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Rep. Barton Goes Out on a Limb for Children

By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

In Ways and Means General Fund Committee, earlier this month, HB560 sponsor Rep. Jim Barton (R-Mobile) withdrew the proposal to alter funding between two departments involving children’s services.

The proposal would have moved all of the money from the Department of Youth Services (DYS) over to Department of Juvenile Probation Services (AOC).

A move that would have hindered DYS’s ability to provide services to youths.

The DYS provides community-based programs for non-violent youth offenders. Its goal is to try to intervene and rehabilitate. The AOC handles juvenile probations officers.

According to their website, “Children First Foundation is dedicated to improving the quality of life for children and families of Alabama.” Children First protects the Children First Trust Fund each year that provides twelve state agencies with the dollars they need to serve children.

These agencies receive their funding from the Tobacco Settlement. Annually Alabama receives about $100 million that is divided up among these agencies with different percentages for each. Since Alabama’s fiscal year ends in September, and the money from the Tobacco Settlement does not arrive until April, the funding has to be handled in an unusual manner.

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“It takes $4.5 million to carry [DYS] through the gap every year. Because of this it looks like they have a huge savings account but they don’t,” says Christy Mehaffey, executive director of Children First Foundation.

When reviewing budgets earlier this year, the Governor’s office proposed moving around some of the percentage among these agencies. One proposal was to move the 17 percent funding that the DYS received into the AOC.

Mehaffey said, “I gave testimony and I had talked to Representative Barton. And after he listened to what DYS does with the money, he realized that this didn’t need this to happen. We didn’t need to write DYS out of the statute for the Children First Trust Fund because what they do is important.”

She continued, “The trust fund that he helped keep intact serves conservatively over 250,000 children a year. In addition, the money that Medicaid get to vaccinate children serves over 350,000 per year. It does everything from foster care to immunizations for kids, mental health services, juvenile probation, child abuse prevention and more.”

Mehaffey has proposed that an overall look be given to all children’s services statewide. “I have talked to Senator Marsh, he is doing something similar with law enforcement. I talked to him about this and said let’s work together and come up with a strategic plan for children in this state. He wants to begin that portion in September. I have asked him to let us be at the table along with other child advocates and really talk about what we need to do before we start moving things around. Let’s take a business man’s approach to this and strategically look at what we need to do.”

For more information on the Children First Foundation go to:

http://alabamachildrenfirst.com/

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Susan Britt
Written By

DIG DEEPER