Khatib Waheed was the Executive Director and Co-Architect of the Walbridge Caring Communities Program (WCCP) which began on May 15, 1989, at Walbridge Elementary School in a north St. Louis neighborhood called Walnut Park.
WHY WAS WCCP NEEDED?
Nation-wide the number of children entering foster care began to increase rapidly between 1986 and 1989 and by 1999 the numbers had doubled from 269,000 to 567,000.
Two significant factors contributing to the increase were: the growing crack cocaine epidemic and the harsh sentencing guidelines imposed upon users and dealers under the Anti-Drug Act passed in 1986. These factors impacted the average daily juvenile justice detention numbers as well. During that same period the number of youths detained increased from 13,031 in 1985 to 26,451 by 1999.
Support in the form of funding and other critical resources were provided by the Danforth Foundation and the Missouri Departments of Mental Health, Social Services, Elementary and Secondary Education and Health.
Juvenile justice reform legislation was passed by Congress in 1976 and 1978, creating a new category of juvenile crime called the “designated felon” which allowed for teens as young as fourteen, who committed violent acts, to be given longer sentences. Some teens as young as thirteen were even tried in adult criminal court for murder to face the same penalties as adults.
These new laws marked a dramatic shift from historic approaches which leaned towards child rehabilitation and serving the best interest of the child to place greater emphasis on deterrence, punishment and accountability for youths displaying anti-social behavior. Similar patterns were revealing themselves with respect to the number of adults entering state and federal prisons. In 1985, there were roughly 23,000 women in state and federal prisons. By 1990, the numbers had increased to 44,000 or almost double. Black and Latino families and communities were most adversely affected, with much of the impact reflected in the increasing numbers of children and youths entering and remaining in foster care and juvenile detention.