William W. Creighton Youth Services

Inspiring youth to nurture healthy communities

J.J. Kelso Centre
Services J.J. Kelso Centre

The JJ Kelso Centre is a secure custody and detention facility for young women located in Thunder Bay.

Youth can be placed at the facility in a detention capacity while their criminal charges are being dealt with or after the court process has finished and the youth has received a secure custody sentence. Reflecting g on the concepts of risk and need, youth residing at the JJ Kelso Centre benefit from the added level of support and supervision that is offered through the increased level of structure and security that is built into the program. Complementing these aspects, the JJ Kelso Centre also recognizes the unique needs and issues facing young women involved with the justice system and is also able to offer the support that is needed for youth to address underlying issues. With a strong emphasis on mental health, the JJ Kelso Centre is a trauma informed facility in processes, practice, and policies. The Centre encourages collaboration between interconnected system partners through creative individual  and community solutions. With youth as our focus, JJ Kelso Centre brings family, community, and cultures together.

JJ Kelso Centre Basics

JJ Kelso Centre is operated by William W. Creighton Youth Services. It is 100% funded by the Province of Ontario and operates on a contract that is negotiated yearly with the Ministry of Children, Community & Social Services. The facility has a capacity for 11 youth and is gender specific, only for young women between the ages of 12 and 18 years of age. The catchment area for the JJ Kelso Centre is quite expansive, stretching west to the Manitoba border, east to Sault Ste. Marie and north to Hudson Bay. The facility has three separate living areas, a full size dining room complete with a kitchenette, a gymnasium, a newly renovated cultural resource room, a school wing complete with two separate classrooms and a library, and a newly renovated arts and crafts room. A large fenced yard gives youth opportunities to get out of the building itself and engage in recreation opportunities. The yard contains a basketball court, a sweatlodge, and both cultural and vegetable gardens.

Our Philosophy

JJ Kelso Centre recognizes that youth coming to the facility are in a state of crisis. Therefore our primary focus is to first help stabilize youth and see that any unmet needs are addressed first. The supportive and caring environment created by trauma informed staff help youth to regain a sense of control over their lives and create pathways to resilience and recovery. This is done in the context of a strength based, relationship focused program that enhances the youth’s potential for success. Trained staff are capable of identifying risks and enhancing protective factors within the program to meet the varying needs of youth. Involvement with family and with community are also key to creating successful transitions back to the community in a supportive and thoughtful manner.

Admissions Requirements

A youth may be admitted under the YCJA, “Youth Criminal Justice Act”. The Police must have a court order signed by a Judge or a Justice of the Peace to admit a youth to detention or custody. A youth may also be placed at JJ Kelso Centre on an order to reside.


Youth are assigned two Individual Workers on admission whom act as advocates for the youth. Individual Workers arrange for the legal, medical, and clothing needs of the youth and attend to their overall well being while they reside at the facility. The JJ Kelso Centre acts as a liaison between the youth and parent or guardian through system navigation, case management and reintegration planning.  JJ Kelso Centre staff are knowledgeable of the spectrum of services available across both the youth and adult systems which has been helpful as some youth come to the facility in a transition stage and need support when making this switch and moving towards adult services.


The JJ Kelso Centre has developed a partnership with the Norwest Community Health Centre and thereby, has access to a nurse practitioner. Every youth that resides at the JJ Kelso Centre has access to a nurse practitioner and is examined upon admission to ensure to ensure health needs are attended to and follow up appointments with specialists, dentists, optometrists, etc. are arranged if needed.


The J.J. Kelso Centre has a school program that is operated in conjunction with the Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board.  The teachers have their Specialist in Special Education and are certified in Mental Health First Aid for Youth.  The school program focuses on literacy, numeracy, credit recovery, the attainment of credits and the preparation and writing of the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test.  Upon entry to Kelso, diagnostic information is gathered, assessment is done and a personalized and differentiated program is developed for each individual student.  A student’s program may be the continuation of a community program or timetable or the preparation to write the GED test.  As well, a major focus is the development of life skills.  Life skills taught are cooking, resume development, sewing, and certification in first aid, safe food handling and WHMIS.  Through partnerships within the community, students gain their volunteer hours and develop a sense of compassion and empathy.  The school works collaboratively with the facility to provide the Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Program.  Rehabilitation is further nurtured by a variety of initiatives such as the hatching of chicks, social justice, cultural awareness, FASD prevention and drug and alcohol education.

Programming and Recreation

The JJ Kelso Centre has historically been focused on using evidence based models that promote change through an interactive experience. Within the context of a cognitive based model, the JJ Kelso Centre promotes and uses Dialectical Behavioural Therapy as one of its preferred treatment models to help youth regulate their emotions better and establish healthy coping strategies for dealing with life’s problems. The model incorporates a skills class offered through the school program, individual therapy offered by the facility social worker, and coaching and role modeling offered by facility staff .  “Life worth living goals” are established with youth in concert with the case management process and serve as a basis for the work that the youth will do with staff during their time at the JJ Kelso Centre. A strength based persepective is utilized in helping youth address some of their struggles, recognizing the strengths and the resilience that they already possess.

The facility has a wide variety of recreational and leisure activities to offer on site including: basketball, volleyball, soccer, hockey and ice skating, arts and crafts, sewing, and knitting. In all of the activities, an emphasis is placed on sportsmanship and on the development of a positive self image.


Visits and phone calls are restricted to the youth’s immediate family or guardian, lawyers and agency workers. Recognizing the unique support systems that often exist within families, youth do have access to extended family members at the discretion of the facility supervisors.


JJ Kelso Centre follows the agency’s cultural competency policy, recognizing the need to reflect back the culture of the dominant population in our practices. As a result the JJ Kelso Centre is able to offer youth access to sweatlodge ceremonies, feasts that are held for each of the four seasons, pow wows in the summer months, and traditional teachings through partnerships with community elders and resource people. JJ Kelso staff are also committed to ongoing professional development in order to better service the young woman we work with and have engaged in dialogue with the grater community to increase our understanding of the concepts of intergenerational trauma,  settler colonialism and white privilege.

J.J. Kelso Centre
1024 Oliver Road, P.O. Box 10632
Thunder Bay, Ontario, P7B 6V1
Phone: (807) 766-2900
Fax: (807) 345-0922