance and yoga, academic support, career preparation, foster care, therapeutic foster care, emotional and behavioral therapy, crisis intervention, “pregnancy tests and community referrals,” and Planned Parenthood services.
Describing conditions in the general community, the report stated, “the graduation rate is improving, greater than 85 percent for both Buncombe County Schools and Asheville City Schools, prescription medication abuse remains a problem in the schools, the number of homeless students is increasing, … the number of children in foster care is increasing, [and] therapeutic foster care and respite care is in high demand.”
The report does not tell how many children are assessed, but last year, there were about 200 kids in North Carolina detention facilities. The number fell from close to 1,400 in 1999 following the implementation of a number of diversionary programs, but it would increase again if the state stops trying 16-, and 17-year-olds as adults.
Nevertheless, acknowledging the likelihood of certain statistics being underreported, the action plan says 40 percent of assessed youth used alcohol or illegal drugs in the last year, up 18 percent from the previous year’s report. 12 percent had “parents unable or unwilling to supervise,” up 2 percent. Assessed youth with school behavior problems increased from 83 to 86 percent. 86 percent had “mental health needs.” 32 percent of assessed youth showed signs of abuse or neglect, 52 percent came from homes with “marginal to inadequate family supervision skills,” 12 percent had family members with substance abuse problems, and 57 percent had family members with criminal records.
From one perspective, it would appear that, through preaching secularism, alternative family structures, and value-neutrality in public schools; providing abundant safety hammocks for behaviors so socially cost-intensive traditions had labeled them taboo; taxing both Ozzie and Harriet into the workforce; and compassionate programs that backfire as perverse incentives – the government has used its powers to destroy the family. And all the county’s taxes and all the county’s fees can’t seem to put it together again.
From another, while the state mandates 92 percent of the county budget, it does so by saying the county must either provide services or make sure they are provided. It does not say the county must spend a set amount on any problem. Therefore, if taxes are getting out of hand, maybe some good old-fashioned family structure and personal responsibility can start to turn things around.