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Back to Archives | Back to December 2005 Contents 

Juvenile Holdover Programs: Helping to Solve Community Problems

By Karen L. Dunlap, Research Associate, American Probation and Parole Association, Lexington, Kentucky

ecent efforts, such as the establishment of a minimum drinking age and the enactment of zero-tolerance laws, have helped contribute to the decrease in fatal alcohol crashes. But enforcement of these laws and other offenses committed by juvenile offenders can pose problems for some jurisdictions. Law enforcement officers face the dilemma of what to do with juveniles once they are detained if no legal guardian can be found.

For laws to be effective they must be enforced. Situations occur in all jurisdictions where a youth does not meet the criteria for secure detention and the parents cannot be located, or where it is difficult to transport a youth to a detention facility because of the distance. In all jurisdictions the high cost of detention is a concern. Is secure detention the best answer or merely an easy solution?

Placing a juvenile into custody is often a much more arduous task than placing an adult in custody. A separate set of statutes must be referenced, and the case processing procedures are often more complex and restrictive when youth are involved in the criminal justice system. Jurisdictions are required to comply with the requirements of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 and its amendments. In part, the amended act requires that juveniles to be separated by sight and sound from adult offenders when placed in custody and they cannot be held in jails and law enforcement lockups in which adults may be detained or confined.

Because of federal guidelines that prohibit detaining a status offender or placing a youth in an adult jail, in cases where a juvenile offender does not require secure detention but his or her parent or guardian is not available, it often becomes necessary for the arresting officer to baby-sit until a parent is found, sometimes hours later. What these jurisdictions need is a program that allows the officer to place the youth in a safe setting and return the officer to duties. A juvenile holdover program can assist in the placement needs for youth in these situations.

Children in Need of Immediate Care
Officers encounter a number of children who need a safe place until a responsible adult can be available to provide assistance. Victims of abuse or neglect, runaways who live in another community, and children of arrested parents or guardians often cannot be immediately reunited with a responsible family member and need a safe place to stay temporarily.

Minor Offenses: The types of behavior most likely to lead to placement in a juvenile holdover are curfew and loitering violations, marijuana possession, fighting, vandalism, disorderly conduct, misdemeanor theft, shoplifting, running away from home, and underage drinking.

Although these offenses are often treated as a summons-or-ticket or a warn-and-release situation, the ability to hold the youth until the parent or guardian can be located and involved in the corrective action will assist in resolution. Although the holdover program is not designed for serious offenders it certainly can assist in the process of correcting misbehavior.

Administrative Holds: Sometimes it is necessary for police officers to hold a juvenile in order to complete an investigation. Although the legal requirement for investigative placement in a holdover program is considered the same as holding in any other manner, the facility is better than a back of a police car or a hallway at the police station. A youth may also be held pending intake procedures, court appearance, or assessment by the child or social services agencies. Again a holdover facility can better serve this need than the hallways of a justice building.

What Is a Juvenile Holdover Program?
From a national perspective, a juvenile holdover program is generally defined as a community-based, short-term, temporary holding program for youths who do not meet detention criteria. Holdover programs provide jurisdictions, even those with limited resources, with a promising, cost-effective strategy to fill the gap in the continuum of predisposition services available for detained youth. They provide law enforcement officers a safe place to hold juveniles until a parent is located or other plans are made for release of the youth, and allow an officer to return to their primary duties. Juvenile holdover also can be used to eliminate inappropriate use of secure juvenile detention facilities, adult jails, and lockups.

When tailored to meet the identified needs of the community a juvenile holdover program can accomplish the following:

  • Reduce law enforcement downtime and allow officers to return to their regular duties sooner

  • Provide a safe place for youths until parents are located or other arrangements are made

  • Provide a less restrictive alternative to secure detention

  • Provide an opportunity for authorities to complete the intake and assessment process

  • Provide compliance with the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) Act of 1974, as amended

The key purpose of a basic juvenile holdover program is to provide short-term holding to keep juveniles safe during this difficult period through constant supervision by staff or trained volunteers. Many programs house youth for 24 hours or less, although weekends and holidays may extend the time.

The facility should be comfortable for an overnight stay and it needs to provide a meal, a bed, a shower, and a restroom with appropriate privacy and gender-specific needs. Places where juvenile holdover programs are located have included jails (when there is sight and sound separation), separate areas in juvenile detention centers, administrative areas of the local police station, church basements, rooms in social service agencies and nonprofit organizations, nursing homes, and senior housing.

When the holdover facility is used sparingly, departments can be creative in considering possibilities. For example, at first a hotel may not appear as a reasonable option, but some quick modifications to the rooms, such as making it impossible to lock a bathroom door from the inside and temporarily disconnecting the phone in the juvenile room, help meet the holdover requirements quickly. Providing two adjoining rooms, one for the juvenile and the other for the supervisor, is a quick and convenient way to handle holdovers without investing in facilities. It could also reduce operating costs since the expense is incurred only when used.

Perhaps the most important decision regarding the location of the juvenile holdover facility is the determination of what image does the community wishes to communicate about the care of its youth.

Essential for law enforcement is accessibility and 24-hour availability. Holdover services must be available on relatively short notice and the physical site needs to be easily accessible for those bringing youth into custody as well as for the staff or volunteers providing supervision. The service should be located in a safe area that is not isolated, and backup services such as medical care should be nearby.

Juvenile holdover programs will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The basic program is needed to meet law enforcement needs. Some jurisdictions have operationalized and customized the program to integrate a network of services for youth. Ideally, the juvenile holdover program is not a stand-alone program but is instead connected in meaningful ways to the other components of the juvenile justice and child welfare service delivery systems in a community.

Defining a Community Problem
The first step in planning any program is to determine whether the need exists. The question to ask regarding the need for a juvenile holdover program is, "What happens to a youth who is detained for an offense if he or she does not meet the criteria for secure detention and his or her parents cannot be located?"

A juvenile holdover program is intended to fill a gap in services and not to replace effective practices and programs. Is there a gap in the continuum of detention services that a juvenile holdover program could fill? If not, a holdover program would not be needed; but if there is a gap, a holdover program could provide a safe place for youth who require short-term holding until their parents can be located.

Programs that have at their foundation the goal of addressing an identified community problem have a greater probability of achieving success and securing a broad-based commitment to the program. Therefore, a crucial first step in the strategic planning process is the assessment of community needs and resources. A needs and resources assessment consist of the following major steps:

  • Identifying and involving stakeholders

  • Collecting and gathering data

  • Reviewing public policy

  • Identifying existing resources

  • Developing community support Funding

Juvenile holdover programs may be significantly less costly than secure detention alternatives, but there still is a cost issue. The program has relatively little chance of being successfully initiated or sustained without financial planning. The needs of the local program must be identified, and the budget needs to be comprehensive and include all possible expenses.

Once the costs are calculated, a funding source needs to be identified. Jurisdictions are urged to be as creative as possible in determining potential fiscal support. Among the possibilities are the following:

  • U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration grants and allocations from the federal government to the state government

  • Foundation grants

  • Business and local industries support

  • Individual donations

  • Civic and charitable groups

  • Local government operating budget

  • Private child care agencies

  • Combination of donations and in-kind services

  • Billing parents for the service

An effective juvenile holdover program is developed with the identification and assistance of key stakeholders, statistical and descriptive information of needs, benefit analysis of current method to the holdover program, review of existing resources and what is lacking, and a delineation of costs and available funding sources.

An Implementation Guide for Juvenile Holdover Programs
What is it? Who needs it? What does it do? These questions are often asked of any new program. An Implementation Guide for Juvenile Holdover Programs not only answers these questions but also provides a step-by-step strategic planning process for the development or enhancement of juvenile holdover programs. The implementation guide was designed and developed by staff and consultants from the American Probation and Parole Association. Funding for this project was provided through a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. This manual draws on the ideas and experiences of many who work in juvenile holdover programs across the nation.

Solving Community Problems
Using the strategic planning process provided in An Implementation Guide for Juvenile Holdover Programs, police departments can be the catalyst for solving community problems. Collaborative partnerships with key stakeholders and representatives from community agencies, such as juvenile justice, social services, schools, mental health, faith-based organizations, and community coalitions, can lead not only to the development of a safe place for patrol officers to take youths and be able to return to their regular duties in a timely manner but also to solving other community problems.

The implementation guide provides program planners with theory as well as tools to assist with the design, planning, and implementation process. The primary purpose of the implementation guide is to provide law enforcement, juvenile justice, law enforcement, and community agencies with a framework that will assist them in planning, developing, implementing, and enhancing juvenile holdover programs in their jurisdictions. No one model is being endorsed. Rather, this manual presents a framework for designing a basic juvenile holdover program and outlines a step-by-step process to guide planners through each stage of program development.

Important issues that are addressed include the following:

  • Program planning and design

  • Strategic planning

  • Legal issues

  • Identifying the appropriate target population

  • Site and facility logistical issues

  • Training

The implementation guide provides a format for each program to clearly identify its key program components, the administrative options, and the systemic relationships that will provide the foundation for each community to tailor the program to meet their community needs. Additional assistance is provided in the appendixes of the manual and sample forms for juvenile holdover programs are provided on an accompanying compact disk. ■      



From The Police Chief, vol. 72, no. 12, December 2005. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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