Collaboration to keep youth out of jail

The Juvenile Reception Center is a unique public-private partnership between DCHS, DCJ's Juvenile Services Division, local law enforcement, and community partners. It is designed to prevent youth incarceration by providing an alternative for officers encountering youth engaging in non-violent acts.

Once a police officer brings a youth to the center, an intake counselor assesses the youth's mental/physical health, drug and alcohol use, as well as family, education, employment, legal, and social service history. The youth's parent or guardian is then contacted to explain the circumstances that brought the youth to the reception center and further assessment of appropriate referrals for the youth and family are done. Guardians are asked to pick up their child at the reception center where intake counselors conduct a family session to discuss the youth's current situation, review a plan for addressing the youth's behavior, and receive a list of referrals. 

The Reception Center is housed at the same location as the Harry's Mother Basic Center Program, a short term shelter for runaway youth. This location serves as a vital link for youth brought into the center on a Run Report. The majority of these runaway youth are referred directly to the short term shelter, where Harry's Mother case managers work on family reunification and family counselors offer free individual and family counseling. 

Services provided at the Reception Center

  • Screening 
  • Food/clothing 
  • Resource/referrals 
  • Overnight stays
  • Family sessions 
  • Follow-ups

Developing the Reception Center

The Reception Center began as a result of high numbers of non-detainable youth being brought to the Donald E. Long Detention Home annually. Low risk youth were being exposed to more delinquent youth and behavior, creating an entry point for low risk youth into the juvenile justice system. 

Currently, the Reception Center receives fewer than $300,000 per year, operates 24/7, and is staffed at approximately 325 hours a week. Staff provide exceptional service to all youth, families, and officers and contribute to the success of this powerful detention alternative.

Outcomes of the Reception Center

By participating in the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI), Multnomah County has substantially reduced the disproportionate confinement of minority youth, sharply lowering its overall detention population by 86%. The decreased use of detention has led to cost savings, all while crime continues to drop. The Reception Center has been credited as a key component of this success. Law enforcement officials now refer low-level and status youths to the center because of their continued commitment to the local collaborative, and because it is effective in handling and diverting youths who do not pose a public safety risk. 


Reception Center history (35.23 KB)

Video of youth intake: