Juvenile homes to stay open despite state budget cuts

The Prince William County Board of Social Services voted Tuesday to keep open two group homes for juvenile offenders.

The board was faced with a choice between closing the homes or shutting down programs after learning of a 51 percent state funding cut last week.

The county operates a home for boys in Woodbridge and another for girls in the middle of the county. The youth have been ordered there by the courts for crimes such as car thefts and domestic violence.

The decision wasn’t without its drawbacks. Changes in the way group homes would be administered could mean additional costs for the families.

“To me none of this is the perfect solution,” said board Chairman Barbara DeChene. “But I guess we can give it a try and see what happens.”

Under the new plan, the group homes would become self-supporting and the department of social services would ask the state to pick up more of the costs under a different program.

The county would be able to recoup $573,000 in funding that was eliminated during the 2002 General Assembly session.

“Basically, what we’re seeking is a new funding stream,” said Ric Perez, department of social services director.

It would also mean the state, not the county, would be determining how much families pay. They are currently on a sliding scale and pay according to income. While that would remain true, the difference could be hundreds of dollars, said Wayne A. Maffett, residential services director for the department.

The group homes this year received approximately $2.3 million in overall funding. Of that, $1.1 million came from the commonwealth and about the same from the county. No cuts in county funding were recommended in the 2003 budget proposed by County Executive Craig S. Gerhart.

Manassas and Manassas Park participate in some programs on a per diem basis but don’t help fund the group homes.

Department officials will meet with Gerhart today, and if approved, the new plan would be incorporated in the budget for fiscal 2003 that begins July 1.

Social services directors estimate they will need to transfer 70 percent of their clientele to a mandated status in which the state determines fees in order to keep the homes open.

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