By Vinde Wells
A judge has ordered part of Ogle County’s residential program for juvenile offenders shut down, and the director has been fired.
Judge Dan Fish, Chief Judge of the 15th Judicial Circuit, released a statement Tuesday afternoon about Focus House, a county-owned youth shelter-care facility operated by the Ogle County Probation Department.
“I requested the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts to conduct an operations review of Focus House,” Fish said in the press release. “Based on the recommendations of that review, I am temporarily closing the residential component of Focus House to start restructuring and reorganizing.
“Brenda Mason has been named Interim Director. With her help, we will be keeping the Day Program open throughout this period of restructuring. We will be working closely with the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts to help with the implementation of these recommendations. We will also be consulting with Ogle County, Rochelle Township High School District, Focus House Foundation, and the community. We look forward to their continued support.”
County officials could not say what prompted the partial shutdown or when it will take place.
Ogle County Board Chairman Kim Gouker confirmed that Focus House Director Martine Lyle was relieved of her duties last week.
Mason had been the clinical supervisor at the facility.
Fish could not be reached for further comment.
Focus House Foundation Board President David Tess, Rochelle, said 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.”
Gouker said he could not comment on the issues because he has not received a copy of the operations review.
He said 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.
Focus House has three sites, one on Ill 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.
“This is the only program like this in the State of 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.