In 2008, Yolo County entered into an agreement with the Office of Administration for Children and Families to provide bed space for, what is now, up to 24 youth who meet Office of Refugee and Resettlement secure placement criteria. Yolo County has partnered with ORR for nearly a decade, and when this program was up for renewal, the Probation Department applied for and was re-awarded a new contract in February of 2017. The new grant awarded Yolo County $2,944,589 for the first year of three; the remaining two years include funding in the amount of almost $3 million per year, for a total of approximately $9 million for the duration of the agreement.
The ORR program has now entered into the second of three years under the new agreement. After much review and evaluation related to administering this program, the Chief Probation Officer, Brent Cardall, has found that it would be in the best interest of the County to terminate this federal contract and end the program. Termination is recommended as soon as administratively feasible. If this recommendation is approved, arrangements with the federal government will be made to move the youth from the Juvenile Detention Facility, and the required staff reduction protocol will be followed.
Reason for Recommended Action
In reviewing the program it became clear that the risks and liabilities to the County have significantly increased overtime. For that reason the recommendation to terminate the program is based on the following factors:
- Yolo has witnessed the evolution of the ORR program, including the profile of youth in secure placement. More so than ever before, Yolo County’s program is encountering youth who are aggressive and assaultive, mentally ill and requiring increased services and supervision. These high-needs youths require a secure treatment program to appropriately address their issues, a level of care that does not exist within the ORR network. While secure placement provides the necessary structure to address aggressive behaviors, it is not conducive to providing mental health treatment to those youth presenting with significant mental illness and extensive trauma.
- Often, ORR youth placed in Yolo County have been subject to significant trauma, community violence and marginalization before they come here. These youth exhibit a high rate of challenging behaviors, increased mental illness, and at times, physical aggression that has resulted in staff injuries from assaults by ORR youth. In order to address these serious behaviors increased staffing would be needed. Over the 2016 and 2017 years, our data has shown that ORR youth are three times more likely to assault staff than non-ORR youth.
- Institutions in general experience issues with overtime and excessive sick time usage. Currently, the County has experienced increased use of sick leave for mental health days required by staff who care for this challenging population. This has contributed to staff shortages compromising the safety of the institution, staff and youth therein.
- Undocumented Children placed in the Yolo County Juvenile Detention Facility (JDF) through the ORR program, who commit crimes while at the JDF can be criminally charged. This creates the potential for the youth to fall under the jurisdiction of local probation supervision, and creates placement issues and unfunded costs for the county.
- Recent events related to ORR issues (since early 2017), including county concerns regarding treatment, operations and policy, have required substantial County Counsel involvement; this results in an opportunity cost in addressing other county business given the limited resources of that office. These issues have also not been satisfied to a degree that relieves county concern regarding the program.
- In addition to time and resources expended by County Counsel and the Probation Department, incidents caused by the ORR population have caused a great deal of stress to the Probation administration due to frequent necessity to respond outside of normal business hours.
- Evolving legislation may impact Yolo County if this contract continues. New laws such as Senate Bill 54, the Sanctuary State law, or Senate Bill 29 (2017) prohibiting localities in California from entering into, or expanding immigration housing contracts with the federal government, are recent examples of this. Although, currently, neither of these directly apply to this specific contract, the spirit of new legislation indicates a state-wide movement to separate local government from federal immigration issues.
If the program is terminated, Yolo County and ORR will collaboratively determine a program end date. Once an alternative placement for the ORR youth is identified, Yolo County will work with ORR to phase out placements. The county will cease accepting new placements and will case manage the current caseload towards a step-down placement, reunification or repatriation depending on each youth’s goals. Any ORR youth remaining in Yolo County at the conclusion of the program, as well as future ORR youth requiring secure placement, will be routed to an alternative program.
Additionally, the ORR program currently funds 23 FTE positions at Yolo County Probation and contributes to a portion of facility operational costs. Terminating the program would result in civil and sworn position layoffs at the Probation Department. To mitigate this effect Yolo County Probation will work closely with Human Resources to place staff in positions in other County Departments with consideration to availability and staff seniority. San Joaquin County Probation, a neighboring department, has expressed interest in assuming lateral transfers of detention staff. A portion of the program staff may be retained to provide programming and services for the non-ORR youth population and a portion of essential program staff will be retained due to operational necessity. Those positions retained by the Department will require funding from existing or new funding streams.
Due to the youth placement and staffing changes, this recommendation is not made lightly. However, it is the determination that the contract termination is in the best interest of the County. If the recommendation is approved, it is the Chief Probation Officer's intent to adjust resources and programming to allow focus on youth.