Secure Care for Runaways

Sedgwick County Juvenile Detention Center, Wichita

Secure care facility for chronic runaway youth launched in Wichita;
Licensed by the State and Operated by Saint Francis Community Services

Saint Francis Community Services is directing a new state-licensed secure care facility in Sedgwick County, Kansas, for juveniles judged to be chronic runaways.

Located within the Sedgwick County Juvenile Detention Center at 700 S. Hydraulic Ave. in Wichita, the secured area has separate wings for boys and girls, each wing housing nine beds. This is only the third secure-care juvenile facility in the state, bringing the total number of secure care beds to 42. The other secure care beds are located in Junction City and Newton.

The 5,000-square-foot area includes a communal recreation area, dining hall, and classrooms in which young people between the ages of 12 and 18 may continue their schoolwork under the instruction of ORION Education and Training, a USD 259 subcontractor.

A staff of 25 Saint Francis Community Services employees, including social workers and behavioral technicians, oversee the youth around the clock. A clinical director and registered nurse are on staff during the day.

“Kansas has an increasing need for beds and therapeutic treatment options for children in foster care, especially those children who have chronic runaway behaviors,” said Trish Bryant, vice president of children and family services for Saint Francis Community Services. “The Sedgwick County Department of Juvenile Programs reached out to us with an offer of available space in their facility. We’re excited to take this program from concept to reality, and we appreciate the County’s tremendous support.”

Annual expenses for the program will be approximately $417,000, excluding salaries. Of this amount, Saint Francis will pay Sedgwick County $352,403 annually for the space, including laundry, housekeeping, and maintenance services.

Juvenile court judges across Kansas adjudicate youth to a secure care facility, often because these youth repeatedly have run away from other child welfare placements. Youth are sent to the facility for an initial 60-day stay, with two 60-day extension options available at the court’s discretion. They are required to stay the full length of time ordered by the court.

“The courts have been asking for more beds and more safe settings like this,” Bryant said. “Saint Francis has designed this program around a clinical model of trauma informed care and will include individual, group and family therapies. The whole idea is to give kids a safe environment where they can learn healthy living skills. They will get the behavioral therapy they need so they can recognize and control their own emotions. The goal is to prepare these kids to reintegrate into a family setting or other safe environment.”

“Many of these youth have experienced extensive trauma, and some are survivors of heinous human trafficking,” said the Very Rev. Robert N. Smith, dean, president, and CEO of Saint Francis. “That’s why we’ve structured a nurturing environment where kids don’t have to feel criminalized or further traumatized.”

Adapted from Saint Francis Community Services


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