Fewer kids booked into Yakima County Juvenile Detention

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. -- Fewer kids have been getting booked into the Yakima County Juvenile Detention Center. Numbers have stayed down the past year and a half.

More beds are open and fewer kids are spending time in juvenile detention. Robyn Berndt said it's all in the approach.

"I can't imagine giving up on a kid just because they've been in trouble more than once or more than twice," said Berndt. "I just can't."

So why are fewer kids getting booked? Berndt said the system focuses on what each kid needs to get back on track. And, then programs are tailored to meet those needs.

"Every once in a while, we'll have a kid that'll come back and come to our front window and say do you remember me? I'm so and so and I'm doing really good now," said Yakima County Juvenile Court Detention Manager Jennifer Knight. "I have a job or I'm in school."

That attention seems to matter. KIMA pulled the numbers to see how many kids have been getting into trouble.

From 2009 to 2011, the average number of them winding up in detention was more than 30. Since 2012, it dropped to about 25.

The detention center can hold up to 42 kids if necessary, but there haven't been that many juveniles since 2011. At times this year, only 11 beds have been occupied.

Administrators said the success is a combination of working with at-risk kids and other kids who break the law. Working with their families also made a difference.

"All of the sad things that happen and all of the failures because there are some, it makes it all worthwhile when you have that one kid come back and say thank you," said Berndt.

It's a place where empty beds signal that kids are sleeping where they should be while staying out of trouble.

Yakima County said there have also been fewer kids booked in detention centers statewide.