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Shelter Almost Complete for Children In Need of Care

Updated: Nov 26, 2019

*This story is an update of a previous post. Get caught up with the first blog post here and see before photos of the JDC.

New common area of the girls' pod in the shelter

The remodel of Finney County's Southwest Kansas Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) is almost complete!

This shelter is the first of its kind in the entire state of Kansas, and the State paid for it 100%!

Two detention pods have been turned into home-like shelters that will allow the Child In Need of Care (CINC) kids in DCF custody to stay close to home, continue attending school, go out with friends, receive services and care they may have been lacking, and even be provided the opportunity to learn their own life skills like budgeting, grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning.

There is a fully-equipped kitchen area in both sides of the shelter

Since the shelter is reserved for children aged 14-17, some of them may even have a job so they will still be able to make it to work.

The two shelter areas, one for girls and one for boys, are separated from each other as well as from the rest of the juveniles in the detention center. However, the girls and boys in the CINC shelters will have opportunities for interaction and socializing, led by their 24/7 care staff.

The staff at the JDC spent the last six months in CINC training, learning the different needs of and appropriate care for CINC kids versus that of juvenile offenders.

Each child will have their own room they can lock for privacy, but the staff will not have the ability to lock them in. The rooms are complete with a captain’s bed and nightstand where they can store their clothes and personal items, and they’ll be allowed to decorate and bring anything they may want or need.

A bedroom with room enough for clothes and personal items

Staff will encourage group activities, games, and class participation in the various life skills courses and services that Finney County Youth Services has to offer, such as group therapy, independent living skills, substance abuse programs, anger management, and even Finney County’s Virtual Academy for kids who may have been long-term suspended from school. The Virtual Academy is also a first in the state and another effort by Finney County Department of Corrections to get out ahead of issues and provide preventative services. Read the story of the Virtual Academy.

Finney County Youth Services also has several ongoing partnerships with resource agencies in the community who are already providing further services to the juvenile offenders, and will extend their services to the CINC kids at the shelter as well – emotional art therapy with Family Crisis, making baby quilts with the Lutheran Church, and behavioral therapy groups with Compass Behavioral Health.

The total project cost was $504,000, which included staff training, clothing to keep on-hand for emergencies, the purchase of a vehicle to transport CINC kids wherever they may need to go, and a medical care fund. The kids will be able to see their regular physician in Garden City if they have one, but the Department of Corrections is looking to create a partnership with a local physician, the Finney County Health Department, Siena Medical Clinic, and Genesis Family Health to meet the medical needs any child should have.

Bedrooms surround the common and kitchen area of the boys' pod in the shelter

The funding for this project came out of Senate Bill 367 when the state legislation realized the need to lessen the number of CINC children staying in detention centers and put them in a suitable living arrangement while keeping them in their own community. Until the law changed on July 1, 2019, the law allowed DCF to place victims of abuse or neglect in detention centers right alongside juvenile offenders, forced into the same detention-style living arrangement.

Finney County’s efforts to retrofit our JDC for a home-style shelter make it a proactive, progressive response and solution to the previous constraints on the care for CINC children and their chances for successful reintegration during this trying period in their lives.

Each side of the shelter has sight and sound separation from the juvenile offenders housed in the JDC

This solution also helps with overcrowding in foster homes, detention centers, and any other living arrangements that DCF could find, even if that meant staying in office spaces until a bed was found.

There are 14 total beds in the shelter, seven for girls and seven for boys. Finney County will reserve six beds (three per gender) for emergency CINC situations, which require a 72-hour stay until DCF can find a more long-term housing arrangement. Southwest Kansas kids have the first priority for these emergency rooms. The other eight rooms (four per gender) are available for 30-60 days while the child is placed in DCF custody. In these instances, DCF requests a room at the shelter and funds their stay, similar to a foster home environment.

While the child is close to home, they will work with DCF on the reintegration process back into their biological home – which is always the first goal, if possible.

The remodel construction was completed toward the end of October and we will be ready to open the doors in the very near future. We are just waiting on third-party approval and licensing authority.

We plan to have an open house for the public and news media prior to any child entering the shelter.

We are very proud of our DOC Executive Director, Katrina Pollet, for applying for this grant and having the vision for this solution to better serve our kids. We are thankful to the Board of Finney County Commissioners for approving this project, and to the State of Kansas for funding it.

And we are hopeful this shelter will make children who have been abused or neglected feel safe at home in their community.

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