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County of Sonoma Probation Department
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Juvenile Facilities

Sierra Youth Center

Sierra Youth Center originally began in 1979 as the Sonoma County Adolescent Program designed to be a ranch/camp for female juvenile offenders ages 12-18.  Shortly after the program began, it was clear that it would not be cost effective to operate due to the low population of female offenders.  In 1981, it was determined that the needs of male juvenile offenders ages 12-16 were not being addressed by Sonoma County Juvenile Probation and the Adolescent Program became a ranch/ camp for male and female offenders.  As the juvenile crime rate continued to grow in this County, Probation searched for innovative ways to hold youth accountable without having to use incarceration.  Sierra Youth Center designed one of the first weekend work crew programs for juveniles in the nation combining juveniles on probation and Sierra residents.  As Sierra worked to increase its level of success with the residents, the program added an aftercare component that provides support, structure and accountability to juveniles and their families during the transition home.  Similar to national trends, Sonoma County’s female population has continued to grow and in the summer of 2006, the program converted to a gender-responsive adolescent female program.

Program Description

The Sonoma County Sierra Youth Center (SYC) is designed to provide a local placement for adolescent females, adjudicated by the Juvenile Court. SYC is one of the few gender- responsive residential programs in the State for female youth. The program provides interventions aimed at reducing risk behaviors and developing healthier skills and abilities. The program's goal is to promote a resident's positive return to her family and community. The length of stay varies from 6 to 12 months, depending on the severity of the adolescent’s offense and her progress through the program. The aftercare component provides an additional 6 to 12 months to work closely with the family to ensure a successful return to the community.

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Program Components
  • Education: Educational progress is a priority for each resident. Residents attend Sierra's Hood Mountain School, which provides intensive, individualized attention at an on-site classroom. To help residents succeed in this area, SYC has a tutoring program Monday-Friday. In addition to core classes, residents receive yoga instruction, training through the Assistance Dog Institute and art classes, which include the mural project.  Residents who excel academically are able to attend the local Junior College.

  • Therapy: The SYC program offers group and individual counseling. Weekly parents' support groups are provided, and residents participate in weekly NA meetings on the unit. Residents also receive individual drug and alcohol counseling, and may receive specialized therapy for mental health needs. United Against Sexual Assault facilitates healing and promotes the prevention of violence by providing education and counseling services. Restorative Resources works with residents to understand the impact of and begin making amends for their behavior. Residents also participate in weekly Girl's Circle groups to build self-esteem, compassion and connectivity.

  • Recreational and educational activities: Residents have the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities to expose them to healthy alternatives and cultural experiences. These may include ski trips, theater outings, completion of a "ropes" course, hiking, swimming, sports events, and Girl Scouts.

  • Work Crew: Residents earn money toward their restitution by working in the county parks. They learn new skills and provide a valuable service to the community. SYC extends this service to other juvenile probationers who need to earn restitution money to compensate the victim of their offense.

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