Denny Atherton began his career in juvenile justice as a probation officer in Kansas City, Missouri and the surrounding communities. He remained with the 16th Judicial Circuit of Missouri – Family Court Division, for 43 years, retiring in June of 2012.
He learned his craft as a probation officer for a decade and a half working predominantly in the urban core of Kansas City high risk delinquent youth. For several years he was also appointed one of the court’s expert witnesses to testify at transfer hearings.
Denny held several front line management positions, Supervisor of a Field Unit Supervisor and Supervisor of the Intake and Assessment Unit, before his appointment as Director of Prevention and Probation Services for nine years. During this time he reengineered the department’s philosophy and practice with referred youth by expanding its prevention and diversion programming with status offenders and low level delinquent youth and partnered with community stakeholders. He then concentrated probation resources on objectively assessed moderate and high risk delinquent youth. Denny also introduced accountability measures for intervention services by conducting outcome-focused evaluations of programs within the department.
He was next appointed the Director of Assessment and Development, a newly created department, his last 13 years with the Family Court. The department was responsible for the development and execution of all intervention efforts within the continuum of community and residential-based delinquency programming provided youth and parents. This also included oversight of the Family and Juvenile Drug specialty Courts, the staff Training Unit, and the Development and Evaluation Unit that assessed all programs and services.
Denny was involved in advancing state level juvenile justice as a member several committees and task forces working on standards for juvenile justice practice, and the development of classification and risks and needs instruments including the state detention risk instrument.
Denny also maintained a private therapy practice for 15 years concentrating on marriage and family issues. He was also the 16th Circuit’s site coordinator for the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative. He has been a national trainer for JDAI and a Technical Assistance Team Leader for the Initiative the past two and a half years.
Denny earned a Bachelor of Arts from Buena Vista University in Sociology/Psychology, and a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology from the University of Missouri – Kansas City. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor. He completed the Court Management Program from the Institute for Court Management, National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, Virginia.