Day Reporting Center
The Day Reporting Center is a safe place to learn about how to make choices for a lifetime of success.
In 2005, Nick H. of Crystal Lake felt misdirected in life – and like no one cared. He was drinking, abusing drugs and ditching school. “I was a problem child,” he admitted.
His crimes landed him in an Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice center. His lifeboat came via the Day Reporting Center (DRC) in Woodstock, a court-mandated program through Pioneer Center for Human Services’ Youth Service Bureau.
A New Direction
DRC, founded in 1998, helps people like Nick “find a new direction in life and opportunities to learn how to make good choices,” according to Director Jeanne Swanson.
Put frankly, DRC is a last chance before incarceration.
Despite the promise of a new direction through DRC, Nick was reluctant at first and continued getting into trouble. His turning point was facing jail time for a Wisconsin arrest. “I didn’t want to be that person anymore,” he said. “I saw DRC as an opportunity to change.”
He knew there would be major obstacles to overcome, but was ready. “At first I was terrified to lose my friends and make new ones, and dealt with anxiety over the idea of changing my lifestyle and image,” he said.
Through attending the program, Nick began experiencing breakthroughs. In his year at DRC, he received group counseling in the areas of corrective thinking to break patterned criminal thinking, and access to anger management groups, substance abuse groups, healthy relationship groups, leisure education programming and educational support.
“I use skills I learned in the program every day,” Nick said.
Once self-dubbed “terminally selfish,” Nick said, “I have learned to be compassionate and unselfish, and how to think more openly when faced with obstacles.”
The program generally runs for three-hour sessions, four days per week for 26 weeks. After completion, clients step down to limited attendance determined on a case-by-case basis to ensure continued success, Swanson said. For example, “My reward for getting a job was Fridays off from the program,” Nick said. “The day off was a benefit of doing something right.”
Now 23, Nick has two jobs, and this fall, plans on enrolling at a small liberal arts college downstate. Areas of study he’s interested in include criminal justice, sociology, history and pre-law.
To other troubled young people, Nick’s turnaround is pure inspiration. He’s eager to share his story because “my biggest asset is my past,” he related.
“My past can benefit others looking for help,” he added. “There are some gory parts from my past, but I’m not embarrassed. It’s made me the person I am today.”
If he could share one message with troubled youth, it’s that there is hope. “You don’t have to live this way,” he said. “It’s not a dead-end road. You can repair the strained relationships.”
These days, Nick’s relationships with his parents and brothers have improved, but it didn’t happen overnight, and every day, he works to earn his family’s trust and respect. “My relationship with my parents has revolutionized,” he said. “My mom is proud of who I’ve become.”
His takeaway message for parents and caretakers of children going down a troubled path is to avoid enabling bad behavior and “put your foot down” early and often.
Another Success Story
At 17, a troubled young man from Johnsburg, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he knew he was “in the wrong” upon being mandated into DRC, and was ready for a change.
“The program helped me channel my anger and organize my life by learning about the psychology behind my anger,” he said.
“[The other clients and I realized] we don’t have to be this way,” he added. “Life sucks a lot of the time, but you don’t have to be a criminal.”
He said before the program, most of the clients had no one to share their feelings with – no one to talk to. “As humans, we all need to talk to someone,” he said.
Now 18, he is working “nonstop,” enjoys art and plans to attend McHenry County College or AmeriCorps this fall.
He said he’d feel comfortable coming back and visiting DRC any time. “The staff was cool – they created a safe place for us to open up,” he said.
Effective Alternative to Jail Time
DRC is constantly reassessing what works and what doesn’t work, according to Swanson, with a core focus on corrective thinking.
Nick and others’ success in the program and beyond proves it’s working. It’s particularly important to share these success stories at a time when human services like DRC are losing state funding.
In fact, due to money woes, DRC has had to cut staff and subcontractors for experiential programming, such as equine therapy and career development.
“For the $110,000 a year we need right now to fund the program, we’re changing lives,” said Laurie Bivona, Pioneer’s director of marketing. “It’s a lot cheaper than incarceration, and through our program, clients are gaining essential life skills they wouldn’t get in jail. We’re giving these teens a chance to redefine the course their lives will take.”
Approximately 24 clients per year reap the benefits of DRC. The program’s success by numbers since 2003 is outlined in the sidebar below.
Although there is no current system in place to track continued progress when clients leave the program, “All clients are provided the opportunity to return to the program if they feel the need for continued support,” Swanson said, adding, “We are privileged to hear from clients such as Nick from time to time as they call or stop in to share their successes with us.”
“The program showed me there are good people in the world who care,” Nick said, “and to this day, Jeanne’s phone is always on whether I needed help with writing a paper or a reference for a job. The door at DRC is always open.”
Day Reporting Center’s Effectiveness by the Numbers Since 2003:
- 94 percent of the clients enrolled in the program completed without new charges
- 100 percent were enrolled or re-enrolled in school
- 100 percent diverted from commitment to the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice
- 97 percent of participants have not received new charges
- 82 percent demonstrated grade improvement
- 65 percent obtained employment