OREGON – A judge has ordered part of Ogle County’s residential program for juvenile offenders shut down, and the director has been fired.
County officials could not say what prompted the partial shutdown of Focus House, or when it will take place, but Judge Dan Fish, chief judge of the 15th Judicial Circuit, released a statement Tuesday saying he requested the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts to conduct an operations review of the facility and that “based on the recommendations of that review, I am temporarily closing the residential component of Focus House to start restructuring and reorganizing.”
Ogle County Board Chairman Kim Gouker said he couldn’t comment on what led to the partial shutdown because hasn’t received a copy of the operations review, but he did confirm that director Martine Lyle was relieved of her duties last week.
Brenda Mason, who has been the clinical supervisor at the facility, was named interim director.
“With [Mason’s] help, we will be keeping the Day Program open throughout this period of restructuring,” Fish said in his statement, adding that “we will be working closely with the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts to help with the implementation of [its] recommendations. We will also be consulting with Ogle County, Rochelle Township High School District, Focus House Foundation, and the community.”
Fish could not be reached for further comment.
Focus House Foundation Board President David Tess stressed that the facility has not been closed, and youths are still being housed there.
“The foundation board has been made aware of operational issues at Focus House. We’re confident that they’re being addressed,” he said. “We’re committed to doing whatever we can to help to help during the process. We’re confident we will continue to provide a structured environment for the needs of our kids.”
The county-owned youth shelter-care facility is operated by the Ogle County Probation Department. It has three sites, one on state Route 251 north of Rochelle and two in Rochelle, and provides round-the-clock care services for adjudicated youth, including residential care, on-site schooling and education, counseling, health care, leisure and recreational activities, and post-discharge services.
Focus House staff members are employees of the State of Illinois and answer to Fish as Chief Judge of the 15th circuit, which includes Ogle, Lee, Stephenson, Carroll, and Joe Daviess counties.
“This is the only program like this in Illinois,” Gouker said.
Ogle County State’s Attorney Eric Morrow said the Focus House staff and foundation, and county and community officials are dedicated to working through the restructuring process.
“I think one thing that comes out of this is that there will be a group of people working to get this back on track,” he said.
Go to oglecounty.org/departments/probation/focus-house for more on Focus House.