‘Raise the age’ may lead to new jobs

JOHNSTOWN — The Fulton County Department of Social Services is proposing the creation of two positions totaling over $127,000 to help locally address the state’s new “Raise the Age” legislation.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on April 10, 2017 signed legislation raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York state from 16 to 18 years old. Young people aged 16 and 17 will no longer be permitted to be housed in adult facilities or jails.

The law goes into effect Oct. 1.

DSS Commissioner Anne Solar requested creation of a new $54,059 case aide position. She also requested a new $73,290 caseworker position. The staff additions recently went before the Board of Supervisors’ Human Services Committee.

Solar is hoping for 100 percent reimbursement of costs through the state and federal governments.

The Raise the Age legislation requires all but the most serious 16-year-old criminal offenders to be diverted to county Family Court, and handled consistent with juvenile delinquent statutes. On Oct. 1, 2019, 17-year-old offenders will likewise be diverted.

Those 16- or 17-year-olds impacted and charged with a non-violent felony or a misdemeanor will be considered an “adolescent offender” and be completely protected from the adult incarceration population.

Solar told the committee that current DSS staff will be “unable to absorb the additional caseload generated by Raise the Age or the intense service needed to successfully prevent placement of this high need population.”

The DSS commissioner said her department eventually desires to create a team devoted specially to Raise the Age families and youth. This team would include the new case aide and caseworker, as well as a contracted family therapist and a probation officer.

“The team will provide intense, coordinated services to JD [juvenile delinquent] youth and their families,” Solar said. “It would allow DSS to provide targeted, easily accessible, well-informed crisis and counseling services with a consistent message to the family.”

In other committee business, Solar requested committee approval to send two child protective caseworkers to two-day Hope Changes Everything training in late October in Lake Placid. There is no cost to the county. The cost is assumed by the Child Abuse Center.

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