VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – News 6 got an inside look at the new place where kids in trouble go in Volusia County.
Before the new Juvenile Assessment Center opened late last year, there was no place for troubled youth in the area, other than the county jail or confinement to their own home.
[INSIDER EXTRA: Sheriff Mike Chitwood gives a tour inside Volusia County’s new center for troubled youth]
Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood, who’s been pushing for the new center for years, said the newly-opened facility has already given more than 100 kids the right help they need.
Chitwood added he prefers to call the facility the “Family Resource Center.”
“We have a juvenile detective that’s also stationed here,” Chitwood said.
But it’s not a jail. And it’s not just a detention facility.
It’s the first time the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office has gathered child experts and professionals all in one place to help children with every aspect of their struggles.
“Mental health, drug awareness, anger management, life skills, whatever the assessment can give,” Chitwood said. “It can be as easy as mentoring.”
Chitwood introduced News 6 to Mrs. Moore, who has an office inside the Family Resource Center.
“Mrs. Moore with Children’s Home Society, she’s one of our providers,” Chitwood said.
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Moore, a counselor, is tasked with understanding why a child is getting into trouble.
“We are finding a lot of mental health issues,” she said. “A lot of scary behaviors happening in the home. The children are being unruly, some dangerous.”
Moore is discovering issues that have never been addressed.
“The parents are out of ideas, they’re exhausted, they need our help,” she said.
Chitwood then introduced News 6 to Deputy Estrella, a father of five, hand-picked for the Family Resource Center to be more of a mentor and less of a cop.
“He has the softer uniform, it’s not your typical green uniform with the green pants,” Chitwood said. “He understands what it’s like to be a step-parent, he understands what it’s like to have a special needs child.”
Specialists from the Volusia County school district also have an office inside the Family Resource Center. Their goal is to keep kids in school or get them back to school.
Chitwood said every single minor taken into the custody in his county now comes to the Family Resource Center and leaves with much more than a court date.
“Now when we drop them off and leave, we’re dropping them off into the hands of providers who are specialized in dealing with delinquent juveniles,” Chitwood said. “(Before the Family Resource Center), it wasn’t working, it was a completely disjointed system. If you look at the 12- and 14-year-old who opened fire on us, the 14-year-old was Baker Acted 14 times. How do you get Baker Acted 14 times in 14 years? And nothing was done.”
Chitwood said never again will any child slip through the cracks in Volusia County.
“When that kid gets in trouble and comes through the door, you now have specialists—the best in their field—that can identify so you know why your kid’s acting this way,” Chitwood said. “You’re already at your lowest end, so our job is trying to build you back up. And with all the services here we’re trying to get you an opportunity to win. Win in life.”
Chitwood said the plan is for all of the police agencies across Volusia County to start bringing troubled youth to the Family Resource Center but some of them have been slow to embrace it.
And Chitwood encouraged any parent struggling with a child to walk in any time to take advantage of all of the available services. Find out more here.