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Voices for Children: change youth rehabilitation and treatment center model

A new report says Nebraska doesn’t have a way to measure whether the money spent on two youth treatment and rehabilitation centers has brought results.

Voices for Children in Nebraska did the report on the Kearney and Geneva facilities. Kearney’s treatment center houses 151 boys. Geneva’s center can house up to 82 girls. The report found that the only measure of success or failure is if a young person returns to one of the facilities within a year.

Juliet Summers, Policy Coordinator for Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice, says solitary confinement is still being used in the facilities, albeit for shorter periods of time.

“The average length of a stay in solitary confinement is under a day. So at Kearney it’s about 15 hours on average, and at Geneva it’s about 21 hours on average. So that is an improvement. However, there are still longest stays that are two or two and a half days long.”

Summers says Voices for Children wants the youth centers to stop using solitary confinement. They also want a shift from a correctional model to a therapeutic one that resembles a residential treatment facility.

“The youth who are going there are going to be the kids who have really high needs, psychological needs, mental health/behavioral health needs, and responding to that with an emphasis on treatment and therapy and the evidence-based models rather than control and sort of correctional coercion is the way we think we’re going to get the best results.”

The report found youth at Kearney have a 14 percent recidivism rate, with a 9 percent rate among Geneva youth.