Office of Youth Services

“The Office of Youth Services is committed to juvenile justice reform in Hawaii. Providing comprehensive front end services for youth who run afoul of the law better enables our youth to become productive and responsible citizens.  Front end services also help stem the tide of our troubled youth plunging deeper into the juvenile justice system and relying on incarceration as a solution to delinquency.”

~David Hipp, Executive Director, OYS

The Office of Youth Services (OYS) was established by the Legislature in 1989 and administratively placed within the DHS. The OYS provides and coordinates a continuum of services and programs for youth-at-risk to prevent delinquency and reduce the incidence of recidivism. The OYS also strives to provide a clear sense of responsibility and accountably for all youth services in Hawaii. Although a core responsibility of the OYS is to manage and operate the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility (HYCF), the agency places great emphasis on providing and supporting “front end” prevention, diversion, and intervention services.

The OYS focuses on five programs areas to improve the continuum of care that address youths’ needs from prevention to incarceration and aftercare.

  • In-Community Services
  • Residential Services
  • Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility (HYCF)
  • Training & Technical Assistance
  • Systems Development and Community Strengthening

In-community services range from Positive Youth Development to Day Treatment Center services and they provide appropriate intervention and supportive services to youth who are experiencing behavioral, emotional, substance abuse, or adjustment problems while in the community. Youth who benefit from these services are those who may be at-risk for incarceration or further involvement in the juvenile justice system, or who are in transition from incarceration at the HYCF to the community. These services include assessment/diagnosis, intensive supervision, individual, group and family counseling, cognitive restructuring, anger management skill development, independent living, social skill building, self-concept development, alternative educational services, and substance abuse education.  Family strengthening activities are also provided as part of an overall effort to successfully maintain the youth in their families.  The following is a list of services provided through purchase of service contracts in the community:

  • Positive Youth Development  –  Services and activities are provided to create opportunities for youth to develop competencies that foster resiliency and enable them to achieve a successful transition to young adulthood.  Such services for at-risk youth and their families  contribute to the increase of protective factors that strengthen functioning levels and the decrease of risk factors to deter  the onset of non-constructive delinquent and dangerous behaviors of youth. Specific services include:  sports/health/fitness, academic tutoring, career/vocational, teen pregnancy prevention, and, drug/violence prevention.
  • Truancy Prevention and In-School Suspension – Services aim to enhance school engagement and performance to ensure educational success for at-risk youth and their families by providing activities that promote attendance, attachment, and achievement to ensure educational success.  Services are provided that are responsive to needs and desires of the community within a defined region/community and connect them to appropriate resources, services, and activities, justice system or non justice, both public and private.
  • Outreach and Advocacy – Early intervention case advocacy services for youth who have come or risk coming into contact with the law to minimize penetration into the juvenile justice system, including those who are at risk for engaging in unhealthy, risky behaviors such as street youth, unsheltered (homeless) youth, out-of-school youth, youth in foster care and group homes, pregnant and parenting teens, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) youth, and youth who may be over-represented within the juvenile justice system as identified in the Disproportionate Minority Contact Report.  Services include outreach to identify and engage with youth/family to develop trusting relationships; intake and assessment; creation of  youth/family driven service plan;  support  in accessing services and navigating the systems of care; circle of support approach (involving significant persons in the youth/family’s domain) to strengthen support system; attendant care services to receive youth who have been arrested/detained; and follow-up to assure services are fully secured.
  • Intensive Monitoring – Immediate intervention and intermediate sanctions for youth under probation with the Family Court, to assist youth to be accountable for their behavior and to be in compliance with the terms and conditions of probation. Services include daily monitoring and check-in; assessment and referral to community-based programs and activities; family support; mentoring; and transportation.
  • Day Treatment Center Services – Community-based day treatment services for youth involved with the juvenile justice system whose behaviors interferes with their daily functioning in a school, family and/or work environment.  Service Activities include:  risk/needs assessment; individual family plan case management; educational services; substance abuse prevention and treatment services; mental health treatment services; counseling; family intervention services; job readiness preparation and placement; psychosocial skills development; community service; recreational activities; and transportation.

Institutional care for the majority of our troubled, abused, and neglected youth is not appropriate.  Youth who do not require secure confinement or institutional care are better served in a less restrictive environment that can provide individual and intensive services that are conducive to their growth and development.  Less restrictive programs are often more cost -effective and better suited in fostering positive change in at-risk youth. Community-based residential programs allow youth in transition a unique opportunity to experience, in a safe and nurturing environment, many challenges they will face when living within a community.

The goal of residential services is to provide an environment in which youth are able to increase their resiliency and reduce their risk factors to the extent they are able to safely return to a more permanent living situation. Services are provided to assist youth by increasing their decision-making, social and independent living skills, and by increasing their commitment to learning and education as important factors in their lives. Residential programs are provided on all major islands and provide an opportunity for youth to remain on their respective island near family and other community support systems. The following list of residential services is provided through purchase of service contracts in the community:

  • Emergency Shelter Services – A 24-hour, short-term (up to 30 days), community-based residential program offering emergency residential and counseling services utilizing a group home or foster home model that provides services for youths in crisis. The goal of the services is  to reduce a present crisis and return the youth to a stable, safe home environment.
  • Safe House – Ke Kama Pono  –  A staff-secured, community-based residential group home that provide an array of structured activities, including counseling and education services, for youths to increase their resiliency and reduce risk factors.  Services assist youths to increase their decision-making, social, and academic competencies and skills.
  • Intensive Residential Services – Residential program services, utilizing group and foster home service models, targeting youth involved in the juvenile justice system, age 12-19, who have been identified as high risk in at least one area of need, generally unable to function in pro-social manner, and can benefit from highly structured services such as social skills building, cognitive behavioral training, substance abuse services, family intervention, and transitional planning.
  • Independent Living Services –  Residential program services provided to youth age 17-22 who lack the attitude, skills and resources to live independently.  Both group home and foster home models are utilized.  Youth receive independent living skill building and support services to promote social skills, job readiness, employment support and continuing education options.

The primary purpose of the HYCF is to provide safe and secure housing for the most violent and dangerous juvenile offenders who pose a threat to the community. The HYCF provides a variety of counseling, treatment, and educational services within the facility to aid in the redirection and rehabilitation of each ward. The programs conducted within the facility are intended to be a part of this effort to provide guidance and opportunities for positive changes in the behavior of the youth.
The HYCF continues to evaluate operations against national standards, remedy deficiencies, and upgrade the quality of correctional programs and services.  The recognized benefits from such a process include improved management, a defense against lawsuits through documentation and the demonstration of a “good faith” effort to improve conditions of confinement, increased accountability, enhanced public credibility for administrative and line staff, a safer and more humane environment for personnel and offenders, and the establishment of measurable criteria for upgrading programs, and personnel, on a continuing basis.

HYCF, through the support of the Office of Youth Services, is working closely with the courts to ensure that any commitment to the facility is a “last resort” and is further based on ensuring public safety.  The identification of community based programs as alternatives to incarceration is ongoing.  Furthermore, the expanded use of parole has shown not only to enhance youths’ transition back to their home communities, but has had a positive impact on maintaining the facility’s average daily population near its maximum capacity.

Major initiatives that HYCF administration continue to support and encourage include:

  • Continue development of facility Policies, Procedures and Practices that are Juvenile Justice appropriate.
  • Provide ongoing Staff Training for HYCF direct care staff, social workers, and other staff on Juvenile Justice/Juvenile Corrections Best Practices.  To better equip staff with skills and knowledge needed to provide a safe, secure and nurturing environment for the youth in the state’s care and custody.
  • Continue to strengthen communication between the Judiciary and State Agencies [Department of Health (DOH), Department of Education (DOE), Department of Human Services (DHS)] and OYS/HYCF to ensure the delivery of appropriate services for youth in a seamless and collaborative manner.
    • Continue collaboration with Project Kealahou to enhance gender specific programming for incarcerated girls. The project is funded through a federal SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) grant awarded to the Hawaii Department of Health.  The project focus is two-fold.  Advocates/counselors from the program work directly with the girls who have been the victims of trauma.  Additionally, it provides trauma-informed training for the Youth Correctional Officers to enhance their sensitivity to trauma-related issues and to broaden the skill base and knowledge and of those who work with the female population.
    • Continue to enhance and expand in-facility programs and services to better prepare youth for reintegration back into community. For Quality Assurance, HYCF continues to monitor facility progress through a Performance-based Standards program to assess and evaluate facility progress and the conditions of confinement.

The OYS is committed to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy of training and technical support to increase the capacity of the youth serving community.  Conferences and training initiatives are held annually to support best and promising practices related to increasing and enhancing the skill levels and service delivery of staff in both the private and public sectors.  Conferences have featured various programs and services that have impacted participants in a positive manner, such as the Women’s Prison Monologues presented by woman inmates from the Women’s Community Correctional Center.  Recent trainings for staff included the “Why Try” curriculum that teach life skills to youth utilizing methods and materials that engage youth, and “Systemic Family Constellations”, a family focused approach to working with families to help heal residual trauma extending across multiple generations.

The OYS seeks to enhance the continuum of care for at-risk youths and families.  Collaboration and planning efforts with other State departments, the Judiciary, and the private sector are ongoing with the goal of improving outcomes for those who are served in the various systems of care.  OYS supports numerous projects and initiatives in the community to strengthen and build the capacity to care for the youth and families.  The following describes the major efforts underway:

  • Establish a pilot Youth Community Service Center to provide an array of services for juveniles who have been arrested or are at-risk for involvement with the juvenile justice system, including performing in-depth assessments, facilitating access to services, and developing connections with other community resources in a culturally appropriate manner.
  • Plan and implement a civil citations system diversion project to address status offenders and first time misdemeanants who may require more comprehensive services tailored to identified needs.
  • Increase community based, family-focused treatment interventions, with emphasis on culturally appropriate service delivery.
  • Actively participate with other youth serving State departments and the Judiciary to implement “Wrap Hawaii” – a collaborative pilot program to more effectively address the complex needs of at-risk youth through integrated case planning between agencies.
  • Participate in the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) Program that promotes detention reform efforts and alternatives to incarceration.
  • Improve provider accountability to ensure that youth programs meet the needs of children and communities.
  • Collect outcome data to improve program performance and youth success.
  • Prioritize youth needs and enhance fiscal responsibility to ensure that moneys are being directed to meet the most serious needs of youth.