County needs foster homes for special kids

HUDSON—Foster care, Raise the Age, and jail space received attention at Columbia County Board of Supervisors committee meetings Tuesday, April 18 and Wednesday, April 19.

At the April 18 meeting of the Health and Human Services Committee, Robert Gibson of the acting Commissioner of the county Department of Social Services (DSS) reported that his agency is having “a difficult time” finding foster homes for “hard to place children” ordered into foster care.

One such child, who needed special educational and psychological services, the DSS had to send to Latrobe, Pennsylvania.

The Public Safety Committee meeting April 19, though dominated by discussions on the opioid abuse crisis, also heard from Vincent Doto, director of the county Probation Department, about the Raise the Age law, which Governor Cuomo signed on April 10. The law raises the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 17 on October 1, 2018, and to 18 on October 1, 2019.

“It’s not the form that was expected,” Mr. Doto said. “It deals with only certain felony cases. There are a lot of pieces that have to be put together. There will be an additional category—in addition to youthful offender and juvenile offender there will be adolescent offender,” he reported.

But he said the new law, which brings state standards for handling young people in the criminal justice system in line with the rest of the country, won’t affect the county as much as was originally anticipated. In earlier meetings, Mr. Doto had expressed “fears” about costs to the county and Family Courts because of expected increases in cases that previously would have been handled state courts.

Also at that meeting, Sheriff David Bartlett said that Greene County needs a new jail. If the Commissioner of Corrections ever declares Greene County’s existing jail unusable, Greene County is likely to send Columbia County more Greene County inmates and thus more money for the costs associated with boarding out-of-county inmates. Currently, Columbia County inmates fill barely half the jail space at the Columbia County Jail.

At that, Supervisor John Reilly (R-Gallatin) proposed a joint Columbia-Greene jail. “Why don’t they have just one jail for the two counties? That’s shared services.”

The next Columbia County Board of Supervisors Health and Human Services Committee meeting will be held Tuesday, May 16, at 4:00 pm. The next Public Safety Committee meeting will be held Wednesday, May 17, at 5:00 pm. Both will take place at 510 State Street.

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