Statement from the CARY Founder and Executive Director Emeritus; February 10, 2018
I had a much enriched 34-year career in juvenile and criminal justice beginning in 1965 beginning in 1965, prior to my startup of the Council on At-Risk Youth (CARY) in 1999. I worked with three state agencies including the New Mexico Youth Authority (NMYA), New Mexico Division for Vocational Rehabilitation (NMDVR) and Texas Youth Commission (TYC). My experiences in direct service with adjudicated delinquent youth with the NMYA Camp Sierra Blanca, and with convicted felons with NMDVR were invaluable. My first management job with TYC was starting up the community based residential contract program and the probation assistance program; then I served as director of the planning and research evaluation department and then finally as Central Texas regional director. Each was position was challenging and enjoyable.
During this same 34 year period, I was also fortunate to have worked with two non-profit organizations. First I worked with the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) doing program research evaluations and plans for juvenile detention, probation and parole, group homes and juvenile prisons, along with research in county jails and state prisons. Second, I worked with the American Correctional Association (ACA) where I conducted numerous juvenile correction agency on-site visits and audits with those applying for national accreditation. Collectively through this 34 year period, I was involved in more than 100 juvenile and criminal justice research evaluations and audit projects in more than 35 states; and I interviewed and reviewed records of thousands of youth engaged in the juvenile and criminal justice system.
My principal observations from these 34 years were that the majority of youth in juvenile and criminal justice are poor, most are socially inept, most have made impulsive decisions and few have developed empathy for others. We have policies and actions in Texas and around the nation that rely extensively on prosecution, adjudication, conviction, and incarceration, with each having few positive outcomes. And, the majority of the youth in juvenile and criminal justice are not violent, they are not dangerous, and they do not represent a threat to the community.
My takeaway from this experience was that we need to shift our priorities to enable investment in prevention and early intervention programs, specifically with school disciplinary youth who are considered to be at-risk for later delinquent and criminal behavior and entry into the juvenile and criminal justice.
The Columbine Colorado school killings in April 1999 sealed my decision to commit to the startup of CARY. In planning for the CARY organization, I envisioned five key principles: first to focus on the most high-risk youth who were routinely found in the school disciplinary system; second to utilize program interventions that were “evidence-based” with former evaluation demonstrating positive returns; third to attract top-notch staff personnel with some experience and graduate training in human services; forth to consistently measure and evaluate program outcomes with credible researchers, and finally to conduct public education to teach the general citizenry of the value of prevention and early intervention with at-risk youth. I’m pleased to report adherence to each of those five principles throughout my 16 years.
CARY’s development seemed slow, but it was a very progressive process. Preliminary funding from the Capital Area United Way and the RGK Foundation provided support to hire one staff at the AISD Alternative Learning Center in 2000; a subsequent $250,000 grant from the US Bureau of Justice Assistance funded four CARY staff positons at four AISD schools. Additional Department of Education grants started programs at Luling, Georgetown and Lockhart School Districts. From 2005 through 2010 continued growth and expansion to four additional schools were provided through contracts with the City of Austin and Travis County with additional support coming from Glimmer of Hope Foundation, Hogg Foundation, Meadows Foundation, and Trull Foundation. From 2011 through 2015 CARY continued to grow and expand with federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention grant funds.
I am so very pleased that during my 16-year tenure as founder and executive director, we have brought in more than $6,000,000 in the governmental, foundation and private funding from many other sources; and we have served more than 7,000 very troubled youth who were in the “pipeline to prison”. I am most appreciative of the service and support provided by CARY board members including Jim Bryce, Bob King, Ted Middleburg, Gina Williams, Dee Leekha, Joan Hilgers, Terry Cowan, Stan Knee, Seth Winick, and Steve Belt. I am also pleased that the CARY model for delinquency prevention has been recognized by numerous resolutions and proclamations from the City of Austin, Travis County, and the State of Texas and by recognition with a 2013 visit to CARY, by the United Kingdom – House of Commons Select Justice Committee.
As I complete my 50-year working career in juvenile justice, correction and youth services, with a continuing emphasis on delinquency, youth violence, and crime prevention, I feel that my most important achievement has been the establishment of CARY, which has been a very rewarding job. I feel CARY represents a national model for cost-effective and efficient delinquency, youth violence and crime prevention initiatives targeted to at-risk youth in our school disciplinary systems. I am also pleased to pass the baton on to Shana Fox who shares my passion for CARY’s mission, and who will do a superb job at maintaining stability and managing future growth for the organization.
As now the executive director emeritus, I recommend to the CARY board that three goals be pursued through the years ahead. Those include:
- Vigorously continue to maintain a solid database and competent evaluation of outcomes, to demonstrate to the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention that the CARY model is true “evidence-based” and worthy of nationwide replication.
- Assertively educate and lobby the Texas State Legislature and state agencies including the Texas Education Agency, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and the Texas Juvenile Justice Department to provide funding support to non-profit organizations like CARY’s that conduct evidence-based delinquency, violence, and crime prevention services for at-risk youth referred to our school disciplinary settings.
- Deliver and expand the CARY model to San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, Ft. Worth, El Paso, and other medium-sized cities to continue to impact “closing the school pipeline to prison”.
I stand ready to assist in advocating for CARY initiatives for troubled youth, and I look forward to the agency’s 20 year anniversary in 2019.