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Residential Services


  • Q: What is juvenile justice commitment?
    A: In Florida, a youth may be adjudicated (sent by a juvenile court judge) to a residential commitment program for the violation of a law.  This is not the same as a conviction[1] or imprisonment.  The Florida juvenile justice system is designed to rehabilitate offenders through supervision, counseling and treatment.  A youth’s commitment is for an indeterminate period of time, which may include periods of temporary release.[2]   
    [1]  “an adjudication of delinquency . . . shall not be deemed a conviction.”  § 985.35(6), Fla. Stat. (2011).
    [2]  Florida Supreme Court Decision, J.I.S., a child, Petitioner, v. STATE of Florida, Respondent, No. SC05-1097, May 11, 2006.

    Consistent with § 985.03(45), Fla. Stat. (2011), commitment programs are grouped into five custody classifications based on the youth’s assessed risk to the public’s safety.  The restrictiveness levels of “commitment” or placement represent increasing restrictions on a youth’s movement and freedom.  The least restrictive, or minimum-risk level, is non-residential and falls under the jurisdiction of Probation and Community Intervention rather than Residential Services.  In Florida, only a judge can place a youth into a Florida Department of Juvenile Justice commitment program level.

  • Q: What are Florida’s commitment levels?
    A: There are the five levels of juvenile commitment in the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice but only four are “residential” commitment.  View a written description of each residential program, its services, a map with directions, and contact information.
    1. Minimum-risk Non-residential:  This level of commitment means that your child will stay at home with you.  Minimum-risk commitment programs fall under the jurisdiction of DJJ Probation and Community Intervention rather than DJJ Residential Services.  Programs or program models at this commitment level work with a youth who remains at home and participates at least five days a week in a day-treatment program.  A youth who is assessed and classified for a program at this commitment level represents a minimum risk to themselves and to the public’s safety.  A youth committed by a juvenile court judge to a minimum-risk commitment level does not require placement and services that are in a residential setting.  A youth in this level of commitment has full access to and resides in his or her community.  A youth who commits a delinquent act that involves a firearm, or are sexual offenses, or that would be life felonies or first-degree felonies if committed by an adult may not be committed to a program at this level.
    2. Nonsecure Residential Commitment:  Nonsecure commitment includes programs or program models that are residential but may allow a youth to have supervised access to the community.  Facilities at this commitment level are either environmentally secure, staff-secure, or are hardware-secure with walls, fencing, or locking doors.  Residential facilities at this commitment level shall have no more than 90 beds each, including campus-style programs, unless those campus-style programs include more than one treatment program, using different treatment protocols, and have facilities that coexist separately in distinct locations on the same property.

      Facilities designated as nonsecure commitment shall provide 24-hour awake supervision, custody, care, and treatment of residents.  Youth assessed and classified for placement in programs at this commitment level represent a low- or moderate-risk to public safety and require close supervision.  The staff at a facility at this commitment level may seclude a child who is a physical threat to himself, herself or to others.  Mechanical restraint may also be used when necessary.

      Currently, most nonsecure placements result from first- and second-degree misdemeanors and range to third-degree felonies.  Patterns of offending are infrequent and non-violent and are oriented toward property crimes rather than crimes against people.  These youth have usually performed unsuccessfully in prevention and diversion programs, and typically have weak family and community support structures.

      The anticipated, average length of stay for a youth who is adjudicated to nonsecure commitment is between 3 and 9 months, depending upon the youth's pace of success in completing an individualized treatment plan and goals.
    3. High-risk Residential:  A youth who is sent to a high-risk residential commitment program by a judge will stay in the program from 9 to 12 months.  If your child is adjudicated to a high-risk program, he has been assessed as a high risk to public safety and requires close supervision in a structured residential setting that provides 24-hour secure custody and care.  He will be supervised 24 hours a day by trained staff members who are awake even when your child sleeps.  Placement in a high-risk program is prompted by a concern for public safety that outweighs placement in a program at a lower restrictiveness level. High-risk facilities are hardware-secure with perimeter fencing and locking doors.  

      If your child is placed in a high-risk residential commitment program, his access to the community is restricted to necessary off-site activities such as court appearances and health-related events.  However, with the court’s permission, your child may have unsupervised home visits as his program completion date nears to help him transition from the structured environment of the program to the home environment.  Unsupervised home visits may be granted only if your child is assessed as a minimum risk to the community and has demonstrated positive behavior while in the high-risk residential commitment program.
    4. Maximum-risk Residential:  A child adjudicated to a maximum-risk residential commitment program by a judge will stay in the program from 18 to 36 months.  If your child goes to a maximum-risk program, he has been assessed as a serious risk to public safety and requires 24-hour custody, care and close supervision in a maximum-security setting.  He will be supervised 24 hours a day by trained staff members who are awake even when your child sleeps.  Placement in a maximum-risk program is prompted by a demonstrated need to protect the public.  Therefore, maximum-risk facilities are hardware-secure with perimeter security fencing and locking doors.  

      These programs feature single-person cells for sleeping arrangements.  However, youths may be housed together during the pre-release, transitional phase at the end of their commitment terms. Except for necessary off-site, supervised activities—such as court appearances and health-related events—youth in maximum-risk programs are prohibited from having access to the community.
  • Q: Whom do I contact to find out when my child will go to a residential program?
    A: After the judge of the Juvenile Court hears your child’s case and makes a ruling for commitment (adjudication), you may contact your child’s JPO and request information about your child’s anticipated placement. Sometimes, a youth may have to wait before there is a vacancy in a residential program that can adequately address his or her unique needs.
  • Q: How is a residential program supposed to help my child?
    A: A multi-disciplinary treatment team—which includes a social worker, therapist, health care and mental health care professionals, and educators—plans and oversees your child’s treatment in the residential program.  Your child is a member of this treatment team, as well as program staff and other service providers involved in his or her care and treatment.  The program will notify you when treatment team meetings are scheduled.  You are encouraged to participate.  The treatment team values your involvement and input.  Based on an assessment of your child’s prioritized needs, the treatment team develops an individualized performance plan with goals and objectives for your child to complete before completion of the program.  Completion of these goals increases your child’s chances for success and decreases the likelihood that he or she will commit a new crime.
  • Q: How long will my child stay in a residential program?
    A: The length of time a youth stays in a residential program depends on the type of program or risk level and his or her performance in the program.  A program’s services are designed and delivered based on how long it takes most children to successfully complete the program.  Release from the program is based on your child’s completion of the goals and objectives in his or her individualized treatment plan.  You will be involved in the development of this plan within 30 days of your child’s admission to the residential commitment program.  The program will communicate with you about your child’s progress in the program, as well as his or her anticipated release from the program.  At least every 90 days, you will receive a performance summary that documents your child’s progress in each area of the plan.  Your child may not be released from a residential program without the approval of the committing court.  In Florida, a youth cannot be held in a residential commitment program for a longer time than he or she would be imprisoned for that same offense if he or she was an adult.
  • Q: Where is my child going to be?
    A: In Florida, only a judge can place a youth into a Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) commitment program level.  While every attempt is made to keep your child close to home, a bed at the appropriate commitment level may not be near your home.  Based on the judge’s decision regarding your child’s commitment level, your child may be sent to a commitment program that is in a different region of the state.  There are the five levels of commitment.  The restrictiveness levels of commitment or placement represent increasing restrictions on your child’s movement and freedom.  
    The least restrictive, or minimum-risk level, is a non-residential commitment.  This level of commitment means that your child will stay at home with you.  A minimum-risk commitment program is part of the Department’s Probation and Community Intervention rather than Residential Services.

    Your child’s juvenile probation officer (JPO) should be able to tell you what commitment level your child will be going to and to what program.  View written descriptions of each residential commitment program, its services, a map with directions, and contact information

  • Q: May I visit my child in a residential facility?
    A: Yes, you are encouraged to visit your child while he or she is in the residential commitment facility. Each residential program has scheduled visitation days and times.  The program will notify you of its visitation schedule.  If you are not able to visit during the scheduled days and times, contact your child’s social worker at the program to make other arrangements. Contact your facility/program for visitation days/hours.
  • Q: What can my child take to a residential program?
    A: Although a residential program provides most or all of what your child needs, each program is slightly different.  Some programs may allow your child to have more personal items than other programs do.  Typically, the program includes this information in a letter sent to you shortly after your child’s admission to the program.  However, you may contact the program to ask about personal items your child is permitted to have while in the program. View residential facility directory for contact information.
  • Q: How will I know that my child has arrived safely at the residential program?
    A: Within 24 hours of admission to the program, you will be contacted by telephone of your child’s arrival.  Please keep in mind that transportation of a youth to a program is provided through the Department’s transportation system.  This system uses transportation hubs for all youths who need to be transported to juvenile justice facilities throughout the state.  Therefore, it may take a day or two for your child to arrive at the residential program.
  • Q: Is there someone in the program who I can talk to about my child?
    A: Yes.  The residential program should give you the name, telephone number and email address of the person (usually a social worker) to contact about your child when you need information or when you have questions or concerns.
  • Q: How can I be involved with my child while he or she is in the residential program?
    A: While in a residential program, your involvement with your child is encouraged and valued.  Shortly after your child is admitted to the residential program, you will receive a letter about the procedures for you to telephone, write and visit your child.

    In addition, your child’s basic rights include at least one 10-minute telephone call a week. 
    He or she also has the right to write at least two letters a week, at the expense of the program, no matter what level of restrictiveness your child is in.

     

    You can learn about your child’s treatment and progress by carefully reviewing the goals (performance plan) and progress reports (performance summaries) that the program sends to you.

     

    The program will notify you of scheduled treatment team meetings and encourage you to give your input, either in-person or by telephone.

  • Q: Will my child go to school while in the residential program? Will he or she earn credits? Who will keep track of those school records?
    A: Yes, your child will attend school while in the residential program.  All residential programs provide educational services.  Your child can earn credits based on performance in an on-site classroom that provides a credit-earning curriculum.  Your child’s former school records will be included in the planning of his or her treatment goals and objectives while in the residential program.  While your child attends on-site classes, those educational records are maintained in the residential program.  Educational transcripts are forwarded to the home school district when your child is released from the program.

    If your child already has a high school diploma or GED®, the residential program will involve your child in other constructive activities, including online college courses and vocational education if your child is interested in those opportunities and meets the requirements.

  • Q: What types of activities will the program offer my child?
    A: In general, residential programs provide education, counseling, group sessions and other activities to help your child develop social and life skills, academic skills, employability skills and pre-vocational or vocational skills.  Treatment services are provided as needed, including mental health and substance abuse treatment, health services, special education, and physical fitness.
  • Q: What medical care will my child receive?
    A: All youth receive an initial health screening within 24 hours of admission.  A detailed health history of your child is conducted by nursing staff and a physical examination is performed by the facility physician, ARNP or Physician Assistant.  All DJJ residential facilities have nursing staff on-site to meet your child’s medical needs and issues, including medication delivery.
  • Q: How do I make a Cost of Care Payment?
    A: A bill will be sent to you each month indicating the amount charged, the dates the child was admitted to and released from the program, or was under supervision, and the total unpaid balance due. 

    You also may make your Cost of Care payment online.