Judge Mario E. Ramirez, Jr. Juvenile Justice Center
The Judge Mario E. Ramirez, Jr. Juvenile Justice Center (Probation Department) has the responsibility of rehabilitating juvenile offenders. The Department meets its responsibility by ensuring that juvenile offenders and their families are linked to community based resources equipped in meeting their individualized needs. In order to identify and treat the individualized needs of juvenile offenders that are taken into custody and those that are under Departmental supervision, memorandums of understanding and contracts are established with agencies, medical & dental physicians, licensed professional counselors, licensed sex offender treatment providers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and pharmacies to provide an array of services such as educational services; medical & dental care; drug testing; psychological & psychiatric assessments; prescribed medications, individual, group, & family counseling; along with specialized outpatient services to meet needs correlated to the misuse & addiction of chemical substances and sexual deviant behaviors.
Whenever the needs of the youth are greater than what can be provided locally, the Department contracts with residential care facilities designed to provide high quality care in environments ranging from the least restrictive to high secure environments throughout the State of Texas. The primary objective is to have those needs met in the least restrictive setting closest to the youth’s home in order to make it feasible for their families to take an active role in their rehabilitation. These environments include foster home settings; basic child care settings; secure & non-secure specialized residential treatment settings; and boot camp style settings.
The Judge Mario E. Ramirez, Jr. Juvenile Justice Center (Probation Department) scrutinizes agencies and facilities carefully prior to entering into a contract with them. Agencies are expected to provide safe, healthy environments enhanced with high quality therapeutic services, provided by trained professional staff. The agencies and facilities that are entrusted in providing 24 hour care of Hidalgo County youth are licensed either by Texas Department of Protective Regulatory Services (TDPRS) or Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD). Child Placing Agencies (CPA) and Residential Treatment Centers (RTC) are licensed and closely monitored for compliance of federal standards by TDPRS. Secure Treatment Facilities and Secure Boot Camp Facilities are licensed and closely monitored for compliance of State standards by TJJD. Youth demonstrating a need to be removed from the custody of their parent(s) or guardian(s) are eligible for suitable placements beginning at the age of ten through the age of seventeen. Careful assessments are made to determine the most appropriate residential setting to ensure the provision of specific treatment services being demonstrated at the time of removal. The length of stay in residential settings is typically determined by the youth’s response to treatment. Typically, the average length of stay in a residential setting can range between nine months to twenty-one months. In unusual circumstances residential care has been provided up to three years. In circumstances where a child demonstrates a need for a continuum of care, a child can transition from one facility into another facility in order to provide a smoother transition back into his/her community. The agencies and facilities contracted with are located throughout the State of Texas including several within the Rio Grande Valley area.
Child Placing Agencies (CPA)
CPA agencies operate in the least restrictive environments outside a child’s family. Home environments personify traditional family life in either a foster home environment or foster group home environment. CPA homes are typically operated by a two-parent household or single parent household. CPA settings are expected to be structured and supportive designed to improve the child’s over-all functioning. Children in these settings are to receive more than routine guidance and supervision to ensure safety and sense of security for the child. Affection, reassurance, and involvement in structured activities appropriate to the child’s age and development for the promotion of well being are to be expected as well. Contact in a manner that is deemed in the best interest of the child, with family members and other persons significant to the child to maintain a sense of identity and culture is also promoted. Another important factor is access to therapeutic, habilitative, and medical intervention and guidance from professionals or para-professionals to help the child attain or maintain functioning appropriate to their age and development. In addition to this, a child demonstrating primary medical or habilitative needs are to be provided with regular interventions from qualified competent service providers.
Residential Treatment Centers (RTC)
RTC facilities operate in environments outside a child’s family providing direct 24 hour supervision. RTC settings are expected to provide a high degree of structure and support designed to address and effectively treat an array of psychological, psychiatric symptoms including drug addictions in order to ensure the safety of the child. Care givers providing direct care of children in such therapeutic settings receive specialized training in developing and executing strategic interventions to enhance mobility, communication, sensory, motor, and cognitive development, as well as self-help skills. Without saying, a child demonstrating primary medical or habilitative needs are to be provided with regular interventions from qualified competent specialists certified in that particular field. Support services are made available to immediate and extended family members taking an active involvement in the child’s recovery treatment. Academic services are provided within the RTC. Educational assessments are made in order to ensure that academic services are provided in the most appropriate classroom setting.
Secure facilities along with Boot Camp style facilities are referred to as Post-Adjudicated Secure Correctional Facilities. Secure settings including military style training programs provide direct 24 hour supervision in structured environments that provide a wide range of services that are mainly designed to address and treat defiant oppositional defiant behaviors. Aside from providing intense physical exercise, emphasis is focused on self-esteem, self-control, self-confidence, accountability, respect for self and others, and taking pride in ones community. Academic services are provided within the secure facilities. It is rather common for performance scores to improve an average of two grade levels. Treatment plans are designed to challenge youth’s abilities motivating them to excel beyond their expectations. Parent(s) and / or guardian(s) are strongly encouraged to take an active role in their child’s treatment.