Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How does a youth end up in DYS custody?
A. A youth who has been adjudicated delinquent by the court, meaning he or she has committed what would be considered a criminal offense(s) if committed by an adult, can end up in DYS custody. A judge can place the youth in DYS custody or less restrictive options.
Court personnel will complete a risk assessment called a SAVRY to determine the level of risk the youth poses to himself or others. The assessment helps the Judge decide what sanctions or rehabilitative options would be best for the youth. As part of the assessment, court personnel take an extensive look into a youth’s history as well as his current life situation. State law allows courts to commit youth into DYS custody when a youth’s SAVRY score is in the moderate to high-risk range. The youth will remain in DYS care until he completes his treatment.
Q. Are youth placed in DYS custody for punishment or treatment?
A. The focus of the juvenile justice system in Arkansas is on rehabilitating youth so they can become productive, successful members of society rather than on punishment. The State has worked hard over the last few years to reform and improve the system so that it fosters a true rehabilitative atmosphere through treatment. The DYS treatment team uses a collaborative approach to ensure youth get individualized therapeutic services that address a youth’s risk. Youth get evidence-based programming, cognitive-behavioral therapy, individual therapy sessions, and family sessions as well as educational and medical services, including medication management. They are monitored closely by licensed nurses and a psychiatrist. Through individualized planning, youth learn healthy coping strategies, building positive peer relationship skills, and independent living skills to help them be successful upon release.
Q. When youth are placed in DYS custody, where do they go?
A. Upon admission they are placed in Arkansas Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center program’s (AJATC) 20-bed assessment unit. The unit provides gender-specific dorms, on-site accredited education, nursing services, therapeutic services, medical, psychiatry care and evaluation, and dental, vision and hearing evaluation and treatment. After the youth has participated in the extensive evaluations, youth and their family participate in a treatment team meeting, discuss findings and treatment goals. Afterward, placement is decided by the treatment team based on treatment needs. Youth can be placed in a DYS residential program, group home, or specialty care program.
Q. What happens when a youth completes his residential treatment program?
A. DYS treatment review team consist of licensed behavioral health clinicians, case managers, education and nursing. They review a youth’s progress closely while the youth is in DYS custody. If the youth is performing well in treatment, the team recommends discharge. It may request an extension if the youth needs further treatment. Whether the treatment review team is recommending discharge or a length of stay extension, the committing court will be notified and a hearing set if necessary.
Q. My child is in DYS custody and I have some questions. Who can I contact?
A. The best point of contact is the youth’s Case Coordinator. Megan Goldman, Case Coordinator Manager, is a great resource that can direct families to the right people. You can reach by email at Megan.Goldman@dhs.arkansas.gov.
Q. Do you have a family handbook or something that explains what my child’s day will be like while in residential treatment?
A. Yes, DYS has a family handbook and each program has a family and youth handbook.