Kids get least of counselors' time Court, travel,paperwork are cited in study.

May 09, 1991|By Laura Lippman | Laura Lippman,Evening Sun Staff

Counselors with the state Department of Juvenile Services spend far more time on paperwork, travel and waiting in court than they do working with their young charges, according to a study by the Johns Hopkins University Institute for Policy Studies.

In the study, which tracked more than 25 percent of the 8,447 young people under department supervision, the counselors spent from 38 percent to 69 percent of their time on these housekeeping activities, which cut into the time available for face-to-face visits and telephone contacts.

"The importance of face-to-face contacts has to do with the fact that it allows you an opportunity to interact with that youngster, to begin to work on what problems are apparent," said David M. Altschuler, the research scientist who conducted the study.

Altschuler also found the department had no set standards for case supervision and no system to set priorities for "high-risk youths" -- those in greatest danger of being repeat offenders -- over those at lower risk.

The study, conducted over a six-week period starting in February 1990, was released last week to four legislative committees. Its recommendations included:

* Establishing standards that specify a minimum number of face-to-face visits, so that those youths at greatest risk receive the most attention.

* Creating an information system that can better track the staff's performance.

* Minimizing paperwork to avoid duplication.

Altschuler said new DJS Secretary Nancy Grasmick already has expressed interest in setting up standards for the department.

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