About DYS


The mission of the Division of Youth Services (DYS)  is to provide effective prevention, intervention and treatment programs to give opportunities for success to families and children in Arkansas and to ensure public safety.


Children and families in Arkansas are safe and have the resources they need in their communities to help them succeed.

The Division of Youth Services has developed a five-year comprehensive strategic plan that will revolutionize the juvenile justice system in Arkansas. The chart below summarizes the direction and scope of the system changes envisioned with the strategic plan.

  • Concept of public safety
  • Role of DYS
  • Response to system youth
  • Primary focus
  • Budgets
  • Method of operation
  • Basis for decision making
  • System employees
  • Data system on youth
  • Evaluation of providers
  • Relationship with schools and Courts
  • Relationship with Department of Corrections
  • National reputation

Our Past

  • Incarcerating and committing offenders
  • Responding to juvenile crime
  • Many in secure confinement
  • Youth in trouble
  • Spiraling costs of incarceration
  • Independent bureaucracy
  • Tradition and precedent
  • High stress and turnover
  • Fragmented and incomplete
  • Compliance with contract
  • Independent efforts
  • Feeder for adult prisons
  • Behind national progress

Our Future

  • Creating and restoring healthy families
  • Preventing juvenile delinquency
  • More in community-based services
  • Strength-based family systems
  • Money re-allocated to treatment
  • Responsive and agile network
  • Practices proven effective and evidence-based
  • Highly trained and professional
  • Interactive, integrated and useful
  • Positive outcomes for youth
  • Partners in prevention
  • Reverses path toward crime
  • Leader in reform


This plan is based on a number of shared values and belief among stakeholders for juvenile justice reform.

  1. State resources and programs to support children and families in Arkansas should be coordinated in a system of care for maximum effectiveness This imperative must infuse every goal and strategy in this plan.
  2. Redirecting resources from incarceration and punishment to prevention and treatment will be more effective, less costly, and lead to greater public safety for citizens of the state.
  3. Youth and families should receive services in community centers close to their homes whenever possible This will allow more community buy-in, family involvement, and ease of transition after treatment.
  4. Response to children in trouble should involve multi-system interventions with their families, and families should be involved in needs assessment and planning.
  5. Programs and services should be strength-based and empower youth and families to succeed.
  6. Programs and services should be evidence-based or have data showing effective outcomes. To achieve this accountability will require better baseline data and on-going data sharing as well as a commitment to data-based decision making.
  7. All children and youth in the state should have equal opportunities for fairness, help and success without regard to gender, race or ethnicity, disability, geographic location, income level, or any other factor.
  8. An effective juvenile justice system will require creative partnerships among state agencies, public and private schools, churches and faith-based organizations, local communities, the judicial system, and foundations.

Historic Overview of DYS

  • Act 199 of 1905 established the first reform schools in Arkansas in Little Rock and Alexander, respectively. 
  • Act 67 of 1917, the Arkansas Boys' Reform School was relocated to Pine Bluff.  
  • Act 60 of 1937 established two additional "training" schools at Wrightsville and Fargo.  

In 1968, the Department for Rehabilitative Services was assigned responsibility to administer "training" schools.  The Benton Services Center was opened and controlled the diagnosis and intake responsibilities regarding the youth committed to state custody.

In 1971, Act 38 established the Department of Social and Rehabilitative Services (SRS), a fore-runner to the current Department of Human Services.  The Office of Juvenile Services was placed under the direction of the Director of SRS.  In 1977, the Division of Youth Services was formally created as a division within the present Department of Human Services (DHS).

In 1985, Act 348 merged the Division of Youth Services with the Division of Children and Family Services until Act 1296 of 1993 reestablished DYS as an independent division [within DHS]. The Division of Youth Services (DYS) was authorized by Act 1296 to be "devoted entirely to handling the problems of youths involved in the juvenile justice system." DYS became operational in October 1993 and is responsible for client-specific programming and individual treatment programs, serious offender programs for violent youth offenders, providing alternative community-based programming, and other services specified directly by Act 1296.

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DYS Strategic Plan PDF