May 17, 2017
A 1989 graduate of the University of Illinois with more than two decades of law enforcement experience has been named as the new coordinator of the Youth Assessment Center (YAC) in Champaign. Jonathan Westfield, a certified juvenile officer, previously worked as a school resource officer with the Champaign Police Department, where he provided law enforcement-related education and counseling to Unit 4 schools. He also developed and implemented community outreach programs like Youth Police Academy, Police 101, Anti-Bullying, and Gangs 101.
The YAC is a program of the RPC that screens youth for risk factors and links youth and families to support and restorative services in the community. As coordinator, Westfield will seek to promote professional working relationships with Champaign County Court Services staff, law enforcement, community agencies, schools, funders, referral sources, and agency-procured contractors.
“We want to show that in this community-wide partnership, we play a role,” Westfield comments. “The Youth Assessment Center isn’t just about the issue of delinquency, it’s about the holistic recovery of probably one of the greatest assets a community has—its children. We want to make sure we have the tools and partners in place to make it happen.”
Champaign County state’s attorney Julie Rietz believes the mere fact that Champaign County has a Youth Assessment Center makes the county a leader in juvenile justice in the state of Illinois. And with Westfield’s addition to the program, they are going to be able to move the concept forward even further thanks to his relationships and past experiences. “As state’s attorney, I have always been fully committed to the concept of a Youth Assessment Center to divert youth out of the criminal justice system so we do not see them on the adult side,” she says. “I think this partnership and relationship is going to help us continue to further the success of this very innovative agency.”
Westfield will carry a caseload of up to 20 youth at any given time, oversee a staff of six employees, and represent the YAC at community meetings. “We want to build a foundation where the term ‘career criminal’ isn’t used any longer,” he stresses. “There’s no career in crime. We want to serve as a calm in the storm to make sure youth can find success in a way that meets their needs. We want to make sure they know what they did was a problem, but there are productive ways in which they can resolve it and partners in place to help them accomplish that.”
Every person referred to the YAC is screened, referred to appropriate service providers, contacted bi-weekly for follow-up, and tracked to determine outcome. Case managers consider station-adjustment charges, police officer or school official recommendations, family input, and the screening’s results for triage, determining whether youth will receive Court Diversion Services, Parenting with Love and Limits, or other services.
“Jonathan knows these kids,” Rietz says. “That knowledge of them, of our community, of our schools, of our law enforcement agencies, and of what we need is going to help us ensure the Youth Assessment Center is an effective partner.”