Here’s how the JJA funding changed from the 2011 fiscal year to the 2012 fiscal year.
• Bert Nash Mental Health Center, Working to Recognize Alternative Possibilities
• Boys and Girls Club, after school programming
• KU Truancy Prevention and Diversion Program
• Van Go Mobile Arts, Jobs in the Arts Make Sense
• Can We Talk mentoring initiative
• Big Brothers Big Sisters, Partnership with Youth
• Community Living Opportunities, Family and Youth Intervention
Students crouch inside Van Go Mobile Arts, painting self-portraits onto a new van. Faces illustrated in bright greens and striking blues will be nestled among patterns of rainbow zebra print and flags of the kids in the program.
But not everything at the bright, airy studio is vibrant colors and artistry.
In 2011, executive director Lynne Green was forced to cut Van Go’s budget by 30 percent, eliminating four adult staffers. And the funding outlook definitely is not improving.
Van Go, 715 N.J., was one of five groups that won’t receive any funding from the Juvenile Justice Authority grant in the 2012 fiscal year because of state budget cuts. Douglas County received almost $55,000 less from the state than the previous year, causing five programs to lose their funding and two to receive significant cuts.
Juvenile Justice Authority, or JJA, grants go toward prevention and intervention programs for juveniles at risk, and the county decides how the state funds are distributed. They pay for mandatory core services, such as juvenile intake and assessment, and auxiliary programs.
Five programs will go unfunded because of the loss of the grant:
• After-school programs of Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence.
• Jobs in the Arts Make Sense at Van Go Mobile Arts.
• Can We Talk.
• Big Brothers Big Sisters.
• Family and Youth Intervention program at Community Living Opportunities.
Two programs, Working to Recognize Alternative Possibilities through Bert Nash Mental Health Center and the KU Truancy Prevention and Diversion Program, remained funded, but saw significant cuts. They were cuts that director of Douglas County Youth Services Pam Weigand had heard were coming.
“I think everybody was anticipating cuts, but I don’t think anybody was anticipating quite this much,” Weigand said. “It weakens our ability to have programs that serve kids.”
Now, many of these programs are operating on bare bones, cutting as much as they can before they have to cut services to Douglas County youths.
Big Brothers Big Sisters received almost $22,000 in 2011 and will see nothing the next year. Cathy Brashler, executive director, said that’s a significant chunk of a salary. The organization has had to tighten up spending and will not fill the positions of five staff members who have left or retired in the last two years. Funding lost from the state and grants has to be made up by private fundraising.
“The economy is hard on everyone, so even though our donors have been really good and supported us through all of this, it’s hard,” she said. “There’s only so many people you can tap in Lawrence.”
Jan Sheldon, who runs the KU Truancy Prevention and Diversion Program, says if her program goes away, it will show years from now.
“Truancy has more than just the day-to-day effect,” Sheldon said. “It has long-term effects.”
Research shows truancy problems — skipping school — can lead to academic failure, dropping out, juvenile delinquency, drug and alcohol use, and, much later on, marital problems and incarceration.
Sheldon’s program, which started in 1979, pairs truant students from Lawrence schools with students in the applied behavioral science program at Kansas University, who attempt to help them improve attendance.
This program’s JJA funding was cut from about $14,400 to $9,200, which hampers the ability to pay a graduate teaching assistant to monitor the KU students. If Sheldon sees any more cuts, she isn’t certain of the program’s future.
“It really comes into question if we can continue to offer the program,” she said. “With all these cuts, if we don’t offer this program, what you’ll see in this country is truancy will increase.”
Most of the organizations that saw cuts are trying everything to keep the programs operating, but soon, some will have to start eliminating services.
“You will see me knocking on people’s doors before you see me lay off any kid here,” Green said. “The community values this program and really gets what we do here. No one else is doing what we’re doing here.”
But Green is nervous about what will happen to Van Go. The program gives at-risk kids jobs and something to do after school, exactly the sort of thing JJA is supposed to fund.
“I’ve never wanted to cry wolf. I always try to stay positive. The glass is half full,” she said. “I don’t know where we’re going to go fill up our glasses any more.”