Commissioner backs fee system for juveniles
A Leavenworth County commissioner would like to see more parents take responsibility for their children.
Don Navinsky said he wants Leavenworth County district judges to require that parents pay for some of the costs of housing juvenile offenders.
"I think society wants this," said Navinsky, a five-year commission veteran. "Society is deeming we want accountability. We went through the few decades that it's always somebody else's fault."
Navinsky said he hopes to drive home the point to parents that children are their responsibility not the responsibility of government. In addition, he said, it would lighten the burden that juvenile offenders place on county taxpayers.
"It's a two-fold solution," he said.
Several other Kansas counties have instituted a fee structure for parents or guardians of juvenile offenders.
The Leavenworth County commission already has discussed Navinsky's idea. Commissioners asked Frank Kohl, county attorney, and Ed Kitchens, director of the Leavenworth County Juvenile Detention Center, to draft proposals for a fee system.
Kitchens said he plans to have his submitted to the commission by Friday.
"I am for charging a reasonable fee," he said. "It has to be a fee that won't destroy some of the families we deal with. We deal with a lot of families where grandparents, uncles and aunts are taking care of the children because they have been taken from the parents.
"It seems like it would be a terrible burden to charge these people a fee. In other situations, I feel a fee is appropriate to try to hold a parent a little bit more accountable, where in a lot of cases, it seems they're not trying very hard to maintain control over their children."
Kitchens said he prefers that no one be charged for the first visit to the 5-year-old detention center.
"Any time after that, there would be a fee," he said. "The more times they are detained here, the larger the fee."
Both Navinsky and Kitchens emphasized that the county commission cannot impose fees. That job is up to the judges who order children to be detained at the center, 601 S. Third, which can house up to eight children. And Navinsky said he wouldn't want families of innocent children to be dunned.
"Just because they're there, it doesn't mean they're guilty," he said.
Navinsky said he's not sure what a fair fee would be, but he noted that the center must be fully staffed at all times.
"You've got to keep the staff whether you have one, two or none," he said.
One thing is clear to Navinsky: Something must be done.
"Forty years ago, there wasn't any such thing, and parents automatically accepted responsibility," Navinsky said.