Getting the community involved and quadrupling volunteer participation has helped make the Cache Valley Youth Center one of three national finalists for the Barbara Allen-Hagen Award.
<p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”>According to Utah’s Juvenile Justice Services director, Susan Burke, the Barbara Allen-Hagen Award recognizes and honors juvenile correctional facilities around the country that meet what are considered best practices in the field. The winner of the award will be announced on Thursday, October 2.
<p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”>Burke says there are a number of data points that are considered when deciding whether or not a juvenile detention facility will be recognized to receive the prestigious award.
<p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”>”The national committee then reviews all of the applications to make the determination that this is the premier facility that captures the intent of the Barbara Allen-Hagen Award,” Burke explains. “That intent is to make sure we treat the kids that come into the facility as if they were our own child.
<p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”>”We want to make sure they have the best care, that they are safe and secure while they are going through the juvenile justice process.”
<p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”>Burke says, statewide, volunteers contributed more than 50,000 hours to youth detention facilities. But at the Cache Valley Youth Center, they had realized that only about 25% of their programs were utilizing volunteers.
<p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”>”They wanted to increase that from 25% to 80% within a six month period,” she continues. “Because they put together the plan, and they had that goal, the facility worked hard with the community getting volunteers to come in, identifying meaningful work for volunteers to help with youth.”
<p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”>After setting the goal and implementing a plan to get there, the center far exceeded the level of volunteer involvement they were originally looking for.
<p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”>”When they did the data collection process in April they found that 100% of their programs had volunteers involved. That was a significant achievement.”
<p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”>To get to that level of volunteer engagement, the Cache Valley Youth Center got together with their volunteer council to find ways of getting more people involved.
<p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”>”The facility director and their management team met with the council and said this is one of the things we want to do as a facility: to improve the intensity and engagement of volunteers, working with volunteers to identify what are some of the meaningful ways that we can engage volunteers in the work that we are doing and also working with the youth to identify what their particular interests and needs are.”
<p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”>In some cases, volunteers are coming in only a few times to share their career path, to help tutor youth on certain homework subjects, or to assist with a skill development. But other volunteers are helping with programs on a regular basis.
<p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”>”For example, the LDS church provides a regular religious service for young people who would like to attend and they are there on a weekly basis working with young folks.”
<p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”>One area the center identified as a real need for volunteers was to have Spanish speaking volunteers come in to help youth in their native language.
<p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”>Burke says the use of volunteers has improved the overall climate at the facility with the staff and with the youth that find themselves having to stay there. But it is also helping the youth feel more connected to the community.
<p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”>”We hope that the use of volunteers on a more consistent basis will prepare them to better go to the next phase of whatever the court is requiring of them, whether they go to an out-of-home placement, a residential treatment program or return to the community with supervision. We hope they return with better skills and better connections to the community.”
<p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”>Last year more than 630 youth were admitted to the Cache Valley Youth Center for detention. The center also has an observation and assessment program which requires youth to stay at the facility for 45 days. Last year 40 different youth went through that particular program.
<p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”>”One thing that is important for the community to understand is that the work that our staff does with young people is challenging. They come in, they are there because they made bad choices.
<p style=”margin-bottom: 0in;”>”We hope that the opportunity to intervene with them early and with the use and support of volunteers can make a meaningful change and difference in their life, so that they’re better prepared to make better decisions in the future and that we don’t see them in the same setting again.”