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The CDHS Division of Youth Services (DYS) provides for the care and supervision of youth committed by the District Court to the custody of CDHS. DYS operates 10 secure youth centers that serve youth between the ages of 10-21 who are pre-adjudicated or committed. In addition to residential programming, DYS administers juvenile parole services throughout Colorado.
Questions about DYS? Visit the Frequently Asked Questions page and expand the Youth Services FAQs section.
Expand the sections below to learn more about DYS and the services it provides to Colorado youth:
Administrative Services provides support in carrying out the mission, goals and objectives of the organization. Visit the Administrative Services page to learn more.
Colorado Statute allows the District Court several sentencing options when committing juveniles to DYS. These options include non-mandatory sentences, allowing CDHS the ability to bring youth before the juvenile parole board when they have completed treatment, and mandatory sentences, where youth are required to remain in residential placement for a minimum of one year. Violent and repeat offenders receive mandatory sentences of no less than one year. Aggravated juvenile offenders can be sentenced to up to seven years.
DYS operates a full continuum of services for committed youth through a Continuum of Care model. The Continuum of Care guides the activities of the Division throughout the commitment process from the initial assessment, to residential placement, throough transition and parole supervision and services. The stages of the commitment process are outlined below.
Assessment - Statute mandates that DYS provide a comprehensive assessment for all youth within the first 30 days of their commitment. The assessment includes criminogenic risk and needs, mental health, education and vocation, medical, and in some cases psychological/neuropsychological evaluation. Following the completion of the assessment, a multi-disciplinary team meets to discuss the youth and family’s needs, placement type, and future transition plan.
Almost without exception, youth are moved to a permanent placement following the assessment meeting. DYS provides residential treatment services to committed youth in either State-operated secure programs or private contract placements. Individualized treatment and transition plans are developed for each youth. Residential placements offer a variety of services that include education, vocation training, medical services, individual, group and family treatment, recreation, gender-specific treatment, transition services, and as needed, substance abuse and/or offense specific treatment.
Two DYS secure youth centers, Lookout Mountain Youth Services Center and Zebulon Pike Youth Services Center, serve committed youth exclusively. These programs are designed to treat the highest-risk, highest-need committed males. DYC also operates four multipurpose youth centers that, in addition to acting as juvenile detention facilities, provide longer-term treatment to committed youth.
Colorado currently contracts with one private provider to operate a State-owned youth center: the Ridge View Youth Services Center. Ridge View is a 500-bed open campus designed to operate with an academic/vocational focus.
DYS contracts with a variety of private providers for community programs that range from staff-secure treatment programs to foster homes licensed through the State. Placement alternatives include residential child care centers, group homes and foster homes. These programs act both as initial treatment programs and as transition placements for youth moving from more secure settings. These programs may also focus on specific populations or the provision of specific services, such as treating youth with high mental health needs, or youth transitioning to independent living.
DYS provides a comprehensive array of services to youth who are transitioning from either State-operated secure placements or community residential placements to their home communities. These services are “backed-in” to residential programs to facilitate successful transition back to the community. Services are provided through a combination of placement staff and non-residential programs contracted through regional offices. Transition services may include: obtaining necessary documentation, family services such as multi-systemic therapy, mentoring, cognitive behavioral groups, substance abuse relapse prevention, supervision, employment training and job placement, independent living preparation and support, direct support, and educational support.
Colorado Statute requires that every committed youth exiting DYS must serve six months of mandatory parole. Cases that meet certain criteria may be extended by 15 months. Independent of DYS, the Colorado Juvenile Parole Board hears the cases of each youth preparing for parole, sets terms and conditions and has the authority to modify, suspend or revoke parole.
DYS is responsible for the operation of the juvenile parole system. This includes providing parole supervision to each committed youth. Parole supervision is accomplished through the client manager/parole officer system located within regional offices. Parole officers are responsible for ensuring parole plans are designed in accordance with each youth’s level of risk and need.
DYS is responsible for the operation of Colorado’s juvenile detention “continuum." The continuum consists of community-based screening to determine detention needs, community supervision strategies, and secure detention in youth centers operated by or contracting with DYC. In Colorado, detention serves two purposes:
The detention continuum begins with screening and assessment services for any youth referred for detention admission. The screening process is managed by each of the state’s 22 judicial districts and is designed to determine the most appropriate setting for each youth. In most cases, youth screened will be served and monitored through non-secure, community-based services such as day reporting, electronic home monitoring, and/or enhanced community supervision. For those youth whom the screen reveals has the potential to run, is a risk to others, or otherwise is likely to violate conditions of community supervision, he or she can be detained in one of the eight secure juvenile detention centers operated by DYS, or the staff-secure/secure detention youth center operated by community-based providers. Five State-owned and -operated youth centers serve only detention youth; the Gilliam Youth Services Center in Denver, the Marvin W. Foote Youth Services Center in Englewood, the Adams Youth Services Center in Brighton, the Pueblo Youth Services Center in Pueblo, and the Spring Creek Youth Services Center in Colorado Springs. Three secure State-operated youth centers are multi-purpose, serving detention and committed youth: these are the Platte Valley, Grand Mesa and Mount View Youth Services Centers.
All youth detained or placed under supervision programs in the community receive a hearing before a magistrate within 48 hours. For those held in secure detention, a decision is made whether the youth will be sent home on a community supervision and treatment plan or if further detention is warranted.
The detention model has advanced significantly in the last few decades. In 1991, the legislature expanded beyond the facility programming with the provision of community-based detention services through the Colorado Youth Detention Continum (CYDC) program. Legislators noted that rising detention populations and projections for substantial future increases would be a significant operational burden and enormously expensive if youth centers were the sole solution to provide necessary supervision. A critical philosophical foundation of the legislation is the belief that on any given day, youth are housed in a secure detention center who could be safely supervised in the community given the appropriate level of services. The bill was designed to create options for community supervision of youth offenders while they await court hearings and/or the disposition of their cases. Detention screening and assessment were added to statute in the ensuing years, providing a mechanism for Districts to ensure appropriate detention referrals and management of their allocated beds.
Visit the Management Team & Organization page to view DYS organizational charts and learn about our office.
Information about PREA, a federal law that went into effect in 2003.