AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The Youth Center of the High Plains continues to take in Potter and Randall County children referred to the facility after offenses that occur within the two counties involving children.
This comes as the Texas Juvenile Justice Department recently halted its intake of committed youth. According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, the department decided to halt the intake because of ongoing staffing shortages, which officials said could threaten youth safety. As of Thursday, there are 140 youth in detention centers waiting to be transferred to the department.
“The current risk is that the ongoing secure facility staffing issue will lead to an inability to even provide basic supervision for youth locked in their rooms,” Shandra Carter, the interim executive director of the department, said in a recent letter. “This could cause a significantly impaired ability to intervene in the increasing suicidal behaviors already occurring by youth struggling with the isolative impact of operational room confinement.”
Joe Barton, the officer chief juvenile probation officer for Randall County and the Youth Center of the High Plains, said that while the center has seen an increase of staff vacancies, the center continues to operate with “full programming and within all regulations and state standards.”
Barton said that because the state facilities are not accepting new arrivals to their facilities, the committed juveniles remain in county facilities, like the Youth Center of the High Plains, waiting to transport to the state facilities.
“We have continually provided detention services to children referred to the facility for offenses occurring within Randall and Potter counties,” Barton said. “Our top priorities are the safety of our communities and providing children with the secure care needed in order to ensure all are as safe and healthy as they can be.”
Barton said the center has had to limit the number of detention referrals from around the region because of staffing vacancies. This decision is also to make sure that the center has coverage and availability for children involved in that occur in Potter and Randall counties.
To fill those staff vacancies, Barton said that the center has relationships with local and regional higher education institutions for internships as well as positions.
“I have a supportive Juvenile Board and Commissioners Court who are innovative and pro-active in their efforts, as we all examine ways to stay competitive and provide employees with a rewarding career opportunity in an important public service role,” Barton said.
For more information about the Youth Center of the High Plains, visit its website.