JACKSON — Jesse Brand is back.
Or rather, he is still here, trying to get the state to approve his Brand New Beginnings program for delinquent teenagers.
He has changed the program again, in response to discussions with the state. He has applied for a state license to open two homes, in Hebron and Jackson, and he is now changing the program in hopes of getting the license.
“I’ve overhauled my program,” he said.
Now he wants to start with just one home, in Jackson, with eight boys. Previously he had proposed two homes, with 12 children in each, and prior to that he proposed housing 50 or more children at the former Camp Hebron. He is still planning to take in children with sexual or arson-related offenses, and the children would still attend Salem Central School District.
State licensors asked him to add parents to his proposed program, which he has now done.
He envisions using an online system to “give parents homework.”
“So really I’m treating two in one: the kid and the parents,” he said.
He would also offer group therapy with other parents whose children have the same problems.
In addition, he has beefed up the proposed program for the teenagers.
“We added a new therapy that’s going to be used at night,” he said.
He also added another staff member to his planned group of workers in the home.
“So that at all times, if a kid goes AWOL (runs away), that kid is shadowed and no problems will ever happen,” he said.
By state law, he can’t lock the children up — he is not proposing a restrictive facility. So a staff member would try to follow each child who runs away, phoning in the location to police and attempting to supervise so that the child does not commit any crimes.
It is not clear what the state’s response has been to the three changes. State officials said the license application is still under review.
Brand has been criticized locally for having none of the relevant experience one might expect from someone running a home for children with serious needs.
That’s partly why he has narrowed his plan to one home.
“I can focus on a smaller number of kids. The smaller the number of kids, the easier it is to help them,” he said.
But he hasn’t given up on the idea of eventually opening a second home in Hebron.
“We’re only opening one to start with, so I can focus on the one, and then people can say, ‘He proved it there,’” he said.