January 27, 2012
To: Members of the Judiciary Committee
From: Sarah Forrest, Policy Coordinator – Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice
Re: Support for LB 985 – Nebraska Juvenile Service Delivery Project
Family and community supports are crucial to a healthy growth and development during adolescence. Unfortunately, our juvenile justice system is often forced to turn to out-of-home care and confinement for juveniles, due to the challenges in accessing community-based care. This is a problem is shared by many states, who are increasingly looking to fund evidence-based and promising practices that serve youth in their homes and communities.
Voices for Children in Nebraska supports LB 985 as an important step in increasing our use of community-based services for juveniles. LB 985 will contribute to a sounder juvenile justice system in Nebraska by:
1. Serving more youth in their homes and communities. For the past ten years, Nebraska has served between 5,000 and 6,000 youth on probation. No dollars have been specifically allocated for providing services to these juveniles. Many youth cannot be served on probation because of a lack of funding resources. They are often made wards of the state and pushed deeper into the juvenile justice system. By providing probation with additional dollars for staff and services, we can serve more youth in their homes and communities.
2. Providing developmentally appropriate services for adolescents. We already know for that out-of-home care can be traumatic for young children, but the same is true for teenagers. Adolescence is a period of significant brain development and growth as young people learn the skills and build the relationships to their communities that can make them successful and productive adults.  This is especially crucial for young people who have experienced any sort of trauma, as is common for youth in the juvenile justice system.
3. Generating fiscal returns. Community-based services in juvenile justice systems are a proven cost-saver in the long-term. They are more effective at rehabilitating and treating youth than restrictive alternatives and they are also less expensive. As Nebraska builds community-services it can significantly reduce the amount it spends on detention, congregate care, and youth incarceration.
LB 985 provides a sound start to transitioning youth in our juvenile justice system away from unnecessary, expensive, and ineffective service models. We urge you to advance it. Thank you.
Kids Count in Nebraska Report. Voices for Children in Nebraska: 2001-2011.
 “The Adolescent Brain: New Research and its Implications for Young People.” Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative: 2011.
 “Bringing Youth Home: A Movement to Increase Public Safety, Rehabilitate Youth, and Save Money.” National Juvenile Justice Network: July 2011.