Diversion Program and Teen Court

What is Youth Diversion?

The Diversion Program in Codington County stems from the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI) and it works on the core principles of: 

  • Serving the right youth in the right place at the right time. 
  • Serving youth in the least restrictive setting. 
  • Protecting public safety. 
  • Reducing racial, ethnic, and gender disparities at all decision points in the Juvenile Justice System. 
  • Establishing programs to be efficient and effective. Using data to guide decision making.

How Does Youth Diversion Work?

Youth are referred to the Youth Diversion Coordinator by the States Attorney’s Office, Police Department, or Sheriff’s Office. The family and Diversion Coordinator then meet and youth and their family are given the opportunity to take advantage of services available to them, as well as learn about the requirements expected of them throughout the program. Once the family and youth agree to the expected terms, they are given a period of 90 days to complete their tasks and assignments. After completion, the State’s Attorneys office is made aware of the completion and the charges the youth was diverted for are dropped from their record. If the youth does not complete the diversion program, the case is sent back to the States Attorney’s Office for formal prosecution.

The program’s objectives are to rehabilitate juveniles, instill in the youth a sense of accountability for their actions, and give youth the ability to understand the detrimental impact criminal behavior can have on the community and their future. 

Common Responses to Diversion

  • Community Service
  • Prevention Referrals
  • Educational Classes
  • Counseling Referrals
  • Restorative Services
  • Case Management
  • Teen Court

Behavioral Health 

Focus of the Behavioral health program

  1. Individual and groups meetings and education opportunities
    1. The Behavioral Health program offers different classes that assist in helping youth make healthy decisions for themselves. The goal of the educational classes is to promote healthy behavior through practice of certain resistance skills. 
    2. The Kindness Club offers youth an opportunity to be part of a leadership group whose main focus is to create a positive and uplifting environment at the Boys and Girls Club. 
  2. Family engagement
    1. It’s important for the family and caregivers to be up to date about things that are happening with their kids at the Boys and Girls Club. The Behavioral Health program focuses on increased family engagement through regular emails or phone calls. For certain kids who have challenges while at the club, increased communication is needed to help the youth achieve their goals. In order for the kids to be successful, there needs to be consistency both at home and at the club. 
  3. Staff support
    1. The social work position offers onboarding training for staff on how to handle different behaviors and situations with children. There is also support for the staff while on the floor dealing with kids through consultation and assistance with more difficult situations. 
  4. Behavior contracts
    1. Conflict often happens between kids at the Boys and Girls Club. For kids who struggle with managing conflict and display behavioral challenges, behavior contracts are completed with the kids. These are used to offer extra support and check-ins with the youth during their time at the club, offering them guidance and feedback on behaviors. These are used to allow the kids to remain at the Boys and Girls Club while working on specific conflict areas the kids may be struggling with. 

Current classes offered:

  • Smart Moves
  • Positive Action
  • Behavior Contracts
  • Kindness Club

Teen Court

At times, the Diversion Coordinator may assign Teen Court as a response to diversion. In this instance, youth who volunteer to serve as attorneys and jurors, hear from the defendants and they determine an appropriate disposition. 

Local attorneys volunteer their time as judges. Trained teenage volunteers and returning defendants make up the Teen Court team.

They work to create a legal and binding disposition for the defendant based on the following principles of Restorative Justice: What harm has been done? Who has been harmed?  What can be done to repair the harm?

The program is always seeking for youth volunteers to serve as a jury member, defense or prosecution attorneys. Adult volunteers are needed to serve as a bailiff, judge, courtroom security, and jury room mediation.

For more information  please contact Louis Canfield at 886-6666 or canfieldl@bgcofwatertown.com

Louis Canfield

Director of Youth Diversion and Prevention

Megan Fischbach

Behavioral Health Social Worker