Nation’s First Youth Campus Tests Partnership Waters

Bill Bishop
November 1, 1995


Lane County is exploring new dimensions in public-private partnerships with the creation of a 30-acre "campus" devoted strictly to youth services — from prevention to detention.

An inspiration of Jim Forbes, who heads the $6 million a year nonprofit Looking Glass Youth and Family Services, the centralization is funded by a $38.9 million bond issue passed in May by voters angry and fearful over Eugene's rising juvenile crime rate but still willing to invest in crime prevention and youth development services.

While weighted toward corrections, the new Lane County Juvenile Justice Center also was sold as a cooperative community venture flexible enough to house agencies serving the developmental needs of youth, including recreation. Concentration of facilities in one place is intended to save construction, operating and training costs, plus provide space to meet future needs as they arise in the small city's rapidly growing population of young people.

"We don't want it to be just for the toughest of the tough kids," Forbes said.

Business groups, judges, the district attorney and other state and local elected officials were vocal in support of the bond issue. Critics like Brian Simonitch, a juvenile parole and probation officer for 29 years, publicly questioned whether less expensive alternatives had been overlooked in the rush to build a new detention center.

"There is a distinct lack of clarity here," he said.

Indeed, a master plan of the center's campus is still being developed by a 28-member Implementation Task Force composed of representatives of citizen, and governmental organizations. The group currently is in the process of selecting an architect to design the campus and its structures, Forbes said. While he and Steve Carmichael, Director of Lane County's youth services since 1989, have been lobbying for such a campus for years, the bond issue referendum itself was accepted on the May 1995 ballot only five weeks before the election.

Breaking New Territory

As far as Forbes is aware, the project is setting a precedent in the youth field. "When we first started looking at the idea of having a public-private venture," he mused, "we found some governmental-type campuses and some nonprofit-type campuses but we didn't find any public and private entitles coming together" — and involving brick and mortar— though he says there could be some out there.

"The concept certainly lends itself to coordination and collaboration among care providers. A lot of communities are moving in that direction," commented Jim Brown, whose Community Research Associates provides technical assistance and training to youth agencies nationwide through a contract with the United States Office of Juvenile Justice.

Centralized facilities, he noted, should include community-use functions to take the hard edge off the public perception of a youth campus as a place only for bad kids. Building designs should reflect the appropriate level of security and access, and the proximity of different youth service professionals should encourage cooperative, collegial attitudes (which Forbes predicts will happen).

Some $34 million of the bond issue is earmarked to build new facilities for detention, juvenile court, parole and probation offices. The remaining $4 million is seed money to create a spectrum of public-private youth services on campus: a 20-bed shelter facility, a secure 20-bed drug and alcohol program, classrooms for delinquents, and a youth development center, plus other residential and recreational programs.

Local officials were also negotiating with the state over a proposal to build the new 96-bed county detention center in partnership with a proposed new 100-bed state regional facility for post-adjudicated youths. But the joint venture, which would have saved construction costs for the county and the state by sharing kitchen, security, medical, laundry, admissions, recreation, heating and cooling systems, was rejected in October by state officials citing inadequate space.

At the time of the bond issue vote, the concept provided voters with another concrete vision of the benefits of cooperative ventures. "One of the keys is to be ready, to have done enough planning to throw out a solution when the time, comes," Carmichael said.

Testing the Campus Concept

The site, four minutes from downtown and across the way from the University of Oregon's football stadium, presently holds just the county's antiquated 36-bed detention center. When Carmichael, who runs the center, told Forbes it should be replaced, Forbes began looking at the site to centralize some of Looking Glass' operations that have spread to 12 locations since it started in the 1970s as a counter-culture-oriented runaway youth shelter with a budget of $3,000 per year. The then red-bearded Forbes, still a college student, was one of is first tie-dyed volunteers.

Besides its now comprehensive run-away shelter. Looking Glass maintains counseling services, a job center, drug and alcohol treatment, a residential mental health program, an outreach program for homeless youth, and a 24-hour crisis line. Its 150 paid staff served 6,200 clients last year under two dozen separate contracts that generate almost three-fourths of the agency's annual $6 million budget. The remainder of the budget comes from fees, insurance and federal Title 19 payments. Only 1 percent is from private charity, although the agency gets block grants and foundation support for capital projects.

In 1990, the Lane County Department of Youth Services decided to test the campus concept by installing modular, portable structures on the detention center grounds for a 14-bed substance abuse treatment program for boys. Called Pathways, Looking Glass won the contract to operate it. With detention services so close at hand, the treatment program had the teeth it needed to control clients and to impress clients' families about the severity of their children's problem.

The arrangement saved the cost of building a kitchen in the new residential program, and also gave the treatment staff the security of round-the-clock emergency backup from the detention staff. Recidivism among Pathways graduates plummeted.

"That was an early indication this campus idea was on trade,” Carmichael said. 'Having land zoned appropriately was the facilitating factor for government to allow this to happen."

In 1994, the state deeded over to the county an adjoining 1.3 acre piece of land used by the National Guard that will house the first privately-funded building on the site — Looking Glass’ $1.2 million residential treatment center for post-adjudicated youth and young sex offenders.

Forbes has raised about $1 million so far: $350,000 from the McKay Foundation, a local philanthropy and one of his perennial donors; $195,000 in community development block grants; $150,000 in Looking Glass’ own resources, and the rest in private and corporate donations. Ground will be broken in February 1996, Forbes said, and he expects the facility to be operational in August.

Growth of Youth Gangs

Lane County is a rural western Oregon area of forests, mountains and farms the size of Connecticut where half of the county's 300,000 people live in the neighboring communities of Eugene and Springfield. Demand for the new Juvenile Justice Center has been abetted by one shocking juvenile crime after another.

In 1993, Eugene was rocked by its first youth gang-related murder. Then came media reports of dramatic growth in urban-style street gangs, with law enforcement statistics showing membership had quadrupled over three years.

A string of homicides, serious assaults and a $1-million arson at a Springfield high school, all by juveniles, fired more public concern. The shortage of detention space for serious offenders became a regular news media topic. Dealing with juvenile crime was the theme of the state-of-the-county speech by the president of the county Board of Commissioners in late 1994. Youth crime had become a statewide issue as well.

By the time the Oregon Legislature met in mid-1994, a statewide buildup of regional juvenile corrections facilities was practically a foregone conclusion — including the approval of bond issues to finance them.

Benefits for Looking Glass

Represented on the Implementation Task Force are the state Commission on Children and Families, the local bar association, a congressional aide, The League of Women Voters, the district attorney, parents, a former youth offender who is a graduate of the system, law enforcement, the University of Oregon, schools, county government and private, nonprofit providers.

Carmichael and Forbes are just two of the faces at the table. "Neither one of us is controlling it," says Forbes, who has built one of the best multi-service youth agencies in the United States, in part by readily giving others the credit. "I'm one of about 30 people trying to implement this. Now it belongs to the community, and it will be implemented by the community."

While the emerging campus affords no guarantees for Looking Glass, it poses no greater risk than business-as-usual for the nonprofit group, Forbes said. It's just a different risk. And it's one that brings Looking Glass some potential benefits as well.

New partnerships should produce a solid track record that, theoretically at least, should generate more funding for more partnerships, Forbes said. The first evidence supporting the theory surfaced in early October, when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Center for Substance Abuse Treatment awarded Lane County a $ 1.18-million grant to expand alcohol and drug treatment services under the collaborative, comprehensive model embodied in the youth campus concept. Forbes' agency will provide outpatient treatment as part of the service plan to be developed for each youth offender under the grant.

"With the partnerships, you have so much more impact on the system. You can show off what you do best and get feedback on what you can do better," said Forbes, who has long since shed his beard for a Rotary Club pin in his lapel "1 get a lot of excitement out of seeing what Looking Glass does — giving services to people that help them turn their lives around. What is most exciting to me is that we can be part of the overall network of services to children, youths and families."

But will this new public-private venture be able to stay the course over the long term?

Such partnerships work best where turf battles and fief building among agencies give way to a philosophy of providing quality programs that are driven by local needs rather than agency needs. observes Earl Dunlap, executive director for the National Juvenile Detention Association based at Eastern Kentucky University.

"What prohibits this from going on are the turf issues. Odds are they'll go only part way with it because of the question of who is going to be in control."

It will be illuminating to observe how management of the campus does work out once all the planned structures are up and occupied in about three years.


Jim Forbes, Executive Director

Looking Glass

72-B Centennial Loop, Suite 2

Eugene, OR 97401

(503) 686-2688

FAX (503) 345-7605

Steve Carmichael, Director

Lane County Department of Youth Services

2411 Centennial Boulevard

Eugene, OR 97401

(503) 341-4705

FAX (503) 341-4732

Bishop, Bill. "Nation’s First Youth Campus Tests Partnership Waters." Youth Today, November/December 1995, p. 16-17.

©2000 Youth Today. Reprinted with permission from Youth Today. All rights reserved.