Subjects of youth treatment centres not prepared for independent life

NIK verified what happened to 336 subjects of the audited youth treatment centres, removed from their registers in 2018-2020 (half of the subjects due to long-term absence, the other half after they turned 18). The percentage of persons who fell foul of the law after they left the facilities went up from 21% to 23% against 2015-2018. As for those who continued education there was a jump from 37% to 54.5% and as for the ones who took up work there was an increase from 43.5 to 51.5%.

NIK has also stressed that in the audited period (from January 2018 to the end of March 2020), more than half of minors referred by the family court did not reach the audited YTCs. Besides, not all facilities properly cared about their subjects’ safety and half of the centres failed to provide adequate psychological and pedagogical care to their subjects.

According to NIK that was partly due to the fact that some facilities were not prepared to perform youth care and education tasks and also they failed to implement NIK’s recommendations following the audit in 2017, addressed to the Minister of National Education. They dealt with both system changes and the provisions of law. For instance, NIK recommended establishing a dozen or so specialised youth treatment centres designed for subjects who needed addiction therapy, care related to pregnancy or maternity or stronger surveillance due to aggressive behaviours. Other recommendations were about enabling YTCs to check, in justified cases, the subjects’ belongings and make preliminary alcohol and drug tests. The recommendations were also related to developing standards of convoying minors while increasing the safety of subjects and YTC employees. 

Part of NIK’s recommendations became part of the draft Act on minors developed by the Ministry of Justice. The draft was not reviewed by the Sejm in 2019, though, due to the end of term. Another draft of the act – on support and rehabilitation of minors – was presented by the Ministry in 2021 but it was not sent to the Sejm until the end of the audit.

The Governor of Gryfice District implemented most of NIK’s recommendations concerning one youth treatment centre (in Rewal, a village at the Baltic Sea). In line with its charter, it should be a 24/7 facility, open all year and providing comprehensive care to its subjects. The NIK audit in 2017 revealed that it was not the case. The facility’s buildings were rented out to children and youth from outside of the facility and the District Office earned nearly PLN 700 thousand on the rent. In that period the facility subjects had a break in the therapy and rehabilitation process which was also highlighted by the Commissioner for Children’s Rights. Following the NIK audit the facility stopped to rent out its buildings for holidays. Also, psychological and pedagogical care, tailored to the number of subjects, was provided and the safety of subjects in the facility was improved.

Bringing-up issues faced by YTCs

The NIK audit showed that minors with diversified care and education needs were referred to the same facility. Also their demoralisation degree varied significantly. Putting those minors in one place led to aggression, physical and mental violence which ended in the failure of the entire education system in some facilities.

Another issue was related to ineffective execution of court judgements. In the audited period, over half of minors did not reach the youth treatment centres audited by NIK.

Following the admission to YTC, an Individual Education and Treatment Programme (IETP) needs to be developed for each subject with a special educational needs statement due to social maladjustment.

The NIK audit showed that as opposed to the 2017 findings, the IETPs in all facilities were individualised and in the majority of cases they were tailored to individual needs. However, nearly 30% of documents were incomplete, e.g. they did not clearly define the scope of assistance that should be provided to a given subject.

IIETPs were often developed with delays, in extreme cases several months after the subject was admitted to the facility in question. This is yet another effect of the absence of adequate provisions of law. According to NIK, there should be an additional deadline to develop IETP calculated from the date of admitting the subject to the facility.

YTC subjects also benefit from psychological and pedagogical support but there is still a shortage of those specialists in youth treatment centres. The situation has improved slightly from the last audit. But still in half of the audited centres the amount of provided psychological and pedagogical care was not tailored to the number of subjects.

On 31 March 202, there were one to three psychologists or pedagogues working in a single youth treatment centre. The number of subjects per one psychologist ranged from 18 to 53. As for one pedagogue, it was from 16 to 44 subjects. The specialists hired in the centres devoted from 25 to 70 minutes per week to one subject.

All YTCs carried out programmes and projects to strengthen effects of the rehabilitation process, e.g. eliminate the causes and symptoms of social maladjustment, boost self-esteem and educational level. In one facility the Aggression Replacement Training was conducted, in others the measures included individual and group addiction therapy, classes on Peaceful Problem Solving, stress management as well as drama therapy.

Safety in YTCs

The Ministry of Education and Science failed to define specific guidelines on convoying minors placed in youth treatment centres. That is why, eight of 14 YTCs developed and adopted their own internal procedures in this area.

In four facilities there were single cases where the health and life of the subjects or their caretakers was potentially threatened. Most frequently those were escapes during stops at petrol stations or car parks but acts of aggression were also reported.

All facilities audited by NIK took measures to provide safety to YTC subjects and prevent demoralisation under the influence of other subjects. As a last resort, most problematic subjects were transferred to other facilities. In case of three centres that was not enough and the incidents were so serious that educational authorities requested the Ministry of Education and Science to stop referring new subjects to those facilities. In case of one centre the reasons included theft of personal belongings, physical and mental violence as well as unethical behaviours of caretakers.

The NIK audit also revealed that in 2018-2021 (end of March) three extraordinary incidents took place in the audited facilities: one and two batteries resulting in grievous bodily harm. In all the youth treatment centres, as in previous years, other incidents were also reported. The most common ones included acts of aggression and physical or mental violence among subjects – 164.

There are still no commonly binding provisions enabling YTC employees to search YTC subjects and YTC rooms. Such regulations would prevent YTC subjects from bringing in alcohol, drugs or dangerous objects. In most facilities such situations are solved based on internal procedures. As a result, although employees are not authorised to do that, in three audited facilities subjects were tested e.g. for drugs. In other centres the subjects suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs were isolated, then the Police or an ambulance was called or the subjects were taken to hospital.

In the audited period, in comparison with years 2012-2017, the total number of reported escapes from youth treatment centres went down – from 143 to 114 per quarter. In ⅓ of cases a subject’s long-term absence followed by escape or not coming back from holiday resulted in removing the subject from the YTC register. Completing the rehabilitation process by the subject before turning 18 was still the least frequent reason (only 3% of cases).

What next after YTC?

The audited youth treatment centres were running primary schools, lower secondary schools and vocational schools. Upon court’s consent, the students who turned 18 could continue their education in those facilities until the end of the school year. In the audited period as much as 87% of the subjects used that opportunity.

For subjects leaving youth treatment centres as they turn 18, YTCs or facilities where they were referred to prepare Individual Empowerment Programmes (IEP). They define in particular: the scope of cooperation with the caretaker, ways of gaining education or professional qualifications, support in obtaining proper housing conditions and taking up work.

The function of the so-called Empowerment Tutor  appeared problematic. The audit showed that out of 118 IEPs prepared in the audited facilities, in 21 cases (about 18%) the Empowerment Tutors were YTC employees (educator, psychologist, pedagogue). In other cases those usually were parents, caretakers or persons from the subject’s closest family.

The audit findings indicated that the majority of the audited youth treatment centres tracked former YTC subjects. It was verified if subjects checked in in social welfare centres to implement their Individual Empowerment Programmes, if they took up work, if they continued education and if they fell foul of the law. All that information was analysed and used by YTC to broaden its education offer and plan future activities.

However in 2020, when the General Data Protection Regulation was already in force, there were doubts as to the legal basis and legality of obtaining information. That is why, in one facility the tracking of subjects was significantly limited and in two others subjects were not tracked at all. NIK stands in a position that the lack of access to the data on former subjects makes it much more difficult for YTCs to assess effectiveness of their efforts to prepare subjects to live in line with social and legal norms.

As part of the audit NIK checked what happened to 336 subjects of the audited YTCs who were removed from the register in 2018-2020 (half of them due to long-term absence and the other half due to turning 18):

  • 76 persons (23%) fell foul of the law, as compared with 21% in 2014-2016,
  • 183 persons (54.5%) continued education, against 37.1% in 2014-2016,
  • 173 former YTC subjects took up a job (51.5%), as compared with 43.5% in 2014-2016.


To the Minister of Education and Science

de lege ferenda proposal:

  • to take efforts to change the Ordinance of the Minister of National Education of 2017 on the conditions of organising education and care for disabled children and youth, socially maladjusted and threatened with social maladjustment to set an additional deadline to develop the Individual Education and Treatment Programme, calculated from the date of admitting the subject to the facility.

And to:

  • develop standards on convoying subjects by YTC employees, to increase safety of all persons taking part in convoying minors (not implemented recommendation from 2017),
  • develop standard procedures for YTC employees acting as Empowerment Tutors  (not implemented recommendation from 2017),
  • develop standard procedures for YTC employees on tracking former YTC subjects.

To YTC Directors

  • to provide psychological and pedagogical care tailored to the needs and the number of subjects,
  • to provide safety to all subjects referred to the facility,
  • to develop IETP for each subject admitted to the facility,
  • to provide safe and healthy conditions for YTC subjects.

Article informations

Date of creation:
15 June 2022 16:57
Date of publication:
15 June 2022 16:57
Published by:
Marta Połczyńska
Date of last change:
15 June 2022 16:59
Last modified by:
Marta Połczyńska
Four young people and a middle-aged man sitting together in a room apparently during a discussion © Adobe Stock

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