Keeping Youths Close to Home: Stakeholders Create a Residential Center for Youths in a Rural Area of Colorado

Article excerpt

Prowers County Youth Center (PCYC), located in a frontier region of southeastern Colorado, meets the needs of youths at risk of out-of-home placement. PCYC is both an alternative to incarceration and a one-stop evaluation and treatment facility to address mental health and substance abuse problems. It is a model of community collaboration specifically designed to keep youths connected to their rural communities and the system of support that will ensure their success.

PCYC is an 11-bed, staff-secure residential facility in Lamar, serving youths ages 10 to 18 in the six-county area of southeastern Colorado. PCYC is licensed as a specialized group home through the state Department of Human Services, and maintains a flexible structure to accommodate runaway and homeless youths, youths serving staff-secure juvenile detention, youths in emotional crisis, and youths in need of foster care or family respite.

PCYC was the brainchild of a community group that meets quarterly in Colorado's 15th Judicial District to discuss alternatives to juvenile incarceration. Before PCYC opened, youths in emotional crisis routinely were placed in facilities 60 to 180 miles away from their families and communities. Youths arrested for offenses requiring detention had only one option, which required extensive transportation resources from local law enforcement agencies. Runaway youths had no safe shelter, and youths needing temporary foster care often were placed hundreds of miles from their families, friends, schools, and communities.

The executive directors from Southeast Mental Health Services, Prowers County Department of Social Services, and Southeast Colorado for Drug Free Communities saw the benefit of developing a partnership and formed a limited liability corporation that would serve not only youths in legal trouble, but also those in family crises, those in emotional crises, or youths struggling with substance abuse problems. While no one agency could afford to run the youth center single-handedly, the trio worked together to create an invaluable, self-supporting resource for the region. The partnership also allows each entity to retain its own identity while committing to PCYC's mission and goals.

PCYC's main goals are to:

* strengthen families by promoting a positive parent/child bond and enhancing parents' ability to effectively monitor and control their youths' behavior;

* help youths achieve their potential by providing a consistent and caring environment that allows for psychological and emotional independence;

* help youths develop a sense of connectedness to others and society;

* help youths gain skills that lead to a sense of industry and competency; and

* facilitate family reunification when possible. …