Today, State Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf (R, Montgomery, Bucks) and State Representative W. Curtis Thomas (D, Philadelphia) released the final report of the At-Risk Children, Family and Communities Caucus. In late 2013, Senator Greenleaf and Representative Thomas called for the formation of the bicameral, bipartisan At-Risk Children, Family and Communities Caucus to examine issues facing children and families in the Commonwealth such as truancy, drop out, delinquency, and family separation due to incarceration.
The At-Risk Children, Family and Communities Caucus held a total of 12 meetings from October 2013 through April 2016. The Final Report is a summary of all the caucus meetings and includes recommendations to the Pennsylvania Legislature.
So far, the work of the Caucus resulted in Act 138 of 2016 which reformed the state’s Truancy Law to make incarceration a last option for the parents of truant children. The new law prioritizes intervention to increase school attendance.
The Caucus has also promoted wider implementation of the proven Communities that Care initiative, which equips a wide range of community partners to target specific challenges among their local youth.
“Our meetings and presentations over the past three years have been very enlightening,” said Senator Greenleaf. “We have gained valuable knowledge from other state officials and people working on the ground who have provided us with a deeper understanding of the problems hindering the health, welfare, and the safety of our children and their families. I intend to use these meetings and recommendations as a guide towards more effective policy and investments that can improve the lives of many young people.”
“The presentations provided a good overview of the obstacles that many of our children and families face, especially in more urban areas of Pennsylvania,” said Representative Thomas. “The reality is that many of the problems stem from socio-economic drivers. Address the underlying problems and you will see a positive change. We can use this information to drive state policy and provide further support to the various programs already in place to address our at-risk population. I am heartened to take away from this caucus the knowledge that we can create stronger and more vibrant communities for all Pennsylvanians. Now it is time for the next steps.”
Recommendations in the final report include:
- Funding evidence based programs that have been proven to reduce youth violence and drug abuse.
- Support legislation establishing a Youth Court Program in Pennsylvania.
- Support funding for the Juvenile Court Judges Commission.
- Invest in delinquency prevention and intervention programs.
- Provide technical assistance and peer mentoring to communities.