BY BENJAMIN J. GOHS, NEWS EDITOR
The Charlevoix County Board of commissioners recently approved the 2015-2016 Child Care Budget at an estimated cost of $1,080,596—but what is that tax money used for?
According to Michigan 7th Probate/Family Court Judge Frederick R. Mulhauser, the local probate court—which covers both Emmet and Charlevoix counties—has exclusive jurisdiction of decedent estates, guardianship for minors and adults including the developmentally disabled and mental commitment cases.
“The probate court combines with the circuit court to form the family division, which handles divorce, child abuse and neglect, juvenile delinquency, and adoption,” stated Mulhauser in a written response to questions from the Boyne City Gazette. “Numerous other areas, such as name changes, are also within the probate court jurisdiction but do not account for a significant number of cases.”
Charlevoix County’s portion of the overall costs are down by $83,287 from last year.
The bulk of anticipated expenditures include $177,000 in family foster care expenses, $121,000 in institutional care costs, $638,246 in in-home care, and $5,000 in independent living expenses.
“The funding for the services provided to abused and neglected children, and the cost of juveniles in the delinquency division are comprised of a blend of county, state, federal and private grant funding,” stated Mulhauser. “Also in the mix are education and community mental health funding sources.”
He added, “Funding for cases involving abused and neglected children include attorney fees for separate representation of both the child victims and their parents. Attorneys are also appointed for delinquent minors. These costs are a part of the mix.”
According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, there are approximately 13,000 youth in foster care across Michigan’s 83 counties at any time.
The programs for troubled youth seem to be having a positive effect.
According to the most current statistics posted on the Charlevoix County Probate Court’s website, the recidivism rates for delinquent youth in 2011 were 8 percent.
A court graphic shows complete statistics back to the year 2000, when 364 youth were served. Of those, 27 were repeat offenders, for a recidivism rate of 11 percent.
The numbers spiked in 2001 with 43 repeat offenders—for a rate of 25 percent—and fell to its lowest in 2008, with only 8 repeat offenders—a rate of 6 percent.
In 2011, there were 11 repeat offenders.
“Pursuant to Michigan law, youth who commit delinquent acts prior to their 17th birthday come under the jurisdiction of the juvenile family court and may be retained under court jurisdiction until age 19,” the court states.
According to Mulhauser, while abused and neglected children often require foster care, delinquent youth may also require foster placement or placement in detention or residential treatment facilities.
“Unlike the adult system, which is run by the state department of corrections, the system for juveniles requires counties to either operate their own foster care and detention homes or buy beds in facilities operated by other counties, the state, or the private sector,” he stated. “The per diem for these programs vary greatly—ranging from $35 a day to over $60 a day.”
Mulhauser said juveniles must occasionally be placed out of state.
“Decisions on placement are based on both public safety concerns and the location and availability of effective programming,” he stated. “For instance, the type of placement needed for a juvenile who is a minor offender is much different than one required for a juvenile who has significant mental health issues, a violent offense history, or is a sex offender.”
Mulhauser said Charlevoix and Emmet counties emphasize on creating community treatment wherever possible, but are limited by public safety concerns and whether any local programs exist or are adequate.
“Our counties have been recognized state-wide for creative programming in juvenile substance abuse treatment, for partnering with local school systems to create two unique court schools, a victim offender reconciliation program, and two juvenile drug courts,” stated Mulhauser. “The goals of all these programs is to promote effective rehabilitation in a community setting, because these kids will continue to live with and among us. And, if we can be effective, then there is a better long-term result for everyone.”