Division of Youth Services FAQs

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 12 secure youth centers that serve youth between the ages of 10 and 21 who are pre-adjudicated or committed. In addition to residential programming, DYS administers juvenile parole services throughout Colorado. 

For questions not answered by this FAQ, contact DYS by phone at 303.866.7345.


Q: What treatment services are available if youth are detained to a Division of Youth Services (DYS) youth center?

A: Cognitive behavioral programming may be available at your son/daughter's facility. This programming is designed to teach positive traits, anger management, improved decision making, empathy and other social related skills.

Q: How long are youth in detention? Who determines the length of stay?

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

Q: Do youth receive an education while in detention?

A: Youth in detention are provided education by the local school district. While your son/daughter is in the program, they will receive educational credit. Should they qualify to participate, they may also be eligible to take part in the school's General Equivalency Diploma (GED) program.

Q: Can youth be transported to a routine medical appointment while in detention?

A: At the time a court orders a youth to be held at a detention center, the legal custody remains with the parent or guardian. Without legal custody transferring to the state, the youth center cannot legally transport youth to a routine medical appointment.

Q: Can youth receive psychiatric services while in detention?

A: At the time a court orders a youth to be held at a detention center, the child’s legal custody remains with the parent or guardian. Without legal custody transferring to the state, the youth center cannot legally provide medical or psychiatric services.


Q: What treatment services are available to youth if they are committed to a DYS youth center?

A: Services that may be available at a youth center include individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, psychiatric services, offense-specific treatment, substance abuse treatment, parent support groups and evaluations. The assigned Client Manager or facility-based treatment team will be able to give you information about your son/daughter's individual treatment plan and services.

Q: How long are committed youth in a youth center? Who determines the length of stay and where my son/daughter will go after placement?

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

Q: Do youth receive an education and can they earn a diploma?

A: Youth committed by the court and placed in a residential placement participate in school programming. An Education Assessment Report containing assessment results is written for all youth. If the youth receives special education and have a current Individual Education Plan (IEP), that IEP is transferred to DYS according to the special education process and Colorado Department of Education guidelines. Educational services may include special education, GED preparation for qualifying students, vocational skills training or pursuit of a high school diploma. Qualifying youth may also be offered post-secondary education (college). If your son/daughter is planning to return to public school, the youth center school will work with the home school district to help with a smooth transition and to determine appropriate placement.

Q: How can I be involved in decisions about my son/daughter?

A: Approved family members are encouraged to take part in all aspects of a youths involvement with DYS, from the initial assessment process through return to the community.  You may be involved in family therapy, treatment team meetings, educational planning meetings, special events involving your son/daughter, and other activities that allow you to take part in decisions. This process includes Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) reviews. The MDT will include your son/daughter, family members, treatment providers and others that you may deem supportive and helpful to the long-term success of your son/daughter. From assessment to parole, your son/daughter will have regular MDT meetings to share information, provide expertise, and develop realistic plans for every stage of treatment. Learn more about how you can be involved on the Families of Youth Services Clients page.

Q: How does DYS determine what services youth receive?

A: DYS provides a comprehensive assessment for all youth within the first 30 days of their commitment. This assessment includes: criminogenic risk and needs assessment utilizing the Colorado Juvenile Risk Assessment, a mental health assessment, education and vocational assessment, medical assessment, drug and alcohol screening and assessment, neuropsychological screening, file and documentation review and risk classification. In some cases, the assessment process may also include a psychological evaluation and/or a neuropsychological evaluation.

Following the completion of the assessment, a multi-disciplinary team meets to discuss youth and family needs, placement type, and future transition plans.


Q: Are all committed youth required to serve a period of time on parole?

A: Colorado Statute requires that every committed youth exiting DYS must serve six months 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.

General Youth Services and facilities

Q: What opportunities do youth have to practice their religion?

A: All youth have the opportunity to practice their faith and participate in religious services. This includes access to clergy and spiritual advisors. Some youth centers have partnerships with community agencies to provide such activities as religious services, bible study groups, mentoring, chaplain services, or spiritually based group activities.

Q: What contact am I allowed to have with my son/daughter? What are the rules about phone calls and visits?

A: DYS encourages youth to maintain contact with family members and other positive individuals. Youth are able to make outgoing phone calls to parents/guardians, professionals and others who are approved for contact. The procedures for the frequency or times of the phone calls will vary at different youth centers. Youth centers also provide a schedule of visiting hours for approved visitors. Please visit the CDHS Youth Centers page for additional visitation information.

Q: Are youth allowed to have personal belongings or gifts?

A: Youth are provided with the clothing and personal hygiene items that he or she needs while in placement. Please check with your son/daughter's youth center for rules and procedures regarding special occasion gifts and other permitted personal items.

Q: Are youth allowed to receive mail?

A: Youth are able to send and receive mail. Incoming and outgoing mail may be opened in the presence of the youth and inspected for contraband. Some youth centers allow additional publications to be sent to your son/daughter (such as magazines). The youth center can provide you with a list of approved publications. Mail that is deemed to pose a safety and security threat will be read in the presence of the youth and may subsequently be withheld. If a safety threat exists, the item may be processed with law enforcement or if appropriate, placed in the youth’s property storage for later claiming.

Q: What types of living conditions are provided for my son/daughter?

A: All youth are provided with their daily living needs, including sleeping accommodations (bedrooms, linens, etc.), clothing, personal hygiene items, meals and snacks, physical exercise, leisure time and structured activities.

Q: How do I get notified of changes, important events or emergencies happening with my son/daughter?

A: The staff at the youth center will follow procedures to notify you of significant events or emergencies. Parents are encouraged to maintain regular communication with their son/daughter's designated staff.

Q: How can I file a complaint against a facility or individual?

A: Your son/daughter is informed of the steps of the youth center grievance process and is able to file a grievance at any time without interference. As the parent of a youth residing in a DYS youth center, you are encouraged to contact the youth center Administrator(s) or one of the two Directors of Facility Operations. Additionally, you can contact the Child Protection Ombudsman of Colorado (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 submit a confidential complaint, you can call (720) 625-8640 or visit the CPO's website at www.coloradocpo.org.  

Q: What is the age range of youth serviced in DYS?

A: Youth can range in age from 10-20 years old. Youth can receive services through DYS until their 21st birthday.

Prison Rape Elimination Act

Q: How does the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) impact DYS youth centers?

A: PREA addresses the detection, response, prevention and elimination of sexual assault, sexual abuse, and sexual harassment in all DYS state and contract facilities. Additionally, PREA directs the collection and dissemination of information on the incidence of juvenile-on-juvenile sexual abuse as well as staff sexual misconduct with youth in DYS custody.

Q: To whom does PREA apply?

A: PREA applies to all Federal, State, local public and private institutions that house juveniles and adult offenders, male and female.

Q: What is the evidence of DYS's commitment to maintain a safe, humane, and appropriately secure environment for juveniles in DYS custody?

A: DYS has policies and standards for any employee, volunteer or contractor that prohibits inappropriate relationships with juveniles in their care. All staff, volunteers and contractors are provided training on professional ethics and in maintaining professional boundaries when interacting with youth, as well as training to detect and report staff sexual misconduct, juvenile sexual abuse, sexual harassment and juvenile sexual misconduct.

Q: How are PREA allegations investigated?

A: Employees, volunteers, contractors and interns with DYS are mandatory reporters, and therefore obligated by law to abide by the mandatory reporting laws and DYS policy.  Whenever an alleged incident of sexual misconduct has occurred within a DYS youth center, the incident will be reported to CDHS and the appropriate local law enforcement agency. Additionally, an internal investigation will be conducted to determine the appropriate administrative or personnel actions to be taken. The internal investigation will not interfere with or duplicate an investigation being conducted by the county department of human services or a local law enforcement agency.