When legislators passed the state's budget for the 2012 fiscal year after a nearly all-night session in May, included in the bottom line were massive cuts to programs aimed at keeping kids out of jail.
Now, leaders of those programs are pointing to what they say will be the outcome of those cuts: more kids in jail, at a higher cost.
Sedgwick County will receive $620,000 less in prevention dollars for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
County commissioners, not legislators, now are having to tell groups such as Kansas Big Brothers Big Sisters that they might not get any money.
Commissioners will vote Wednesday about how to allocate grant funding from the state's Juvenile Justice Authority. The county had received $860,000 for the fiscal year just about to end and will get $240,000 for the one about to start.
The county is considering, for example, not giving Big Brothers Big Sisters the $154,500 it had received for this fiscal year. That money served 254 youths.
That's $608 per child. One day for one child at Sedgwick County's juvenile detention facility costs $233.
Mark Masterson, director of corrections for the county, told commissioners the cuts "will make the bottom line look better" but will result in more juveniles in the criminal justice system.
Derby resident Keith Kasych has been matched in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program for 10 years.
His "little," Dylan, just graduated from high school. He overcame a lot to get to that benchmark, Kasych said.
"All of us are born with challenges," Kasych said. "Some of us are dealt more than others."
Kasych said the cuts to Big Brothers Big Sisters concern him. When he read in The Eagle that 254 children might not be served because of the cuts, it put things into perspective for him.
One of those youth could have been Dylan, he thought.
Rep. Melody McCray-Miller, D-Wichita, agrees. She voted against the budget.
"At a state policymaking level, we still don't get it," she said Friday. "We still look at the crisis in front of us and how we have to cut and cut across the board as opposed to how we really need to look at on an ongoing basis putting money at the front end so we can net a savings at the back end."
Statewide, prevention funds for the fiscal year about to end totaled $3.8 million. For the fiscal year about to start, funding will be $1.1 million.
"That's a cut of 71 percent, realized at the local level," McCray-Miller said.
County puts off vote
Commissioners last week deferred voting on how the county will allocate its share of state funding.
Wichita State University helped the county rank which prevention programs should get funding. The study put programs into three tiers: those that provide criminal justice system support, those that work with juvenile offenders and those that work with at-risk youth.
Masterson doesn't like having to cut any of the programs. But he agrees with the recommendations.
"The way that the programs are organized is to form an attack at the delinquency problem at multiple levels," Masterson said. Some programs reach out to kids already in trouble; some reach out to those who are at risk for doing so.
"It's important to do some of all of that with a balanced approach because those save long-term costs," Masterson said. "They put kids on the right track and keep kids on the right track.
"We've to look at 'how do you get the most bang for your buck?' " Masterson said. "Is it pleasant? No. Is it reasonable? I guess we'll find out.
"These are the kind of choices we're being forced to make every day."
Prior decrease in youths in custody
Prevention funding helped reduce the number of Sedgwick County youth entering state's custody for out-of-home placements from an annual average of more than 300 in 2005-07 to 179 last year.
"When we started these prevention programs, the baseline year of state fiscal year 2000, it was over 400 a year that went into the state's custody," Masterson said.
That same year, 2000, the number of juvenile correction facility commitments was 270. In state fiscal year 2010, that number fell to 99.
"It's a huge difference," Masterson said. "We're serving more kids earlier, and fewer kids are going into the deep, expensive end of the juvenile justice system.
"That was what juvenile justice reform was intended to do. It's worked, and it's helping kids be on the right track. It's saving kids and families and taxpayer dollars."
The state in recent years has closed two of the four juvenile corrections facilities: the girls facility in Beloit, and the young boys facility in Atchison, Masterson said.
The state will be adding beds in the future, he thinks.
Funds tight all over
Commissioner Jim Skelton asked to defer a vote on the funding until this week to try to come up with money for prevention efforts.
One idea he is throwing around is charging a convenience fee when people use a credit card to pay property taxes or do other business with the county.
County Manager William Buchanan said staff would discuss that, but if funds become available, there may be other county needs that take priority.
Buchanan has directed department heads to cut $9 million from next year's budget and $8 million from the 2013 budget.
Dan Soliday, president and CEO of Kansas Big Brothers Big Sisters, spoke to commissioners last week about the importance of the organization. It is one of 11, out of 370 Big Brothers Big Sisters of America chapters, to be given a Quality Award next week at a national conference in Dallas.
The cut from the county represents about 10 percent of the group's budget to serve local children.
Soliday said Big Brothers Big Sisters "did consult legislators and other government officials to voice our concerns over possible state funding cuts. However, we did not testify as a part of that process.
"Advocacy is new to us, but we are learning as we go and hope to build relationships that allow us to be a larger part of future legislative discussions."
McCray-Miller said some groups did testify.
"They came forward and gave testimony in committee early on when we were debating these budget cuts," she said. "And yet it fell on deaf ears.
"One, because we do find ourselves in a budget crunch. And two, we have not prioritized prevention. We know counties can show. . . how much it saves us on the back end."
But it's not just about dollars, she said.
"It's not only dollars saved, that's lives saved," she said.