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Better Than the Dream.

The Southwest Indiana Regional Youth Village

The Southwest Indiana Regional Youth Village (SIRYV) treatment facility and detention center is a private, nonprofit, residential facility for at-risk youths. This award-winning facility was a dream of two professionals, myself and my late husband, Terrence Nesbitt -- professionals who had seen programs that did and/or then did not work; believed in rehabilitation; believed in relationships and services for troubled kids that demanded accountability and did so with dignity and respect in a positive, enriching, clean environment that developed the skills and abilities of kids that did not focus on their shortcomings; and believed in developing a nurturing staff who would believe in the hope for these youths and help them live their dreams. The dream is now a reality.

And the reality is better than the dream. In August 1997, the detention center earned a three-year accreditation from the American Correctional Association (ACA).The program received a perfect score on both mandatory and nonmandatory ACA juvenile detention facilities standards and in 1999, became the first and only Indiana facility to achieve a perfect score on Indiana Department of Correction (DOC) standards. It also was named Facility of the Year by the Indiana Correctional Association in 1998 and received perfect scores on Indiana Division of Family and Children regulations. SIRYV is the only ACA-accredited juvenile detention center in Indiana.

The greatest reward of all for the youth village and its staff is positive comments from the youths it serves, their families, probation officers, judges and the community.

"My son and I were always treated with respect and dignity," said the parent of one youth who spent time at the facility. "My personal belief is when something like this happens, at least with my son, dignity is the first thing lost, and you and your staff helped give it back. Plain and simple, if there were more youth centers of this caliber, there would be a lot less of our children struggling through these times in their young lives."

The youth village is owned by Children and Family Services of Vincennes, Ind., and is managed by Corrections Corporation of America. SIRYV is a full-continuum-of-care facility that provides short- and long-term detention, staff-secure substance abuse programming, transitional and independent living, and community service programming. Additionally, aftercare services are provided to youths in their homes. This facility is licensed by the state of Indiana and has an accredited on-site junior/senior high school. Academic achievement tests (TABE) indicate that the youths in SIRYV's school achieve two to four months for each month they are in SIRYV's school. SIRYV is located on 80 acres in Vincennes. Its residential and group home programs provide residential opportunities for up to 102 males ages 9 through 18. The detention component has a 44-person capacity, aftercare service can be provided to 18 youths, and both can provide services to either boys or girls. Total program and housing capacity is 146 in residen tial plus 18 in aftercare. The youth village has 140 staff members to care for its 164 youths.

Theoretical Underpinnings

The ideas upon which a youth facility is built are, perhaps, more important than the actual bricks and stones that physically support it. SIRYV was founded on a 14-point ideology designed to foster a positive environment for both its staff and residents:

1. Catch them doing it right and let them know it.

2. Hurdles can be opportunities. It depends on attitude.

3. Walk and talk with staff and youths.

4. See and be seen.

5. Listen more than you talk. Seek to understand.

6. Don't be afraid to ask questions.

7. Little things make the biggest difference.

8. The best minute you spend is the one you invest in people.

9. Everyone is a potential winner.

10. TEAMwork is essential (Together Everyone Achieves More).

11. Get all the facts before you make the judgment.

12. Clarify and verify information.

13. You can accomplish a lot by yourself, more with others.

14. Life is good.

Setting Standards for Achievement

The staff-secure residential treatment component provides a full range of services and programs based on each youth's individual treatment and services plan (ITP). The ITP is developed with information from the placing agencies and the youths, along with SIRYV treatment staff. Challenges and treatment plans are identified in the areas of education and emotional/social development. Each youth's strengths are identified and supported. Individual progress is monitored and modification of individual treatment is addressed as needed.

The program contains components that focus the facility's resources for teaching the youths socially acceptable behaviors and extinguishing negative behaviors. Based on individual diagnoses, each youth receives individual and group therapy to treat his behavioral and/or psychological challenges. The goal is to help the individual become more responsible and more realistic in his long-term goals. Each youth is provided with a plan that would, through active participation with the counselor and other role models, satisfy his needs, with the emphasis on responsibility and self-enhancement to help the youth in making appropriate decisions. Upon completion of the staff-secure component, the youth may be released into his own community, or may transfer to the transitional living, independent living, community service or aftercare programs.

Residential direct-care staff-to-youth ratio is at least one direct-care staff member to 12 youths. Residential counselors' caseloads are a maximum of 12 youths. Aftercare counselors work with only six youths and their families.

The detention center is in a confined, secure area, separated from residential treatment areas. All youths are placed in and released from detention by court order. However, both residential and detention center inmates share SIRYV staff for programs in education, religion, wellness, recreation, life skills training and special needs. The detention center provides a consistent, supportive and professional environment comprised of dedicated and well-trained staff who serve as positive role models for today's youths.

Range of Programs

The independent living program provides youths with a realistic approach to everyday living. While in the program, each youth participates in a variety of activities based upon his individual needs for the purpose of helping him to become an independent, responsible citizen. Youths are provided with an environment that is conducive to learning and adjustment upon emancipation. The program works with all outreach facilities and supportive agencies to ensure that each youth has the opportunity to apply what he has learned so he and the community both benefit.

Youths who are admitted into the independent living program have no family or residential settings to return to. These youths are responsible for their overall behavior, but may be in need of further support, guidance and independent living skills to prepare for life in the community.

If education is a part of a youth's ITP, the youth attends educational/vocational classes in the local community. The youths are encouraged to obtain jobs while participating in the independent living program. Staff teach the youths how to obtain, and maintain, employment.

The transitional living program prepares youths to return to their own homes or to foster placements upon release from the facility. It is designed to help the youths learn new skills for dealing with family relationships, peer groups and school settings. Prior to release, youths are connected with support groups within their own communities to receive follow-up services as needed.

While in the transitional living program, each youth has an ITP to identify educational/vocational and behavioral goals based upon his needs for eventual placement. As in the independent living program, youths in the transitional living program are encouraged to obtain jobs and receive staff support in doing so.

The community service group home program combines the programs offered in independent and transitional living with a military structure and discipline, substance abuse treatment, community service work and education. The community service platoon is a four-month program that uses a military approach as structure to help youths develop positive attributes and leadership abilities. The daily activities include physical training, inspection of living quarters and dress, drill and military history, customs and courtesy, along with leadership training. The youth platoon and staff are very active in community service projects in the local area. According to each youth's program plan, other services are provided, such as academics, substance abuse education, transitional services back to their local communities and counseling.

SIRYV currently provides youths with a transitional plan that includes family reunification, gradually increasing the amount of time spent on home visits. It is designed to create the vision that being able to go home should be celebrated because it means the ITP has been successfully completed, but that being able to stay home really is what is important. SIRYV has staff in the various home communities of the youths who provide aftercare services to the youths and their families.

It is the strategic plan of this facility to further develop community-based aftercare services for youths. This will include having additional SIRYV community coordinators work with youths and their families within their home communities.

The youth village maintains that chemical dependency is a disease. Alcoholism and other drug addictions are primary, progressive and terminal illnesses. The beginning phase of the program consists of a formal assessment of the youth's addiction problems and the development of an ITP with addiction education and treatment being two of the primary goals of the overall plan.

SIRYV also recognizes that addiction is a family illness, whereby individuals often have been affected by someone else's addiction. This family illness also is progressive and terminal in nature. With appropriate intervention, recovery processes also can be obtained by family members and significant others. Family members are encouraged to attend open 12-step meetings as well as the appropriate family 12-step program nearest them within their communities. Some basic educational information on addiction is provided to the family by the SIRYV counselor and the youth.

Treatment services for youths at SIRYV are strongly supported by a 12-step program. Recovery has been proved to be successful for most people through use of the 12-step program. Youths also participate in Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings both on and off campus. Prior to release from SIRYV, youths attend meetings and are assigned sponsors in their home communities.

On-Campus Education

Education is one of the major goals at SIRYV. Upon entry, the Test of Adult Basic Education is administered to each youth, and staff determine the education level of each new arrival. The counselor facilitates an ITP conference, at which time the best educational avenue for the youth is discussed. Choices include general educational development studies, public school, college, trade/technical school, or SIRYV's on-ground school. The on-campus Lake-view Junior/Senior High School is accredited by the National Private Schools Alliance. The academic/vocational staff offer a curriculum that meets high school graduation requirements, as well as an accepted elementary curriculum. The GED program is offered for those students not seeking a high school diploma. Education credits earned are transferred to community schools, enabling students to remain up-to-date with their public school classes.

Lakeview has a student-teacher ratio of 12-to-1. The school offers a competency-based core curriculum of academic classes that includes mathematics. English/communications, science and social studies/social science, including character education, health and vocational education.

Academic subjects are presented in a manner that best suits the learning styles of youths and includes multicultural opportunities for individualized studies and projects: cooperative learning, manipulatives, and audio/visual and computer-assisted instruction. Special education is provided as needed.

Lakeview operates throughout the year with two 10-week sessions comprising a semester. Youths earn one academic credit for each class passed with a grades between A and D during each semester. The academic credit and school attendance earned by youths while at SIRYV are accepted when transferred to local public schools.

Care Services at SIRYV

The youth village offers a full continuum of care. Some of the services included in the per diem rate are:

Food services. All youths are provided three hot, nutritious meals and at least one nutritious snack at regularly scheduled hours each day.

Medical and dental services. Every residential youth is given a physical examination and dental screening during the diagnostic evaluation period. The Wellness Center has a scheduled medical call daily and emergency medical call 24 hours per day.

Transportation. Youths are transported to court or other activities relating to the everyday business of SIRYV.

Visitation. An important part of the program is providing the opportunity for relatives to visit youths at the facility during visiting hours. Placement agencies, legal counsel, clergy and other professional visitors are welcomed and encouraged. Private visitation rooms are available for these appointments.

Canteen. The canteen offers healthy snacks and personal items that youths can purchase in accordance with their standing in the behavior management system. No money is used in the canteen program. All items are provided by SIRYV.

Leisure time activities. All youths at SIRYV participate in the leisure/recreation program. Recreation and leisure activities are an important component of the lives of the youths. SIRYV offers a variety of activities to youths that gives them the opportunity to explore and participate in positive activities. These activities include arts and crafts, intellectual games, team and individual sports, and physical fitness activities.

1999-2000 Youth Village Expansion for Girls

In 1999, SIRYV received additional funding of $5.2 million from American Express to built two new housing units and program space for girls. Prior to this expansion. SIRYV provided detention services for both boy sand girls, but only boys were in the longer-term residential programs. One of the new building complexes, the Hope Center, will provide secure housing and treatment space for girls. The second complex, Lakeside, will be for transitional and independent living programming for girls. Girls also will be involved in the after care program when appropriate. By July 1, the youth village will provide services to 60 girls and 92 boys in residential programs, 44 boys and girls in detention, and 18 boys and girls in aftercare for a total of 210 youths. Although gender-specific, with this expansion, SIRYV will be able to provide the game high-quality programs and services for girls as it has provided for boys for the past five years.

Conclusion

Terry Nesbitt's death did not prevent the dream from becoming a reality. After securing a $16 million economic development bond issuance, the facility was designed by Earl Swenson Associates and built by Ray Bell Construction. Since the first youth was admitted to the facility in April 1995, there have been more than 5,000 youths placed in SIRYV by child care and correctional agencies.

The youth village's commitment to helping children has not gone unnoticed by others in corrections and child care. "There are residential facilities being closed all over indiana because of low youth placements, but the youth village is at capacity," said Division of Family and Children auditor Lou Stant. "Counties feel that the youth village is doing a good job ... Judges will not place youths in a facility if they don't think they are getting a good value."

In fact, SIRYV has turned out even better than expected. It is a rare case in which the reality of an idea has turned out even better than the dream.

Charlotte Nesbitt is executive director of the Southwest Indiana Regional Youth Village. She would like to thank the entire youth village staff for their efforts because without them, the high quality of services provided to youths would not be possible.
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Title Annotation:The Southwest Indiana Regional Youth Village
Author:NESBITT, CHARLOTTE
Publication:Corrections Today
Geographic Code:1U3IN
Date:Jun 1, 2000
Words:2573
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