In March 2012, Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg signed the Close to Home Legislation to reform how youth move through the juvenile justice system in New York City. Historically, when sentenced, New York City youth are sent to upstate Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) facilities that are far away from the youth's family, schools, attorneys, and community. With Close to Home, New York City youth who are sentenced will remain within New York City facilities operated by the Administration for Children Services (ACS), and attend a New York City Department of Education Program. Close to Home is being implemented in two phases: (1) non-secure placement and (2) limited-secure placement.
By keeping New York City youth closer to home, youth moving through the juvenile justice system experience a collaborative transition process and holistic support services. The Close to Home Legislation allows youth to stay in the New York City Department of Education and continue earning credits towards graduation with little interruption to their education. In order to empower youths entering the juvenile justice system and prevent future risk factors, Passages Academy collaborates closely with partner agencies to align services in a safe and fun learning environment.
The goal of Close to Home is to keep young people who are placed in the New York City Family Court near their families and home communities. Previously, young people who had been adjudicated as juvenile delinquents were placed in facilities hundreds of miles away, where it was difficult for them to visit with their families, remain connected to their communities, or earn school credits. New York City is committed to providing these young people with a comprehensive rehabilitative program, while remaining attentive and committed to maintaining public safety. Under Close to Home, young people are placed in or near the five boroughs, close to an array of resources that can support their rehabilitation and their safe re-integration into our local communities.
New York City is implementing Close to Home in two phases. In Phase I, the New York City Administration for Children's Services (ACS) assumed responsibility for young people found to be delinquent placed in non-secure residences. In Phase II, ACS will assume responsibility for young people found to be delinquent who will be placed in limited-secure residences.
- Since September 2012, Close to Home has served more than 580 young people.
- Thirty-one smaller group residences have served approximately 480 youth.
The educational advancement of juveniles in placement is one of the key reasons for taking on this reform. Young people placed upstate did not receive New York City Department of Education (DOE) credits.
- 98% of young people in Close to Home are earning DOE credits.
- 91% of the young people who have completed their residential placement have transitioned into DOE schools, which they are attending more regularly now than they did prior to being placed by the Family Court; and
- Half of the Close to Home youth in high school earned at least one semester's worth of credits during the 2012-2013 school year.
After completing approximately six to seven months of residential placement, young people receive aftercare services that are tailored to the strengths and needs of the youth and their family, with a focus on educational transitional planning. Prior to leaving placement, each young person is enrolled in a community-based program and has a structured aftercare service plan in place, which may include family skills-building, youth development programming, and pro-social activities. Aftercare services typically last four to six months and end upon satisfaction of the disposition order. ACS has contracted with five non-profit agencies to provide aftercare services for youth completing the residential portion of their placement.
Under Close to Home, young people have frequent and meaningful opportunities to engage with their families, which is critical to effective and sustainable rehabilitation. Close to Home providers arrange and facilitate visits and other forms of contact between youth and their parent(s), family, and extended family to support the youth's well-being and help them maintain relationships with important people in their lives. Prior to Close to Home, families had to travel hundreds of miles to visit their child in placement; now families can rely on local public transportation, which increases the feasibility and frequency of visits.
In conjunction with the launch of Close to Home, New York City has expanded the use of community-based programs that have a track record of working for youth. This expansion includes graduated levels of probation supervision and services, and a variety of rigorous local programs matched to the youth's risk-level and needs. Each of these new community-based alternative programs, administered by the Department of Probation, connects young people to vocational opportunities, externships, mentors, or life coaches.