By Karen Frantz
A new boarding home for delinquent teenagers has recently opened in South Ozone Park as part of an effort to keep rehabilitating youths close to their families, but residents who live nearby are annoyed the program failed to ask their views about the location of the home before it set up shop.
The site opened, at 133-25 128th St., as part of the Close to Home program, created through legislation signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in March. The program allows young, non-violent offenders to stay in the city rather than go to a juvenile justice center upstate.
Wanda Jackson, director of social services at SCO Family of Services, a nonprofit based in Long Island contracted to run the South Ozone Park boarding home and three others in Queens, said the teenagers at the facility benefit from being near their families and the close supervision the program provides.
“The main problem [the children] were facing before is a lack of structure that we know families and kids need in this day and age to be successful,” she said. “One of the main things that we’re ensuring is that the family is actively involved.”
She said when families are active participants in the rehabilitation process, it helps kids make better decisions to not be involved with the activities that got them into trouble in the first place. One out of 10 children using Close to Home’s approach are rearrested, compared to eight out of 10 with other approaches, she said.
She told members of Community Board 10 at its monthly meeting Oct. 4 that the facility, which currently houses three juvenile offenders and can hold up to eight, has tight security. SCO also said it is in the midst of conducting neighborhood outreach about the program, including distributing flyers about the program door to door and meeting with the local police precinct and civic association.
But some residents who attended the meeting, although they seemed to acknowledge the benefit of the program, questioned why they were not consulted about the location of the home ahead of time.
“There was absolutely no discussion of site selection,” Betty Braton, chairwoman of Community Board 10, said at the meeting.
SCO said it carefully selected the site to accommodate the Close to Home requirements, and the city Administration for Children’s Services, which oversees the program, approved the location.
Braton said ACS did hold some informational meetings and invited public comment on how it would be implemented, but did not provide the opportunity for public comment specifically on site selection.
She said she thinks it is likely in the second phase of the program that community boards and elected officials will tell ACS that there needs to be more community input on site selection.
Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.