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April 29, 2009 > Union City Creates New Youth & Family Services Division

Union City Creates New Youth & Family Services Division

By Simon Wong

Union City Leisure Services Department, headed by Leisure Services Director Tony Acosta, will create a new Youth & Family Services Division (YFSD) to manage the City's programs for at-risk youth and families.

Crisis intervention, youth violence prevention and intervention, youth employment, and other youth-and-family related services will be provided. The YFSD will not be the only funding source or service provider within the City but will establish a referrals network with external public and private agencies.

$500,000 from Measure UU and the recent award of a $314,000 CalGRIP grant have facilitated implementation of the City's Youth Violence Prevention & Intervention Programs (YVPIP).

Five YFSD positions are being created, as identified in the CalGRIP and Measure UU Resource Allocation Plan approved by Council in Sept 2008: Youth & Family Services Manager, Lead Outreach Worker, Outreach Worker, Youth Employment Coordinator and Case Manager. These positions will be implemented in FY 2009-10.

The Intervention Counselor positions, formerly in the Intervention Services Unit, and a new Bilingual (Spanish) Intervention Counselor will be part of the YFSD.

Council's approval for the YFSD FY2009-10 budget and compensation for the new positions will be sought on April 28. The interview and appointment process can then begin. YVPIP staff should be in post by July 1, 2009.

Asking the Council to approve the YVPIP budget before the City's overall FY2009-10 budget will determine availability of Measure UU funds for some City services associated with the YVPIP programs.

Staff sought approval for the classifications of the five YFSD positions at the April 14 Council Meeting.

Councilman Valle broached and presented changes to the job descriptions.

Valle was introduced to youth violence and family dispute resolution as a student intern with the Union City-based Family and Youth Services Bureau from 1975-77. He then joined a new, City-funded program and, in 1980, co-founded Tri-Ced Community Recycling which employs difficult-to-employ young people.

"Everyone's aware that Measure UU passed last November. I've been immersed in this issue from the start. Having reviewed the job descriptions, I propose some changes to the Youth & Family Services Manager and Outreach Worker positions that I'd like to pass to Staff and Council," said Valle.

"There's been a call in the community to move quickly on this item because of the violence in the last two weeks. Personally, I'm opposed to any delay. These changes aren't huge or significant but complement the existing descriptions," he added.

The public received copies of the proposed changes during a short recess.

"I've a personal stake in this as does my neighborhood. I sincerely believe I've reached this position as an elected official as a direct result of the challenges I've encountered and collaborations I've forged. We all have a stake in seeing Measure UU move forward in an inclusive manner. We must all play a part to reduce violence to keep our community safe," he resumed.

"It's highly irregular to make decisions regarding changes to job classifications in a City Council meeting. They should be reviewed and assessed. Much thought was put into the original job descriptions. To make a decision in a short space of time puts Staff, especially those who'll be running this program, at a great disadvantage. We have established personnel rules that explicitly determine classifications. Action at this meeting is a disregard for those rules. My recommendation is to postpone this item until your next meeting when the budget for this program will be presented," cautioned City Manager Cheeves.

Most of the perceived changes proposed for the Outreach Worker position are already in the description and were accepted. Proposed deletions from the program manager position will not be implemented; additions will be included.

"Over the past two years we've lost too many youths to violence. We're ready for change; we ask that we move rapidly towards implementation of the Measure UU and CalGRIP money. We'd like to suggest that the Council convenes a Council working committee with Councilman Valle and Mayor Green who have been touched personally by violence in this community," said Karen Yifru.

Two other members of the Youth Violence Prevention Coalition spoke in support of the changes to the job specifications.

"This program should move forward but not so quickly that we compromise our goals. Ideally, we might be operational by June 15 when James Logan High School breaks for the summer vacation even though July 1 is the current target date," stated Mayor Green who asked Valle to elaborate on Yifru's suggestion for a working committee.

"I like to be hands-on. I like to be involved. I'd like to continue my involvement with this issue for many reasons but primarily because my neighborhood always comes to me for answers. If I'm not involved, then I shan't have the answers," explained Valle.

The Council agreed unanimously, in Vice-Mayor Dutra-Vernaci's absence, to approve the existing job classifications, with additions, and form a temporary working committee with Richard Valle and Mayor Green.

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