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Walbridge Accelerated Elementary School in the Walnut Park neighborhood; the first site of Caring Communities

 

Khatib Waheed watching out for gang and/or drug activity performing neighborhood-bases Street Corner Patrol

About Walbridge Caring Communities  Program  (WCCP)

 

 The Walbridge Caring Communities Program (WCCP) began on May 15, 1989, at Walbridge Elementary School in a north St. Louis neighborhood called Walnut Park. 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.

 

Why Were Programs Like Walbridge Caring Communities 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.

 

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.

 

The funding partners of the WCCP and other supporters believed that too many children and families were being affected by these trends and that alternative approaches should be explored. Khatib A.F. Waheed was selected to co-design and implement the programs and services for the newly established public-private partnership.