The Alabama State Capitol as seen from Dexter Avenue in downtown Montgomery, Alabama on January 24, 2023. (Brian Lyman/Advertiser)
The head of the Alabama Department of Youth Services head said Friday that the department is cutting down the number of people on their waiting list.
At the Friday board meeting, Steven Lafreniere, executive director of the department, which oversees juvenile justice programs in the state, said that the DYS’ waiting list has fallen from 145 at the beginning of September to 100 as of this week. With the 2024 fiscal year beginning on Sunday, Lafreniere said they are about to be able to put in 32 new level 2, or “secure residential,” beds.
“We, as you know, have been speaking about this issue for over a year now and in our challenges and struggles to try to improve the waiting time for kids,” Lafreniere said.
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The director said after the meeting that the waiting list was driven by a lack of personnel.
“What we had was a spike on waiting lists because of a staffing crisis,” he said.
Lafreniere said they have only been able to take in enough staff that they have had supervision for, which created a longer waiting list. He said that students might have to stay at detention centers or homes until a spot on the waiting list opens up.
He also said that they have been able to hire more people and have had larger groups for new employee orientations.
“What we’ve got to also do is make sure we don’t lose anybody on the back end for resignations or they’re trying to find another job that pays more money,” he said.
Lafreniere said that the the addition of new beds and opening more dorms should reduce the waiting list further.
One of the dorms that Lafreniere brought up at the board meeting was an “honors dorm,” attached to the Mt. Meigs campus in Montgomery County, which would be for students who have done nearly all that was asked of them, are taking classes and are around 19 or 20 years old.
“We had three kids, four kids move into there just the other day, but we refurbished a dorm,” he said. “This will be for those students who are doing well.”
He said that the expansion of that dorm will increase the success of the program.
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