Citing a long-term decrease in the number of delinquent youths being sent to residential care for education and treatment, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s social services arm is closing St. Gabriel’s Hall in Montgomery County and related programs.
The shift in the treatment of delinquent youth in the juvenile justice system, from institutions in favor of smaller settings closer to home, has accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic, making the St. Gabriel’s programs — which trace back to 1898 — financially unsustainable, the archdiocese announced Friday.
The archdiocese said the Catholic Human Services unit, known as St. Gabriel’s System, was on track to lose $3 million in the first six months of the fiscal year ending next June. Over the last five years, St. Gabriel’s System has received $3 million in subsidies from the archdiocese to support its work with boys and men 13 to 19 years old, the church said.
St. Gabriel’s Hall is a brick structure with a prominent tower along Route 422 near Pawlings Road in Audubon. The system includes De La Salle Vocational Program, a day program that provided education in trades and mental health support. St. Gabriel’s Hall also hosted the Mitchell Program, a 120-day intensive residential program for trauma care that incorporated the care of animals at a working farm to help youths develop trust and responsibility.
Last week Catholic Human Services said it provided a 60-day notice of layoffs to 180 employees of St. Gabriel’s System, which reported $2 million in operation losses on $20 million in revenue in the year ended June 30, 2019.
Over the next two months, officials at St. Gabriel’s are expected to work with the Philadelphia Family Court system to find new placements for the 30 teenagers enrolled at St. Gabriel’s Hall and the 25 teens in the vocational program. Five years ago, 150 young men were enrolled in the residential program and 80 were in the day program, the archdiocese said.
Since the beginning of 2015, the number of Philadelphia youths in institutions like St. Gabriel’s has plummeted to 140 from 976, according to data from the Philadelphia Department of Human Services.
“We’re glad to see the residential placements shrink,” said Maura McInerney, legal director at the Education Law Center, a nonprofit advocacy group in Philadelphia. However, McInerney said she hopes that the children will not be sent farther away or to state-operated secure sites run by the Bureau of Juvenile Justice Services.
An advantage of St. Gabriel’s was that its location was “close to the city, where you could continue to receive the support from family and community and obviously make a better transition,” McInerney said.
A spokesperson for the city’s Human Services Department said community options for the youths at St. Gabriel’s include going home with GPS monitoring or enrolling in a local center they would go to after school and for services. The remaining private institutional option for Philadelphians in the juvenile justice system is Summit Academy in western Pennsylvania. The decision on where the young men go will be made by a judge.