By Ed Meyer
Beacon Journal staff writer
A Summit County program launched four years ago to reduce the number of children committed to juvenile detention facilities has put Juvenile Judge Linda Tucci Teodosio in the national spotlight.
Teodosio, who has served on the Summit County bench since 2003, was selected by U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., as one of four panelists scheduled to speak on the issue Tuesday at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C.
The symposium, “States Innovations in Juvenile Justice: Investing in Better Outcomes for Our Communities,” will examine innovative programs implemented in Connecticut, Texas and Ohio, a Senate spokesman said, to keep children in their communities and schools — and out of the court system.
Teodosio’s juvenile court Responder Program, which began in 2009 as a pilot program in the Akron Public Schools, will be one of the central topics of her Capitol speech.
It deals primarily with middle school children who have truancy or mental health problems, with the goal of keeping them out of detention through assessments and counseling for their behavioral issues.
A court specialist works closely with the child, a parent or guardian, teacher, counselor or therapist on solutions for the problems.
In the 2011-2012 academic school year, according to Summit juvenile court statistics, 15 schools participated in the Responder Program. A total of 80 cases were opened, and 76 percent of those cases, involving 61 students, were handled successfully without the filing of any formal court case.
Teodosio said statistics for the 2012-2013 school year are not complete, but as of this week there were 18 schools participating, with 76 cases and 35 of 44 cases (80 percent) closed successfully.
Only nine of those cases were unsuccessful, with 32 still classified as open.
“It’s something that we’ve worked on very hard,” Teodosio said, “and I think it’s starting to get the attention of some folks as a means of getting kids help for these problems by connecting them with services.
“Studies show that kids do better in their own communities than they do when they get sent away to the Department of Youth Services,” she said.
Three states, Connecticut, Texas and Ohio, an aide to the Connecticut senator said, have led the way with such programs in recent years, resulting in reduced spending on state commitments and, most importantly, improved outcomes for the children.
Ben Marter, a Washington spokesman for the Connecticut senator, said Teodosio was chosen because she has been a leader in the juvenile justice reform movement.
“Judge Teodosio has a great deal of experience with Ohio’s reforms in directly implementing Reclaim Ohio and being one of only two juvenile courts in the state to start the new school responder project to refer students to mental health services,” Marter said.
Teodosio, 56, will be joined in Tuesday’s Capitol presentation, from 4 to 5:30 p.m., by Robert Listenbee, the U.S. Justice Department’s chief administrator in the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; Texas State Sen. John Whitmire; and Mike Lawlor, Connecticut’s under secretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning.
“It’s kind of exciting. I’m sure I will be quite nervous, but hopefully I can do justice to some of the good work that has been done in Ohio,” Teodosio said.
Marter said the public was invited to the conference, and more than 120 are expected to attend.
Live video of the conference will be available on the Internet at YouTube.com/senchrismurphy.
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or at email@example.com.