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Division of Youth Services

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The CDHS Division of Youth Services (DYS) provides for the care and supervision of youth committed by the District Court to the custody of CDHS. DYS operates 14 secure youth centers that serve youth between the ages of 10-21 who are pre-adjudicated or committed. In addition to residential programming, DYS administers juvenile parole services throughout Colorado. 

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About Youth Services

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DYS organization and leadership
Organization

Oversight and management of the state’s 14 secure facilities is located within DYS's Central Office. Direct facility supervision is provided by four directors of facility operations. Central administration also includes management and oversight of education, clinical and medical services, food services, quality assurance, and assessment services. Research, capital and financial services, restorative justice services, communication and client services are also administered from the Central Office.

DYS regionalized its administration of pretrial services and established regional offices with staff capable of providing case management and parole supervision of each youth committed from the region. Through this process, the division established an overarching case management system, assigning a client manager to each youth at commitment. The client manager guides the youth’s case plan and eventually assumes the role of the youth’s parole officer. DYS's four management regions — Central, Northeast, Southern and Western — are responsible for the general administration of regional contracts, monitoring of residential and non-residential programming, coordination and collaboration with community agencies, participation in community collaborative management programs, the provision of client management and parole services and the local oversight of Senate Bill 91-94 programs.

View the DYS organizational chart

Leadership
Anders Jacobson headshot

Anders Jacobson, DYS director

Anders Jacobson was appointed director of the Division of Youth Services in 2016. In his position, he oversees the operations at 14 State-operated youth centers, the juvenile detention system and parole program services. Jacobson has worked in the juvenile justice field for 29 years, with many of those years spent in leadership roles at residential facilities operated by the state and within the private sector. As the director of DYS, Jacobson has complete oversight of the division’s advanced service delivery system, with a strong focus on outcomes and cross-system partnerships to ensure quality services are provided to youth in the division’s care.


Natalie Chastil headshot

Natalie Chastil, DYS associate director

Dr. Natalie Chrastil provides oversight and leadership to DYS's operations component. This includes finance, staff development and training, research and evaluation, nutrition and food services, records, data management and analysis, facility management and capital construction projects. 


Al Estrada headshot

Al Estrada, DYS associate director

Al Estrada provides oversight of the four DYS Regional Offices. This includes the Colorado Youth Detention Continuum (formerly SB 91-94), Contract Residential Program Operations, and the operation of the client management and juvenile parole system.


Kristen Withrow headshot

Kristen Withrow, DYS associate director

Kristen Withrow, LCSW, CACII, provides oversight of 14 state-operated secure youth centers and educational services for DYS.


Ashley Tunstall, DYS associate director

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Ashley Tunstall, MPA, MA, LPC, PhD Candidate, was appointed the Associate Director of DYS in 2023 and provides oversight of Behavioral Health and Medical Services within the division’s 14 state-operated secure youth centers. This also includes overseeing contracted partnerships for physician, psychiatry, and medical administration services (e.g. pharmacy and medical claims). 


Contact information

Colorado Department of Human Services

Division of Youth Services, Administrative Support Offices

4255 S. Knox Court

Denver, CO 80236

P 303.866.7345 | F 303.866.7344

Visit the DYS residential youth centers pages for youth center contact information.

Visit the DYS regional offices and administrative support page for office contact information.

Media inquiries may be directed to:

Jordan Saenz
Interim Deputy Director of Communications
720.355.3657
jordan.saenz@state.co.us

Administrative Services

Administrative Services provides support in carrying out the mission, goals and objectives of the organization. Visit the Administrative Services page to learn more.

Commitment services

Colorado Statute allows the District Court several sentencing options when committing juveniles to DYS. These options include non-mandatory sentences, allowing CDHS the ability to bring youth before the juvenile parole board when they have completed treatment, and mandatory sentences, where youth are required to remain in residential placement for a minimum of one year. Violent and repeat offenders receive mandatory sentences of no less than one year. Aggravated juvenile offenders can be sentenced to up to seven years.

DYS operates a full continuum of services for committed youth through a Continuum of Care model. The Continuum of Care guides the activities of the Division throughout the commitment process from the initial assessment, to residential placement, through transition and parole supervision and services. The stages of the commitment process are outlined below.

Statute mandates that DYS provide a comprehensive assessment for all youth within the first 30 days of their commitment. The assessment includes criminogenic risk and needs, mental health, education and vocation, medical, and in some cases psychological/neuropsychological evaluation. Following the completion of the assessment, a multi-disciplinary team meets to discuss the youth and family’s needs, placement type, and future transition plan.

Almost without exception, youth are moved to a permanent placement following the assessment meeting. DYS provides residential treatment services to committed youth in either State-operated secure programs or private contract placements. Individualized treatment and transition plans are developed for each youth. Residential placements offer a variety of services that include education, vocation training, medical services, individual, group and family treatment, recreation, gender-specific treatment, transition services, and as needed, substance abuse and/or offense-specific treatment.

State-operated secure treatment programs

DYS operates several secure youth centers that serve committed youth exclusively. These programs are designed to treat the highest-risk, highest-need committed youth. DYS also operates multipurpose youth centers that, in addition to acting as juvenile detention facilities, provide longer-term treatment to committed youth.

Private contract programs

DYS contracts with a variety of private providers for community programs that range from staff-secure treatment programs to foster homes licensed through the State. Placement alternatives include residential child care centers, group homes and foster homes. These programs act both as initial treatment programs and as transition placements for youth moving from more secure settings. These programs may also focus on specific populations or the provision of specific services, such as treating youth with high mental health needs, or youth transitioning to independent living.

Transition

DYS provides a comprehensive array of services to youth who are transitioning from either State-operated secure placements or community residential placements to their home communities. These services are “backed in” to residential programs to facilitate a successful transition back to the community. Services are provided through a combination of placement staff and non-residential programs contracted through regional offices. Transition services may include: obtaining necessary documentation, family services such as multi-systemic therapy, mentoring, cognitive behavioral groups, substance abuse relapse prevention, supervision, employment training and job placement, independent living preparation and support, direct support, and educational support.

Parole

Colorado Statute requires that every committed youth exiting DYS must serve six months of mandatory parole. Cases that meet certain criteria may be extended by 15 months. Independent of DYS, the Colorado Juvenile Parole Board hears the cases of each youth preparing for parole, sets terms and conditions and has the authority to modify, suspend or revoke parole.

DYS is responsible for the operation of the juvenile parole system. This includes providing parole supervision to each committed youth. Parole supervision is accomplished through the client manager/parole officer system located within regional offices. Parole officers are responsible for ensuring parole plans are designed in accordance with each youth’s level of risk and need.

Juvenile detention

DYS is responsible for the operation of Colorado’s juvenile detention “continuum." The continuum consists of community-based screening to determine detention needs, community supervision strategies, and secure detention in youth centers operated by DYS. In Colorado, detention serves two purposes: 

  1. To ensure that a youth accused of delinquency appears for hearings ordered by the court.
  2. To sentence adjudicated youth for a period of up to 45 days as a sanction by the court.

The detention continuum begins with screening and assessment services for any youth referred for detention admission. The screening process is managed by each of the state’s 22 judicial districts and is designed to determine the most appropriate setting for each youth. In most cases, youth screened will be served and monitored through non-secure, community-based services such as day reporting, electronic home monitoring, and/or enhanced community supervision. For those youth whom the screen reveals has the potential to run, is a risk to others, or otherwise is likely to violate conditions of community supervision, he or she can be detained in one of the eight secure juvenile detention centers operated by DYS. Six State-owned and -operated youth centers serve only detention youth; the Gilliam Youth Services Center in Denver, the Marvin W. Foote Youth Services Center in Centennial, the Prairie Vista Youth Services Center in Brighton, the Rocky Mountain Youth Services Center in Lakewood, the Pueblo Youth Services Center in Pueblo, and the Zebulon Pike Youth Services Center in Colorado Springs. Two secure State-operated youth centers are multi-purpose, serving detention and committed youth: these are the Platte Valley and Grand Mesa Youth Services Centers.

All youth detained or placed under supervision programs in the community receive a hearing before a magistrate within 48 hours. For those held in secure detention, a decision is made whether the youth will be sent home on a community supervision and treatment plan or if further detention is warranted.

The detention model has advanced significantly in the last few decades. In 1991, the legislature expanded beyond the facility programming with the provision of community-based detention services through the Colorado Youth Detention Continuum (CYDC) program. Legislators noted that rising detention populations and projections for substantial future increases would be a significant operational burden and enormously expensive if youth centers were the sole solution to provide necessary supervision. A critical philosophical foundation of the legislation is the belief that on any given day, youth are housed in a secure detention center who could be safely supervised in the community given the appropriate level of services. The bill was designed to create options for community supervision of youth offenders while they await court hearings and/or the disposition of their cases. Detention screening and assessment were added to the statute in the ensuing years, providing a mechanism for Districts to ensure appropriate detention referrals and management of their allocated beds.

Vision and mission

Our vision

Achieving youth success and safer Colorado communities

Our mission

To protect, restore and improve public safety by utilizing a continuum of care that provides effective supervision, promotes accountability to victims and communities, and helps youth lead constructive lives through positive youth development.

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Programs and resources