Study: Troubled-Teen Prevention Programs Save Florida $160 Million a Year
Around the State
Leaders from the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services unveiled a report from the Justice Research Center Wednesday that found the state saved more than $160 million annually.
And the state did it by employing prevention services aimed at helping troubled youth stay out of the state juvenile justice system.
The report maintained that the Florida Network, a nonprofit association funded in large part by the Department of Juvenile Justice, helps keep young people out of jail -- and saves taxpayers in the process. It serves annually around 15,000 troubled young people between the ages of 10 and 17.
While the report found that 87 percent of the young people had the same risk profiles as juvenile delinquents, it found that 90 percent of the teens serviced by the Florida Network avoided legal problems in their first six months after taking part in the programs. That means savings for Florida taxpayers as, on average, teens in the Florida Network programs cost the state $2,043 annually as opposed to the more than $31,000 spent on each juvenile delinquent behind bars. The report maintained that for every dollar spent on Florida Network programs, Florida saves $5.50, which would have to be spent on juvenile justice programs.
“Florida’s model for youth crisis intervention has proven to be effective and resourceful,” said Dominic Calabro, chairman of the board of the Florida Network, who is known for his leadership of Florida TaxWatch. “The Florida Network of Youth and Family Services has demonstrated that youth at risk of a life of crime can thrive when provided immediate, tailored crisis intervention. And, just as important, by helping families stay together we are saving taxpayer dollars and strengthening families and communities.”
At a media event in Tallahassee on Wednesday to highlight the report’s findings, Calabro praised the 28 youth crisis centers and 11 family centers across the state in the Florida Network and the work they did for young Floridians.
“We have a responsibility to ensure these kids do not fall through the cracks,” said Calabro.
Calabro was joined by two legislators who praised the network.
“The Florida Network’s effectiveness in preventing juvenile crime equates to substantial costs avoided by the state of Florida,” said Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey. “This proven success underscores the importance of maintaining these essential services for Florida’s at-risk youth and their families.”
“Families must be strong and children are our future,” added Rep. Daryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg. “If we don’t invest in them right now, we will pay in the future.”
Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Secretary Wansley Walters also spoke at the event and praised the newtwork.
“Many of the youth referred to DJJ are children who are experiencing difficult issues, and reacting in ways that bring them to the attention of law enforcement,” said Walters. “The member organizations of the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services provide community-based care and intervention services at the front end that protect children and prevent them from getting more deeply involved in DJJ. Their work is key to my vision for reforming the juvenile justice system.”
Walters expanded on her vision at the event on Wednesday.
“We know when children are in trouble,” she insisted as she praised the Florida Network’s preventive programs. “We do not need to wait until they're in trouble with the law.”
“We need to make sure for these children and their families that every dollar counts,” added Calabro.
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.