Pathway House serves as holding facility for delinquent youth

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson Pathway House, a residential and outpatient treatment center in Clovis, will serve as a holding center for youth when police can’t locate parents.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

The city has contracted with a local treatment center for temporary holding services for youth who fall between the cracks in the juvenile justice system.

Clovis Police Capt. Patrick Whitney said the program will give police a place to take youth who have been cited for misdemeanor or non-violent crimes and are waiting for a parent or family member to pick them up.

Under the contract, juveniles will be taken to the Pathway House for up to 12 hours until a parent or family member can be located.

The Pathway House Reception and Assessment Center, a residential and outpatient treatment facility for juveniles, will be available 24 hours a day to all area law enforcement, according to facility owner Gene Lovato.

Juveniles will be kept at the facility for up to 12 hours, at which point Children Youth and Families Department will be called.

Pathway staff will also conduct assessments to determine if the juveniles have any immediate needs and meet with family members to offer resources or counseling, Lovato said. The assessments will be shared with juvenile probation and parole officers.

Juveniles under the influence of drugs or alcohol will not be accepted and Lovato stressed it is not a detention or detention alternative program.

“If they need a secure, lock-down facility, we do not have that capacity,” he said.

Lovato said the intent is strictly to provide a safe place for juveniles to wait for their parents.

The service will free up time officers spend waiting with youth, trying to contact family members and in some cases will stave off the need to involve social services, Whitney said.

“It’s a tool and it’s going to help out, but it’s not the solution,” he said, explaining dealing with juveniles is complex and cumbersome for law enforcement under existing statutes.

It is not unusual — at least once a week — that officers find themselves with a juvenile that has committed a misdemeanor or non-violent felony and there is nowhere to take them, Whitney said.

“There are a lot of single parents that are at work and then there’s the ones that just don’t care. It’s really rare that you find the ones that are intensive parents (that come right away to pick up their kids),” he said.

Often the parents can’t be reached and officers start calling older siblings, aunts and uncles, grandparents, anyone who can take responsibility for the minor, Whitney said.

“Our function is law enforcement, it’s not baby-sitting kids. The officer needs to go on about his business and go on about doing his job,” he said.

Juvenile detention has limited capacity and will not typically accept youth charged with non-violent crimes.

The eight-year contract is subject to funding, Lovato said. Under a state grant, the city will receive $10,000 and Pathway House will receive $73,000 the first year.

Community Outreach worker Terri Chavez said staff is eager to get started and will hold briefings with law enforcement in the coming days.

“We’re ready to go,” she said, explaining they are hopeful they can reach and help area high-risk youth through the program.