Families of Youth Services clients

Families of Youth Services clients header image

The family is an integral part of the team working with youth involved in the CDHS Division of Youth Services (DYS). DYS strives to honor family experience and culture, empower all family members, utilize family strengths and instill hope for a safe and successful future.

If you have a question that is not answered on this page, please visit the contact us section of the website to speak to a person at the youth center where your son/daughter resides, or for youth who are committed, you may also contact the client management/parole office in the region of the state you are located.

If you have concerns about the services your child is receiving or the safety or well-being of your child in a DYS youth center, you can contact the Office of the Colorado's Child Protection Ombudsman (CPO). The CPO is an independent, neutral state agency charged with reviewing complaints concerning publicly-funded services provided for the safety, permanency and well-being of children in Colorado. To read more about the CPO, please click here English or Spanish. To submit a confidential complaint, you can call (720) 625-8640 or visit the CPO's website at www.coloradocpo.org.

DYS is committed to:

  • Communicate openly with you, the family
  • Provide quality services to your family based on identified needs
  • Treat your family with dignity, respect and fairness
  • Continually assess how we can better meet the needs of your family
  • Be truthful, honest, and courteous to your family at all times
  • Listen actively and share information in open, honest, and appropriate ways
  • Work with you to resolve any conflicts or concerns
  • Communicate your needs clearly
  • Respect your cultural preferences
  • Work from a strengths-based perspective

Expand the sections below to learn more about the Youth Services system and your role as a family member.

Family support resources
Family support groups

Family support groups were established to be a safe, non-judgmental place for family members of youth placed in DYS to support each other as they go through a difficult time. Any adult family member of a youth who has had involvement in the DYS is welcome to attend, regardless of what part of DYS they are currently in. For example, if your youth stayed overnight in detention, is placed into detention, assessment, or commitment status, or has moved to step-down and parole, you can attend the virtual Support Group. 

There’s never a wrong time to connect with others who are or have similar experiences. The meetings are confidential. There is no DYS staff involved in these meetings. The group is facilitated by a parent of a former DYS youth. 

The family support group is currently a virtual meeting held every month. 

In order for good communication and a community feel, if there are too many participants, additional meetings will be scheduled. The topic changes monthly and includes topics such as self-care, communication, fun with the family, grief and loss, boundaries, and many others. Sometimes we just have fun and get to know each other a little better, such as a virtual holiday party.

Contact information

Julie DeNicolaStepping Stones Advocacy, LLC
Phone: 720.422.3193
Email: julied@ssadvocacy.com

Family Advisory Councils

Family Advisory Councils were established in 2017 to give families to a voice in practices, procedures, opportunities for improvement, and policies involving their youth and themselves at the youth services center. This group meets once a month to allow for an open dialogue between families, administration, and staff at the youth’s current placement. These groups are for families whose youth are residing in either detention, assessment, or commitment center. 

The meetings are facilitated by a parent of a former DYS youth. Members of the Family Advisory Council contact the facilitator during the month either by e-mail or phone to add any topics to the agenda they would like to see discussed. The facilitator then rephrases the feedback, so there is not any connection to a specific youth or family member. 

The topics are typically areas that affect more than one youth. For example, any changes in visiting procedures would affect all families and youth. The agenda includes topics from the families, questions that may arise, a Director’s update, and any other business that may come up. The Family Advisory Council meetings are currently held virtually so family members can participate from wherever they live and do not have to travel to be able to participate. Not every Youth Center has a Family Advisory Council, families should check with Stepping Stones Advocacy, LLC or their youth's behavioral health specialist to find out if the location of their youth's placement has a FAC.

Contact information

Julie DeNicolaStepping Stones Advocacy, LLC
Phone: 720.422.3193
Email: julied@ssadvocacy.com

Family handbook

The family handbook is a guide for families whose youth have entered the Division of Youth Services. The handbook is designed to help answer many of your questions throughout the process. 



Detention and Commitment


When your son/daughter is initially arrested, an assessment is completed to determine if they can be safely supervised in the community, or if they will require secure detention pending completion of the court process. If your son/daughter is assessed to be appropriate for supervision in the community, they will be provided an appropriate level of services and community supervision while they await court hearings and/or the disposition of their case.

If your son/daughter is determined to require secure detention, they are generally detained in a secure youth center for one of two reasons: for secure placement pending a court hearing, or to serve a court ordered detention sentence of up to 45 days. The length of stay in a detention youth center is determined by the court system.


During the court process, the court may determine that your son/daughter will be adjudicated delinquent and order that they be placed in the custody of DYS. If this occurs, the District Court has two sentencing options:

  1. Non-mandatory sentences, which allow DYS to bring youth before the juvenile parole board when they have completed treatment.
  2. Mandatory sentences, where youth are required to remain in residential placement for a minimum of one year. Youth that are committed as a violent and/or repeat offender also receive mandatory sentences of no less than one year. Aggravated juvenile offenders can be sentenced by the court for up to seven years.

The length of stay in a youth center is determined by a combination of factors: the length of commitment to the DYS that is imposed by the court, the nature of the offense, the progress your son/daughter makes in the youth center, and the release plan. While your son/daughter is in placement, you will be part of the team that works together to recommend the length of stay and release plans. The Parole Board or Community Review Board will ultimately determine if your son/daughter can return home or if he/she will go to a community placement.


All newly committed youth will spend time in a DYS assessment center. There are two Colorado assessment center: the Front Range Assessment Center in Denver, and the Western Region Assessment Center in Grand Junction. During the assessment process, your son/daughter will participate in a variety of assessments to determine his/her treatment and placement needs. The assessments include:

  • A medical screening
  • A dental check-up
  • A clinical evaluation (including legal, family and social history)
  • A drug and alcohol assessment
  • The Colorado Juvenile Risk Assessment, which helps identify specific areas of focus during commitment to reduce risk and lower the chances of re-offending
  • A trauma assessment, which helps identify exposure to traumatic events and symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • An educational assessment called the "Measure of Academic Progress"
  • Vocational interest tests

After the assessments are complete, a Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) meeting is scheduled. The MDT meeting will occur within 30 days of your son/daughter's date of commitment. The MDT includes people such as the parent/guardian, professionals on your son/daughter's team, the Client Manager assigned to your son/daughter and anyone else that you identify for support. At this initial MDT, recommendations will be made about treatment and residential placement.

There are three levels of residential placement:

  1. Community placement in a non-secure youth center provides temporary care of a youth in a community-based setting.
  2. Staff secure placement is one in which security is provided by staff rather than physical barriers such as a fence. This type of youth center provides 24-hour direct supervision of youth.
  3. Secure placement youth centers provide temporary care of a youth in a physically restrictive environment. A youth may be placed in a secure youth center if the assessments determine the immediate safety of the youth or the protection of the community requires physical restriction. This type of youth center has a fence restricting access or egress and youth receive 24-hour direct supervision.

While your son/daughter is participating in the assessment process, they will attend school an average of 25 hours per week. Courses taught include math, science, life skills, social studies and language arts. The goal of the education program is to prepare youth to return to public school. In that effort, we strive to keep class size to 15 students or less in order to provide more individualized attention.

Your son/daughter will also attend pre-treatment groups during which he/she will participate with facilitators and peers.

Client Manager/Parole Officer

Each youth committed to DYS is assigned a Client Manager who fulfills primary case management responsibilities. The Client Manager will be able to answer most of the questions you have about your son/daughter's placement and treatment throughout the full period of their commitment to DYS. The Client Manager will also serve as the Parole Officer during the period of parole.

Your Role as a Family Member

No one knows your family like you do. You're the expert and your voice is extremely important throughout the process. Approved family members are encouraged to take part in all aspects of their son/daughter's involvement with DYS, from the initial assessment process through their return to the community. You may be involved in family therapy, treatment team meetings, educational planning meetings, special events and other activities that allow you to take part in decisions.

We encourage and support your contact with your son/daughter. Visits, phone calls and mail are common forms of contact. Each youth center will be able to introduce you to your son/daughter's individual communication and contact plan while they are in residential placement. If you need support with participating in visits you are encouraged to work with the youth center and the Client Manager assigned to your son/daughter.

Here are some suggestions of things you can do to be involved with your son/daughter's care:

Educational Services

DYS ensures educational services are provided to all youth in custody. The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) state standards are met by all education programs and all teachers and principals are licensed.


While youth are in a detention youth center, the responsibility to educate belongs to the local school district in which the youth center is located. The typical length of stay in detention is brief, with an overall average of 15 days. General education and special education services are provided for all youth in detention youth centers and meet the CDE requirements.


The DYS has six youth centers providing educational services to committed youth. Educational services are also provided at all youth centers that the DYS contracts with. The educational programs are designed to meet the complex needs of a diverse student population. Students are required to attend academic, vocational or work experience programming each day specific to their individual needs. The DYS educational programs are varied and comprehensive, with a focus on supporting youth to return to high school, earn a diploma or GED, or gain vocational/technical skills. A graduation plan is designed for all students who have not graduated or obtained a GED. Students who have already graduated have the opportunity to gain vocational skills and/or work experience. Special education services are provided for youth who qualify.

As part of the educational services offered, the DYS will contact your son/daughter's previous schools to obtain high school credits if they are over age 14.If you have copies of transcripts or access to your son/daughter's transcripts, please notify the Client Manager. This can help expedite the placement process. Credits earned in placement are transferable to all Colorado high schools and count toward graduation requirements.

Visitation/Mail/Phone Calls


All youth may visit with their legal guardians, immediate family members and others as approved by their Multi-Disciplinary Team. Each youth center encourages youth to maintain contact with family and other positive individuals in their lives. The youth center will provide visits with approved family members. Many youth centers allow youth to earn more frequent visits, so please check with the youth center for their specific rules. However, please note that your son/daughter has the ability to refuse to participate in visits.

Your son/daughter is allowed special visits with their attorney(s), or counselors/agents/workers who are assigned to supervise or deliver services. Professional visitation is permitted in addition to family visits.

Phone Calls

Upon admission to a DYS youth center, youth may make two telephone calls: one to his/her parents or legal guardians, foster parents, or custodians, and one to an attorney or legal representative.

Youth will be able to make or receive routine local and collect long distance calls to parents, legal guardians, foster parents, or custodians during established hours at a minimum of two times per month. Like visitation privileges, some youth centers permit youth to earn or make additional phone calls, so, please check with the youth center about their specific phone rules.

Youth may receive calls from court workers, social workers, law enforcement officials, probation officers, and lawyers at any time, unless they are presently posing a safety risk to themselves or others. Youth may telephone an attorney on an agency phone at any reasonable time, as often as the attorney agrees is necessary, as long as the attorney will accept charges if the calls are long distance. For calls with an attorney, the youth center will allow for a reasonable amount of privacy and no time limits will be placed on the calls.


Postage is provided for the mailing of a maximum of two letters per week. Additional postage is provided for legal correspondence. Your son/daughter may receive postage stamps from sources outside the youth center at the discretion of the facility director.

Letters must be sealed and addressed with only the sender's name and address and the name and address of the person receiving the mail. Letters and packages are inspected to determine if they pose any safety concerns or contain contraband. Mail will be read in the presence of your son/daughter and may be withheld, censored or rejected at that time. If mail is rejected, it may be returned to sender or placed with the youth's personal property.

Your son/daughter is permitted to send sealed, un-inspected letters to courts, attorneys, DYS administrative officials, the administrator of the grievance system and the Juvenile Parole Board.

Writing to your son/daughter can be a great way to stay in contact and they love to get mail. Sometimes, however, it is difficult to know what to write about. Here are some tips:

  1. Write about your week. Things that sound mundane to you can help your son/daughter feel like they are a part of your day.
  2. Write your life story and send a page or two a week.
  3. Ask your son/daughter to write their life story from their perspective.
  4. Send a list of questions your son/daughter can answer in return letters.
  5. Have members of your household write a paragraph to your son/daughter.
  6. Keep a daily journal. Add to it as things come up that you would like to share and then send it once a week.
Restorative Community Justice

Restorative Community Justice (RCJ) is a process that involves everyone (if possible) who was involved in a specific wrongdoing. The goal is to identify and address harms, needs, and obligations in order to make things as right as possible. In RCJ:

  • We believe that a crime violates people and relationships between people.
  • Victims, offenders, and community members are involved in several types of restorative processes.
  • Restorative processes help an individual become accountable for wrongdoing by understanding the impact and focusing on healing the harm caused. Accountability also involves understanding the impact of the harmful action and repairing it as best as possible.
  • RCJ processes focus on identifying needs and responsibilities that come from the impact of harm.

We will work with your son/daughter to help him/her understand and use these principles and practices for successful transition back to their community. Family members may have opportunities to be involved in restorative justice practices as well.

Victim Services

Crime Victim Rights in Colorado

The purpose of the Victim Rights Act (VRA) is to ensure that victims of VRA crimes are afforded their rights. There are specific types of crimes, identified by law, where victims impacted by the specific crimes have different rights. This includes the right to be heard at specific stages in the criminal justice process and to be informed of and present at critical stages in the criminal justice process. While a youth is being supervised by DYS, an example of a critical stage includes a parole board hearing.

DYS services for victims of VRA crimes include:

  • Victim Notification program enrollment
  • Critical Stage notification
  • Options for various RCJ opportunities
  • Answer questions related to restitution, juvenile justice, and victim's rights
  • Referrals for additional support services
  • Aid in applying for Crime Victim Compensation funds
  • Aid in preparation of a Crime Victim Input Form

DYS works with victims of crime, youth in our care, family members and community members to help repair the impact of harmful behaviors.

Victim Notification

Colorado law provides VRA crime victims the right to be informed about offender supervision. Victim notification is provided to crime victims of youth in our care. However, we do not share any information about treatment, health, or education.

Crimes Committed While at the Division of Youth Services

If your son/daughter breaks the law while in the Division's care, he/she can be charged and receive an additional sentence. This can result in increased supervision time, conditions, and restitution orders. If your son/daughter, while in our care, is charged with a VRA crime, additional notification to any new victims will occur. In these situations, there may be an opportunity to participate in restorative justice (repair the harm).


Restitution is an order of the court by which offenders are held accountable for the financial losses they caused to the victims of their crimes. Once the offender has been sentenced and the court has ordered the amount to be paid as restitution, this will be included as part of a youth's case plan.

Protection Orders

A protection order is also known as a "restraining" order, a "civil protective" order, an "injunction", or a "no contact" order. Courts issue a protection order telling one person (the restrained person) to stay away from and not hurt, threaten, or communicate with another person. This order can be temporary or permanent. A court specifies what the restrained person can and cannot do. There may not be any contact between any identified people in a protection order. This includes any form of communication between people acting on behalf of those involved. Absolutely no contact can occur while the protection order is active. Violation of a protection order can result in additional criminal charges.

Voting rights

Parole begins when your son/daughter has completed their residential stay or when their commitment time expires. The period of parole lasts a minimum of six months. This is a time to support transition and make sure that you and your son/daughter have the skills and resources to be successful at home and in the community. The assigned Client Manager will be the Parole Officer during the parole period.

Before parole starts, your family will participate in transition meetings. These meetings help identify what you may need and ensure services are in place to support your family as your son/daughter transitions onto parole.

Your son/daughter will have a parole hearing. You are encouraged to attend this hearing to support them. You will have an opportunity to speak with the Parole Board directly. You may let the Parole Board know your recommendations and thoughts about your son/daughter transitioning onto parole including changes you have seen and any needs you might have.

DYS offers many services to support your family during this time on parole. These services include therapeutic services, mentoring, life skills training, pro-social activities and tracking. You will be involved in deciding what services will be provided to support your family.

While on parole, your son/daughter will have a parole plan that will outline the services that will be provided. This parole plan will also have the guidelines and requirements for parole. You will be involved in developing this plan. This plan will include specific conditions that need to be followed. If any of these parole conditions are violated, your son/daughter may be revoked from parole and could be returned to a state youth center. The Client Manager will ensure you have a copy of the parole plan.


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

For Client Management Offices and youth services youth center contact information, visit the CDHS Youth Centers page.