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Illinois Youth Center- Warrenville Reception Named Finalist for the 2021 Barbara Allen-Hagen Award

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Illinois Youth Center- Warrenville Reception in Naperville, IL was selected as one of the finalists in the detention and assessment category for the 2021 PbS Barbara Allen-Hagen Award for their big leaps in implementing best practices to ensure a safe and healthy environment for youths and staff.

Warrenville Reception joined Performance-based Standards (PbS) in 2009 to better understand what was working well and where they could make improvements. At the time, their data drew their attention to the number of incidents involving the use of restraints and staff reported fearing for their safety.

The team at Warrenville Reception began immediate steps to improve youth and staff safety. “All staff in the facility received training on de-escalation techniques and gender-specific training,” said Cherryl Holliday, site coordinator, following conversion of the all-girl facility to a co-ed one. Staff also engaged in regular discussions on the use of restraints during roll call. Briefing and mediation meetings after every incident allowed supervisors, staff and youths to discuss incidents and work together to come up with strategies on how to deal with similar situations more productively in future. This went a long way toward establishing positive staff-youth relationships and giving youths a voice.

The team also looked at health and well-being holistically and created a process giving youths access to additional mental health resources. A new Wellness Committee held events for staff including a health fair, seminar on health-related topics and a celebratory event, which had not been done for over 20 years.

As part of their improvement journey, the Warrenville team also increased the programming available for the youths. Their Project Pawsitive Future program partnership with a local humane society was particularly successful, enabling youths to learn kindness, empathy and how to engage with others by housing and training a shelter dog for three to four weeks. Youths also were given the option to wear street clothes instead of facility uniforms on community excursions to to deflect the negative attention facility uniforms sometimes drew. The clothes were donated by local organizations and community members.

PbS Coach Al Lick reflected on how far the facility has come: “As the PbS Coach in Illinois since 2009 I have had the opportunity to experience firsthand the evolution of Illinois Youth Corrections through their implementation of best practices to meet the critical outcome measures promoted by PbS. Those high operational standards have continued to be maintained and the positive results have provided valuable information for staff to create a supportive environment for youths during their stay at the facility.”

Just recently, Warrenville Reception hosted their first co-ed homecoming dance for the youths, with staff volunteering to run the event – an event that would have been unheard of 11 years ago. “It was the culmination of changes in the department, the facility staff and the youth that has made this possible,” said Lynette Pangburn, the facility superintendent.

The PbS Barbara Allen-Hagen Award was established in 2007 to honor Barbara Allen-Hagen and her retirement from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). Her dedication to improving the quality of life in facilities has helped drive PbS to its current success. The award is given to a correction, detention/assessment and community program who best exemplify PbS’ commitment to treating all youths as one of our own by developing and implementing strategic plans to change practices that results in positive outcomes for youths, staff and families.

Read more about:  Awards, Barbara Allen-Hagen

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PbS measures and monitors facility practices by collecting and reporting data from administrative records and survey responses from youths, staff and families to provide a holistic picture of the conditions and quality of life in residential facilities, highlights the practices that are effective in promoting youths’ healthy maturation and identifies those that are not. PbS data is reported every April and October.  PbS trains staff to use the information to change practices and support reforms implementing the adolescent development approach.

PbS has been a partner in assisting this facility to become a dynamic work environment that is not satisfied with maintaining the status quo.