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Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016

'YES Center' marks 20 years in Cherokee

Monday, March 22, 2010

Home of the YES Center - The Ginzberg Building, on the campus of the Cherokee Mental Health Institute, houses the maximum security YES Center (Youth Emergency Services). Photo by Dan Whitney
On March 1, 1990, the Youth Emergency Services (YES) Center was founded in Cherokee.

Part of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS), the facility, which is located in the Ginzberg Building on the campus of the Cherokee Mental Health Institute, provides emergency detention services for youth.

The YES Center assists in reducing the special problems and needs of Northwest Iowa law enforcement officials, in regards to juveniles and their detainment.

The facility is a physically-restricting facility, used only for the detention of juveniles, as defined in Section 232 of the State Code of Iowa.

The clients at the YES Center must be juveniles. The age of the average client at Cherokee is 16.5 years old. Clients must meet the following criteria for being admitted to the YES Center: they must have committed a criminal act (anything from a simple misdemeanor to murder); be considered a danger to themselves and/or others; be considered a risk to run from a less-restrictive environment; and be considered a danger to property.

Clients are referred only by the Juvenile Court Services, and both boys and girls may be referred. When clients come to the YES Center, it is usually because they have "used up" all of their other options for a less restrictive setting.

All clients must leave the YES Center when they turn 18 years old, with further disposition determined by the courts. Clients are usually sent back to the community, possibly with probation and/or tracker services and/or electronic monitoring, or to jail, depending upon the order of the court.

Many clients come to the YES Center when they are first charged with their crime, and stay until their court hearing is set up the next working day. Hearings are usually held in the county in which the alleged crime was committed, though hearings have also been conducted by telephone conference.

At the juvenile's hearing, the Juvenile Court Officer determines the disposition of the juvenile. He or she may return to the YES Center to receive their services, or the JCO may determine that the juvenile will be best served by returning to their home or another setting.

Clients at the YES Center lead a very structured life. The YES Center has three full-time teachers, and clients attend classes five days a week, year-round, with just a brief summer vacation. Since the center's normal census is about eight clients, students are able to receive a great deal of individualized attention, focusing on any particular academic problems which the client has experienced. One of the teachers is certified in Special Education, so clients who have Special Education needs can also be served while they are at the YES Center.

Working together to help troubled juveniles - Karla Lundy, left, serves as the Assistant Director of Cherokee's Youth Emergecy Services program, and Cheryl McGrory is the Director. Photo by Dan Whitney
YES clients are taught that attending classes is a privilege, and must be earned through their good behavior. If they are not allowed to go to class, they must remain in their locked room during class time.

In addition to their regular classwork, students also receive some job training and discussion about what they would like to do in the future. The goal is to always get the clients back to school or work in the community.

The average client stay at the YES Center is around 30 days, though they presently have one juvenile who has been there for nine months.

When the Center was founded in 1990, it was to be used by 11 counties in Northwest Iowa, under a 28-E agreement. Each of the 11 counties was entitled to one bed space, and could use more if the total client count permitted.

In July 1992, the facility expanded to 14 available beds, as three counties were added to the agreement. Again, each of the 14 counties was guaranteed one bed if needed, and if bed space permitted, non-member counties could also send juvenile court-ordered clients.

In August 2004, the YES Center added a control room, and in July 2005,the Center program again expanded, with the implementation of Tracking and Monitoring services for 13 counties.

There are currently eight trackers assigned to this program, which was specifically designed to assist juveniles and their families with their individual needs in a community-based setting. The trackers meet with clients in school and home settings, and though some meetings are scheduled, some are not - with "surprise" visits to check on specific identified client problems, like poor grades or lack of attendance.

In November 2005, another bed was added at the YES Center, making a total of 15 available beds.

Cheryl McGrory has been the Director of the YES Center since she was appointed to the position in March of 2002. McGrory has been involved in working with juveniles for several years. She initially worked in the Sioux City police department, and then in Juvenile Court Services, before working as a counselor at Boys Town in Omaha and in a Behavior Management program for teenage girls in Sioux City.

The Assistant Director, Cherokee native Karla (File) Lundy, has been employed at the YES Center from Day One in 1990, as has another employee, Randy Eaton. The YES Center has 20 "in-house" employees, counting McGrory and Lundy, and staff members work 24/7, in shifts.

The Cherokee YES Center is believed to be the only Youth emergency facility which has women working in both the Director and Assistant Director positions. The facility has a very low staff turnover ratio as most employees seem to really enjoy their job.

The YES Center is governed by a Board of Directors, with one representative from each of the Board of Supervisors in the 14 counties served by the Center. The Board meets once a month at the YES Center.

Director McGrory said that the client population now contains more clients who have been charged with forcible felonies than previously, when most were admitted because of aggravated misdemeanors. She also said that there has been an increase in the number of sexual offenders.

When asked about the use of restraint at the YES Center, McGrory replied that they have found they have very seldom had to use physical restraint, most likely, she feels, because of the highly-structured nature of the program.

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