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News Items / This'll make you ill...
« on: October 28, 2008, 09:14:40 PM »
Lone Star Expeditions Makes Wilderness Therapy More Affordable for Families in Need

Lone Star opens new opportunities for families of struggling teens by narrowing its student profile, reducing the cost of its wilderness therapy program to $350 per day.

Groveton, Texas October 27, 2008 -- Lone Star Expeditions, a therapeutic wilderness program for troubled teens ages 13 to 17, is narrowing its clinical focus to students with less acute psychological and emotional needs. As a result of this change, the program has been able to reduce its rate to $350 per day, ensuring that average-income families are not priced out of wilderness therapy.

"There is a huge segment of the population that needs, but cannot afford wilderness therapy," says Melvin Cates, MA, LCCA, WEMT, executive director of Lone Star Expeditions. "When we decided to make Lone Star a program for less acute adolescents who don't necessarily require the highest intensity intervention, we were excited to discover that we could offer lower prices to more families that need our services."

There is a huge segment of the population that needs, but cannot afford wilderness therapy
When we decided to make Lone Star a program for less acute adolescents who don't necessarily require the highest intensity intervention, we were excited to discover that we could offer lower prices to more families that need our services.
By directing our efforts toward a more specific population of adolescents, we have also been able to cut prices even in the current economic climate, without compromising the quality and integrity of our services
We still have a licensed marriage and family therapist directing our clinical program, a bilingual therapist, and other experts in the field. We still offer superior services using a well-rounded treatment model that has produced incredible results. But we are doing all of this in a more directed, efficient way.
For the first time in our history, we are able to provide a wilderness program that we ourselves can afford
This shift has stirred a strong sense of pride here. Our hope is that one day we can open up these possibilities to every family, including those who never believed wilderness therapy would be an option for their child.
Going forward, Lone Star will continue to accept adolescents with major depressive disorders, oppositional defiance disorder, beginning signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder, and some attachment disorders, but will refer those with substance abuse or addiction issues or conduct or borderline personality disorders to more clinically intensive wilderness therapy programs.

The program will also continue to provide substance abuse and prevention groups for students who have begun experimenting with drugs or alcohol, but will no longer conduct 12-Step meetings or intensively address dual diagnosed substance abuse and mental health issues.

"By directing our efforts toward a more specific population of adolescents, we have also been able to cut prices even in the current economic climate, without compromising the quality and integrity of our services," explains Cates. "We still have a licensed marriage and family therapist directing our clinical program, a bilingual therapist, and other experts in the field. We still offer superior services using a well-rounded treatment model that has produced incredible results. But we are doing all of this in a more directed, efficient way."

Lone Star will continue using its "5-1-1 model," which combines into each week five days and nights in the national forest, one day at base camp, and one day on the second largest ropes challenge course in Texas. According to Cates, this model has proven effective in a short period of time, usually between 42-45 days, which also reduces overall enrollment costs.

As part of its re-focusing, Lone Star is making a number of small changes that will streamline its daily processes. The program will maintain its 2:7 field instructor to student ratio, but will increase group size from eight to 10 students. Rather than sending a therapist out into the field each week to meet with student groups, the therapists will meet with students at base camp and on the program's ropes course, decreasing wasted staff time and cutting fuel costs.

Instead of focusing on specific symptom identification and treatment, the staff at Lone Star will concentrate on helping students develop communication and decision-making skills, leadership abilities, and other life skills. According to Cates, another benefit of the shift in focus is that families won't have to worry about students who need a wake-up call living with and learning from teens with more severe diagnoses.

Since its recent shift in clinical focus, Lone Star has already admitted one family into the program that wouldn't have been able to access wilderness therapy without the price reduction.

"For the first time in our history, we are able to provide a wilderness program that we ourselves can afford," says Cates. "This shift has stirred a strong sense of pride here. Our hope is that one day we can open up these possibilities to every family, including those who never believed wilderness therapy would be an option for their child."

Lone Star Expeditions is a licensed wilderness treatment program located in Groveton, Texas, that treats students ages 13-17 who are experiencing emotional, behavioral, attention, or learning problems. Under the care of doctoral and master's level therapists who focus on assessment, intervention, and aftercare, students develop the confidence, coping skills, and communication strategies that are essential for healthy family relationships and success in daily life.

Lone Star Expeditions is a proud member of Aspen Education Group, the nation's largest and most comprehensive network of therapeutic schools and programs. Aspen Education Group offers professionals and families the opportunity to choose from a variety of therapeutic settings in order to best meet a student's unique academic and emotional needs. Aspen Education Group has been profiled by major news and television organizations around the world, including U.S. News and World Report, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today and People magazine, as well as on CNN, ABC's 20/20 and Good Morning America, NBC's The Today Show and Dateline NBC, National Public Radio, and the syndicated television show Dr. Phil.


News Items / Police seize drugs from teens in court-ordered facility
« on: October 28, 2008, 08:49:14 PM »
SOUTH MIDDLETON TWP., CUMBERLAND COUNTY, Thursday, Oct. 23 -- Two teenagers were taken into police custody earlier this month for bringing marijuana into a court ordered facility, according to Pennsylvania State Police in Carlisle.

Police reports said a 17-year-old male from Coatesville and a 16-year-old male from Columbia were found with a "small amount of marijuana" while attending Diakon Wilderness Center, the evening of Oct. 3.

The center runs residential wilderness-based rehabilitation programs for teens, operated in the Boiling Springs area.

Police seized the drugs and later released the teens into Diakon staff custody.


News Items / Same old Kool-Aid, new flavor...
« on: October 28, 2008, 08:17:10 PM »
Speakers warn parents about teen drug use

You probably think your kid is drug-free. But parent speakers for the drug prevention organization, notMykid, shake their heads.

Think again, they warn.

They know. They've been through the struggle of realizing it IS their kid and looking for help somewhere, anywhere - rehabilitation centers, clinics, psychologists, psychiatrists, camps.

NotMykid leaders and parent speakers told their stories and offered tips for parents to prevent drug use Tuesday at an informational breakfast and luncheon.

More than 40 Southeast Valley community members, business leaders and school representatives attended the breakfast at the Mesa Country Club, and notMykid estimates nearly 80 women came to the luncheon.

Former Gilbert Public Schools Superintendent Brad Barrett and his wife, Elizabeth , said they have been through this struggle. It started nearly eight years ago.

A son, their fourth child, began using drugs in his teens. Neither parent is sure when specifically. They guess that he was 16.

Even after several rounds of counseling, psychiatric care and rehabilitation, their roller-coaster ride continues today as they try to help him stay clean.

Elizabeth Barrett recalls that at one point, her son woke her up suddenly one night, asking her to comfort him.

"He said he had just had 'shrooms. That he was going crazy," she said.

He graduated from pot and mushrooms to OxyContin, a highly addictive painkiller, and began using its relative, heroin.

Elizabeth Barrett said she and her husband have spent thousands of dollars and exhausted themselves emotionally while trying to help their son get clean.

They've bounced from counselors and rehab programs to, most recently, sending their son on a trip to an African village for what they called a "meditative" recovery.

Now, even though their son is 24, the couple tests him regularly for drugs.

Brad Barrett, who is now the executive director of notMykid, believes every parent should begin drug-testing their children as part of a prevention program, not just when they suspect drug use. He recommends it as part of a notMykid basic, family drug prevention plan.

Lisa Garcia, a Scottsdale mother who spoke at the meeting, agrees. Her own son, an athletic boy, got hooked on drugs in high school a few years ago.

It has taken years to get him "clean and sober," she said.

"I now drug test both my kids. Some might say I test them too often. But they haven't been to hell and back. I have. And I can answer: I will not be going back," Garcia said.

Experiences like the ones recounted by Garcia are warnings for other families, Brad Barrett said.

"'Not my kid' is a syndrome," Barrett said, explaining that parents tend to deny such a problem exists in their families until it's gotten out of hand.

NotMykid is working with several school districts, including Gilbert, Chandler and Mesa unified schools, to hold quarterly drug-prevention sessions. NotMykid officials say if a district is struggling financially, some of the program costs can be handled by the group.

But to host the program at a discount, notMykid raises donations to cover the cost of its speakers, literature and other educational tools.Barrett said NotMykid is trying to expand its reach in the Valley to train parents, teachers and others about the dangers of drug use and the importance of routine drug testing.

It hopes to soon have an office in the Southeast Valley to work more closely with the communities in this region.


News Items / Federal probe lingers in Florida boot camp death
« on: October 26, 2008, 02:35:11 PM »
By MELISSA NELSON, Associated Press Writer Melissa Nelson, Associated Press Writer – Mon Oct 13, 4:02 pm ET

PENSACOLA, Fla. – A looming federal investigation and possible trial is making it difficult for seven juvenile Florida boot camp guards and a nurse acquitted last year of state charges in the death of a 14-year-old boy to move on with their lives, their attorneys said.

The eight left a Panama City courthouse with their jubilant families one year ago on Oct. 12, 2007, after jurors found them not guilty in the beating death of Martin Lee Anderson. The death and verdict prompted protests and Florida's juvenile boot camps were abolished. The eight employees were fired from the Bay County Juvenile Boot Camp.

"All of their lives have changed. They are no longer doing what was their first choice in life to do," said Hoot Crawford, attorney for former camp guard Henry Dickens, who is now a hotel security guard. Dickens had wanted to dedicate his life to reforming juvenile offenders but "now he is doing something very different," Crawford said.

The federal inquiry remains open, said Karen Rhew, a Tallahassee-based assistant U.S. attorney. She declined to give other details or a timeframe for a decision on whether or not there will be a second trial.

Attorneys for the eight said their clients did not want to talk publicly about the verdict because of the federal investigation.

Anderson died Jan. 6, 2006, a day after being hit and kicked by the guards as the nurse watched. He had just been assigned to the camp. He was caught trespassing at a school, which violated his probation imposed after he was convicted of helping his cousins steal their grandmother's car.

A video of the 30-minute altercation showed the seven men punching him and using knee strikes against him, pushing ammonia capsules into his nose and dragging his limp body around the yard. The video also showed the nurse doing nothing to help Anderson or stop the men.

A coroner initially determined Anderson fatally hemorrhaged because he had an undiagnosed sickle cell trait, a condition which can cause red cells to change shape and not carry oxygen when the body is under extreme stress.

A second autopsy, completed when then-Gov. Jeb Bush ordered an independent prosecutor take over the case, determined the guards killed Anderson by depriving him of oxygen when they pushed the ammonia tablets into his nose, covered his mouth and didn't give him time to recover his breath.

During the two-week trial, the defense argued employees were using accepted camp tactics and that the sickle cell trait caused Anderson's death. Jurors, who spent days watching and rewatching the tape, agreed and acquitted the eight of all charges. Anderson was black, the jury was all-white. The defendants were black, white and Asian.

The verdict prompted protests two hours away in Tallahassee where angry college students blocked downtown intersections, calling for a federal investigation. U.S. Justice Department officials calmed the students by meeting with protest leaders and assuring them they would investigate.

Messages seeking comment from Anderson's family were not returned by Benjamin Crump, the attorney who represented the boy's parents in their lawsuit against the state. The family was awarded $7.4 million to settle lawsuits against the state and Bay County.

Waylon Graham, attorney for lead guard Charles Helms, says he believes no decision on federal charges will come until after the Nov. 4 election. He said Helms and the others are "still all jittery and nervous about what the feds might do."

Robert Sombathy, who represented guard Patrick Garrett at trial, said he hoped and believed that "the investigation is being done above politics and that this doesn't come to do what is the right political thing to do."

The Rev. Rufus Woods, pastor of Love Missionary Baptist Church in the east Panama City neighborhood where Anderson grew up, said time has tempered some of the community's initial outrage, but he and others hope federal charges will come.

"We remain prayerful that we won't be disappointed," he said.

(This version CORRECTS Corrects to 'Bay County,' instead of 'Bay City' on lawsuit settlement. Adds AP photo number)


News Items / Johnson St. suit in limbo - VA
« on: October 26, 2008, 01:34:29 PM »
By David Royer • October 26, 2008

Originally published on May 31, 2007

STAUNTON — Johnson Street neighbors say they will keep up their fight against a psychiatric treatment facility moving into their neighborhood, even after their lawyer decided not to continue.

Attorney James Osborne will not pursue the case after working with neighbors since last year, citing the time involved in preparing for the case. There has been no word on whether a trial set for Friday has been postponed, though both sides said they assume it is.

Jennifer Reut, a nearby home owner and one of more than 30 plaintiffs who filed suit against the city of Staunton and Valley Community Services Board in December, said neighbors plan to continue the suit with another lawyer.

VCSB and its partner nonprofit group, Valley Area Community Support Inc., announced plans last June for a walk-in residential treatment facility for one of its community programs, and up to 10 residential units at the old Effie Ann Johnson Daycare building at 1314 W. Johnson St. The treatment facility is not specifically allowed under the neighborhood's residential zoning, but special approval can be granted.

City Council members in November issued a conditional permit for the use for three years, overturning a recommendation by the planning commission to deny the permit. Council members said they were given new information the planning commission did not have.

Neighbors questioned why VCSB was allowed to have more time to submit information. Two council members, Rita Wilson and Carolyn Dull, and Assistant City Manager Jim Halasz have connections to VCSB as employees or board members, though they sat out the discussions and votes.

A Staunton Circuit Court judge in April heard motions for summary judgment from both sides in the case, but has not issued a ruling.

VCSB Executive Director Jerry Thomas said construction at the Johnson Street site is underway. He hopes to have the program moved in by June 30, when the group's lease at 123 W. Frederick St. runs out.


News Items / SLS Residential Defendants Sanctioned After Threatening Form
« on: October 12, 2008, 06:43:51 PM »
Date Published: Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

SLS Residential, LLC, a private mental health facility located in Putnam County, NY, has been sanctioned for threatening former patients who are potential plaintiffs in a class actions lawsuit.  SLS runs two residential treatment centers in the town of Southeast, NY  for adolescents and young adults.  In addition to a class action lawsuit, SLS is facing revocation of its state operating licenses for the two facilities.

The class action lawsuit, filed by two former SLS Residential patients, alleges that they were subjected to physical and mental abuse.  The complaint, which was filed on behalf of all SLS patients, seeks  $75 million in compensatory damages, $150 million in punitive damages and an injunction that would bar SLS from further violating patients’ rights.

The SLS class action lawsuit  alleges that staff illegally employed manual restraints and put patients in isolation rooms where they were physically and emotionally abused, subjected patients to nightly searches of their bodies and rooms, and denied patients the right to refuse treatment, leave the facility or phone family members.  The complaint also charges SLS with discrimination under the Americans With Disabilities Act, and claims patients were targeted for mistreatment because they were mentally disabled.

Southern District Judge Stephen Robinson assessed SLS $35,000 in sanctions after he determined that 80 former patients  had been told by SLS therapists that their private medical records would be made public if they became plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit. In some cases, the therapists falsely told their former patients that the judge had actually ordered the publication of medical records.

At a hearing held by Judge Robinson on July 8, a therapist who had worked at SLS for two years testified that its Chief Clinical Officer, Dr. Shawn Prichard, had called a meeting to discuss contacting the potential class action lawsuit plaintiffs and their families, and distributed a list of their names and phone numbers.

In addition to using threats to coerce  former patients into opting out of the class action lawsuit,  the callers contacted other institutions where some former SLS patients were being treated and tried to convince personnel at institutions to sign opt outs on their patients’ behalf.

In levying sanctions against SLS, Judge Robinson called the defendant’s conduct “egregious”.   “Under the guise of caring for their former patients, the defendants sought to capitalize on the potential plaintiffs’ vulnerability and discourage them from participating in the lawsuit.” Judge Robinson said. “This conduct is astounding to the court.”

In his decision, the judge held SLS management responsible for the conduct of the therapists.  “These calls were not the result of inadvertence, misplaced good intentions, or even the product of rogue employees who took it upon themselves to manipulate class members,” Judge Robinson said. “Rather, it was a scheme designed and implemented by the very highest managers at SLS who are, not incidentally, named defendants in this lawsuit.”

In addition to the $35,000 Judge Robinson voided all of the opt-outs signed by potential plaintiffs, and ordered corrective notices to be mailed. He also ordered all the defendants to cease contact with the potential plaintiffs.

The class action lawsuit is not the only legal battle that SLS Residential is facing right now.  Last week, SLS filed a lawsuit in the New York state Supreme Court seeking to reverse the revocation of its operating license by the state Office of Mental Health (OMH).  In 2006, OMH fined SLS Residential $110,000 for violations of the state Mental Hygiene Law and ordered that it stop admitting patients - and stop violating the rights of the patients it was treating.  The OMH said SLS Residential routinely restrained clients and kept them from making phone calls. It also found that staff would search patients, their rooms and packages sent to them.

In seeking to revoke its licenses, OMH alleged that SLS used illegal restraints on patients long after being told not to, that it administered sedatives to patients when they refused to take their medications and that it failed to report troubling incidents to the state, including patients behaving suicidally and complaining of abuse by staff.


News Items / Youth treatment center to close (MD)
« on: October 12, 2008, 06:20:45 PM »
By Carrie Ann Knauer, Times Staff Writer    Thursday, October 09, 2008

A 43-bed youth treatment center in Marriottsville will be closing next month as the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services transitions more youths away from residential facilities to community-based treatment programs.

The Thomas O’Farrell Youth Center is scheduled to close Nov. 30, said Tammy Brown, a spokeswoman for the Department of Juvenile Services. Of the close to 30 nonviolent youth offenders now at the center, 10 will be transferred to other residential facilities and the rest will be sent home to continue treatment in their communities, she said.

“There’s a big push for kids to be treated in the community and in their homes with their families,” Brown said.

Brown said department staff had been discussing the transition with North American Family Institute, the organization that runs the O’Farrell center, since May. NAFI, which runs several treatment programs throughout the Northeast, will also be transitioning to offer community-based treatment in Baltimore and Baltimore County.

NAFI will be offering a new MultiSystemic Therapies Program starting in January, according to a press release by the Department of Juvenile Services. This approach works with youths in their homes and family environments to look at all factors that influence the youth’s behavior, and addresses some of the systemic problems, Brown said.

For example, if a youth referred to the department is living with parents with a drug abuse problem, that is something the therapy program would address to help both the youth and the entire family, she said.

The closing of the O’Farrell center comes a year and a half after Bowling Brook Preparatory School in Middleburg closed in March of 2007, following the death of a student at the school.

Nevada-based company Rite of Passage has submitted a proposal to the Governor’s Office of Children to restart a youth treatment program at the school, Brown said, but so far the application has not been forwarded to the Department of Juvenile Services.

The closing of the O’Farrell center has nothing to do with recent developments on the future of Bowling Brook, Brown said.

“We certainly can’t predict what’s going to happen there,” Brown said.

The main reason for transitioning away from residential treatment facilities, when appropriate, is that community-based programs cost less and have better success rates, Brown said. The state had been paying $3.7 million to serve 80 youth a year at the O’Farrell center, she said, but will be contracting with NAFI for 100 slots that will serve 300 families over the course of the year through community-based programming for $600,000.

In addition, MultiSystemic Therapies has shown reductions of 25 percent to 70 percent in long-term rates of re-arrest for serious juvenile offenders, as well as 47 to 64 percent reductions in out-of-home placements, according to a press release from department.

Bob Geddes, program director at the O’Farrell center, said NAFI has a MultiSystemic Therapies Program that is being practiced in other branches of the organization, and the counselors at O’Farrell will be used in the new program for Baltimore.

Employees in other types of positions, however, are being laid off, Geddes said.

At the height of the program the facility had a total of 69 employees, he said, but that number has been decreasing since the number of youths at the facility has been dropping. Geddes said the organization is trying to direct those that are going to be laid off to positions at similar facilities in the region.

“We’re just going through it and making sure everyone is safe and taken care, and that includes the staff,” Geddes said.

Reach staff writer Carrie Ann Knauer at 410-857-7874 or [email protected]


News Items / Police: Man Caught On Camera Beating Teen Under Investigatio
« on: September 29, 2008, 10:59:37 PM »
Police: Man Caught On Camera Beating Teen Under Investigation

POSTED: 8:02 pm EDT September 29, 2008
UPDATED: 9:08 pm EDT September 29, 2008

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio -- Police said the investigation continues into a group home in Springfield after a man is caught on video beating a teenager.

The foster group home in question is called Visions for Youth in Springfield.

Police said a teenager fell asleep at a church service and then was taken into the hall by an adult and then the adult pushed the teen to the floor and beat him.

That was enough for Montgomery County to remove its 16 teens that were housed there.

Ann Stevens said, “When we became aware of some behavior that was inappropriate by the staff, we immediately took the children out of that group home and placed them elsewhere so they would be safe.”

Montgomery County also got in touch with Hamilton County Child Services, which had foster teens housed there and told them about what happened.

The pastor at the church service, Bill Stout, said, “It looked like he was shoved. It looked like he tried to run. It really troubled me a lot and we prayed on it and slept on it a day or two. But then we realized we really had an obligation to the prosecutor and public defender that represented this boy to know that this evidence in his defense.”

Montgomery County said they will no longer place foster teens at that Springfield facility.

The foster home so far has declined to comment.


News Items / STATE ORDERS CHANGES: Acadiana youth homes work to correct
« on: September 29, 2008, 10:09:08 PM »
STATE ORDERS CHANGES: Acadiana youth homes work to correct violations; see the rankings, join the conversation
Department of Social Services cites Lafayette, St. Landry parish facilities

Amanda McElfresh • [email protected] • September 29, 2008

Two Acadiana group homes that house children and teens remain under orders from the Louisiana Department of Social Services to improve their conditions after being ranked among the worst in the state late last month.

The homes are Lafayette's Harmony Center, which has moved from Vermilion Street to Sixth Street, and Sanctuary Inc.'s boys' home in Eunice.

According to DSS records, both homes have had repeated violations during the past few years, including bad plumbing, torn carpeting, holes in walls and missing and broken vents at Harmony; and peeling paint, a lack of insect screens on windows, a loose smoke detector and a basketball goal that was leaning precariously at Sanctuary.

In August, the DSS rated all 67 child residential facilities in the state on a scale of 1.0 to 3.0, basing the scores on physical conditions, youth supervision, staff qualifications, medical needs and incidents of abuse or neglect.

The 13 homes in the state that received a score of 2.5 or below were subject to more scrutiny and evaluations and a corrective action plan by late October.

Harmony received a score of 2.25, while Sanctuary for boys received a score of 2.33.

The ratings came about two months after the Advocacy Center, an agency designated by the state and federal law to protect those with disabilities, issued an alarming report about many of the state's group homes, citing problems including poor physical conditions, undertrained staff and a lack of proper medical and dental treatment.

Such homes, officially known as child residential facilities, are designed to be safe havens for children who are removed from their parents' custody because of abuse or neglect, as well as those who have committed nonviolent crimes and are placed in the homes by the court system. The DSS licenses all such facilities, and most operate on a contractual basis with the state, receiving funds to provide their services.

According to the Advocacy Center, the vast majority of group home residents have emotional and behavioral problems that require special treatment if the children are to become productive members of society.

"We're only talking about physical safety and addressing those needs. We shouldn't even be thinking about that," said Nell Hahn, director of systems advocacy and litigation at the Advocacy Center's Lafayette office. "The focus needs to be on education and therapeutic programs."
Harmony Center

Lafayette's Harmony Center is one of about 25 group homes in the state owned by Baton Rouge businessman Collis Temple Jr. Many of those also received low rankings from DSS.

For several years, Harmony was on Vermilion Street in downtown Lafayette, but was moved to a large home on Sixth Street in the spring after a fire damaged the Vermilion location.

Both Hahn and Advocacy Center paralegal Suzanne Miller said staff members from their agency visited the Sixth Street location in recent months and were disturbed to find roaches, other insects and rodents in the house and surrounding property.

Miller said other problems included bad plumbing and unused furniture scattered about, which the Advocacy Center believed posed a safety risk to the children and teens at the home.

"No child should have to live in a house where there are obvious rodent droppings," Miller said. "We wouldn't tolerate it in our own homes."

Temple said he believed the Lafayette location received a low rating from DSS because the Sixth Street home is a temporary location. Plans are to move the home back to Vermilion Street once workers repair damage caused by the fire.

"When they looked at the temporary location, it was not in as good a shape as the permanent one," Temple said. "Since the hurricanes came, it's delayed our move back. It pushed back our ability to get it completed because we had to get several facilities completed in the Baton Rouge area."

But according to DSS Bureau of Licensing reports, the Vermilion Street location also had dozens of problems dating back to at least 2004.

Those problems included a failure to keep proper records, particularly when one child was hospitalized for reportedly rehashing suicide, failure to have a license for a dentist, missing and broken vents, torn carpeting, holes in walls and a lack of staff training. Such training generally covers treatment plans, reporting critical incidents, children's rights, managing aggressive behavior and safely handling medicine, among other issues.

"We take care of between 12 and 15 children in the home," Temple said. "It's normal when you have 12 to 15 children to have minor citations. Typically, there are 200 to 250 regulations that have to be followed, and we've adhered to a great majority of those over the 18 years we've been in service."

Hahn said she has reservations about the chances of Harmony's directors improving its conditions in the near future.

"We're concerned that this facility is not going to be compliant based on the history," she said. "They've been cited for physical problems, the inspections show they failed to have the appropriate treatment plans. ... Our kids shouldn't be exposed to this."

In St. Landry Parish, Sanctuary Inc. runs separate group homes for boys and girls. The DSS gave the girls' home, along U.S. Route 190 near Eunice, a rating of 2.92, putting it in the top 30 in the state.

But there are immediate concerns about the boys' home, in a quiet residential neighborhood on West Magnolia Street in Eunice. According to DSS reports, that center also had repeated deficiencies throughout the past few years.

A 2007 DSS evaluation indicated that there were several physical problems at the home then, including residue left behind when air conditioners were removed, peeling paint, holes in walls and a lack of insect screens on all windows.

Miller said that while the home's condition isn't as bad as some other centers across the state, the atmosphere is one she said isn't conducive to learning or social interaction.

"It reminds me a great deal of a nursing home or some type of institution," she said. "There is not a warm feel to this at all."

Johnafort Bernard serves as the executive director of both the boys' and girls' homes, a position he said he has held for about a year. Bernard said he inherited several of the problems that led to the low rating from the DSS and is working to address all of those issues.

"I anticipated that there was going to be a bunch of findings in the boys' home," Bernard said. "But to me, it was a bit after-the-fact. We had already started correcting our deficiencies. I was a new director coming in and I immediately started corrective action."

Bernard said the home houses boys ages 12 to 17 who have been placed there by the court system. Staff members keep track of residents' schooling and behavior and submit that information to the courts, which ultimately decide how long a resident stays at the home, Bernard said.

In the past year, Bernard said he's had most of the interior of the boys' home painted, spent more than $2,000 on a new hot water heater and refurbished the community bathrooms.

Bernard gave a tour of the home on Thursday, pointing out that several renovations are ongoing on one wing, with work being done on beds, air conditioners and flooring.

The second wing, where the home's 10 residents now stay, has been completed. Each room is small, with a bed low to the floor, nightstands and armoires for the teens to keep their clothing. Many rooms also were decorated with a variety of posters and photos. There are no TVs in the individual rooms, but instead a large sitting area near the front of the building with a large-screen TV set. The home also has its own cafeteria.

Bernard said he's proud of the improvements he's made, but says more could be done if the state gave more money to homes like the ones he runs.

"They give us enough to cover the basics, like food and basic housing, but not anything else," he said. "What we need is for the governor to give us additional dollars to do what we have to do. For example, there's been the minimum-wage increase, but we're not getting any more money for our staff. We're steadily doing repairs, and things like that can put us in a precarious position."
What's next?

Although DSS has been rocked in the past month by the departures of former Secretary Ann Williamson and former Deputy Secretary Terri Porche Ricks, the department has not announced any changes to the ratings or the time frame in which underperforming homes must comply with standards.

When asked via e-mail for more detailed information about what led to the two Acadiana homes being rated so low, Nanette Russell White, listed as the DSS public information officer on the news release, said all media requests were being directed to Interim Secretary Kristy Nichols' office.

White's response also was copied to DSS Communications Director Cheryl Michelet, who did not respond to The Daily Advertiser by Friday afternoon.

Both Hahn and Miller said they are pleased with the state's first steps, but believe more needs to be done to address the problems.

"Part of the problem is that the department needs to be given more authority by the legislature to take action when these facilities are substandard," Hahn said. "However, they have not taken the action they can take."

Hahn said state officials have the ability to do things such as take underperforming homes to court and fire owners who run centers that don't meet standards, but cannot issue fines to homes that violate licensing standards.

"They need more accountability," she said.

Rather than shut down the homes, both women said they'd like to see serious action taken to improve the centers. If not, they worry about what the consequences could be for the children.

"Where are these kids gonna go?" Miller said.


News Items / Judge drops charges against 2 counselors at Draper center
« on: September 29, 2008, 09:48:01 PM »
Published: Sunday, Sept. 28, 2008 12:19 a.m. MDT

A 3rd District Court judge has dismissed neglect charges against two counselors of a residential youth treatment center in Draper.

Deborah Cole and Jorge Ramirez, from Youth Care Inc., 12600 Minuteman Drive, were charged last October with one count each of abuse or neglect of a child, a third-degree felony. The charges stemmed from the death of California resident Brendan Blum in June 2007.

Blum was having stomach problems and had been vomiting and suffering from diarrhea all night. But rather than contacting the facility's on-call nurse, Blum was given some medicine and placed in a room away from the other boys. The next morning he was found dead on his mattress.

An autopsy later revealed the boy had an obstructed bowel that deteriorated as the night progressed. Police said when they later interviewed the nurse, she said she would have recommended he go to the hospital immediately.

Defense attorneys argued to dismiss the case, noting that Blum suffered from a rare medical condition that presented itself as flu-like symptoms. Prosecutors fought the motion. But in late July, Judge Robert Adkins ordered the charges dismissed, finding no probable cause that Blum was neglected.

Alicia Cook, with the Salt Lake District Attorney's Office, said her office felt it was the right decision to file charges in the case, but that, "We are understanding of the decision (to dismiss). In all fairness, we have to acknowledge the reasons underlying the judge's decision."


News Items / Girl transferred after complaint
« on: September 27, 2008, 09:48:04 PM »
District attorney says action taken as precaution after complaint by family
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Staff Reporter

BAY MINETTE - One teen has been removed from Baldwin County's Girls Residential Wilderness Center in an "abundance of caution" after she and her parents complained about her experience there, District Attorney Judy Newcomb said Wednesday.

Newcomb said the girl was not injured and has been transferred to another facility during an ongoing investigation.

County officials confirmed this week that the Sheriff's Office, the Department of Human Resources and the Department of Youth Services are conducting inquiries into the juvenile rehabilitation program in north Baldwin County.
The facility opened in 2007 as an alternative sentencing option for at-risk girls ages 13 to 18. An outdoor adventure course is part of an overall curriculum.

Sheriff Huey "Hoss" Mack said his office is investigating a report that a girl there inappropriately touched another girl, but he said that situation does not involve wrongdoing by staff members. Other agencies are looking into different allegations, but details were not available.

"There certainly is a juvenile who is upset by her time at the Wilderness Center, and we are trying to determine the facts of what may or may not have gone on. We're looking at the system as a whole," Newcomb said.

"My first contact was a request from her parents, who brought to our attention some things they felt were not appropriate with her care at the Wilderness Center. ... So we felt that in an abundance of caution we should put her in a different environment, and the judge agreed."

District Judge Carmen Bosch said in a written statement, "I am confident that the procedures followed by the wilderness program officials are adequately protecting the girls' safety and will continue to send girls there."

Newcomb said the facility is continuing normal operations and its staff is cooperating.

"I don't have enough facts to make a judgment about the situation," she said. "We are always, always concerned about troubled teens in our facilities. But they are there because they are troubled teens, so it is a double-edged sword. They can distort things, but it also can make them vulnerable because people might think they are less believable because they are a troubled teen. It is a difficult situation"


News Items / Youth center worker faces sex charge
« on: September 27, 2008, 10:13:12 AM »
By Francesca Jarosz
Posted: September 23, 2008

An employee at a Near-Eastside residential treatment facility for youths with behavioral challenges was arrested Monday on a warrant charging that he had sex with a 16-year-old girl at the facility.

Robert A. Robinson, 24, 8400 block of Rothbury Drive, faces two counts of child seduction, according to Marion County electronic court records.

Robinson initially was arrested Aug. 17, after the girl told police they had consensual sex the night before in a bathroom at Resource Treatment Center, 1404 S. State Ave., according to the written police report of the incident.

Under Indiana law, it is illegal for guardians, adoptive parents, stepparents, custodians or child-care workers of a 16- or 17-year-old to have sex with the child, even with consent.

Resource Treatment Center provides in-patient residential treatment for young people ages 8 to 20 who have been involved with the juvenile justice system or have extensive mental health and legal histories, according to the facility's Web site. It was unclear from the police report what Robinson's job was at the facility.

Calls to the center's administrator and chief executive officer were not returned Monday, and other employees referred questions about the incident to the CEO.

Robinson was released from jail Aug. 26, eight days after his initial arrest. On Sept. 10, electronic court records show, the court clerk was ordered to issue a warrant for Robinson's arrest and to order that he have no bond because he violated certain conditions of his release.

The police report shows he was arrested at his home Monday morning and had a court appearance later that day.

He was being held without bond in the Marion County Arrestee Processing Center late Monday. His next court appearance is Thursday, records say.

If convicted, Robinson would face six months to three years in prison and as much as $10,000 in fines.


News Items / 11 kids, including family of 9, abandoned in Neb.
« on: September 25, 2008, 08:57:43 PM »
Eleven children ranging in age from 1 to 17 were left at hospitals Wednesday under Nebraska's unique safe haven law, which allows caregivers to abandon youngsters up to age 19 without fear of prosecution.

Nine of the children came from one family. The five boys and four girls were left by their father, who was not identified, at Creighton University Medical Center's emergency room. Unrelated boys ages 11 and 15 also were surrendered Wednesday at Immanuel Medical Center.

The law, which went into effect in July, initially was intended to protect infants. In a compromise with senators worried about arbitrary age limits, the measure was expanded to include the word "child," which wasn't defined. Some have interpreted this to mean anyone under the age of 19.

At least 16 children have been abandoned since the law took effect, according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Two of those cases don't fall under the safe haven law because one child was left at a police station and one child's age wasn't covered by the law.

Todd Landry, director of Health and Human Services' division of Children and Family Services, said that in nearly every case, the parents who left their children felt overwhelmed and had decided they didn't want to be parents anymore. None of the kids dropped off so far have been in danger, he said.

"It was the parents not wanting to continue the journey with their kids," Landry said Thursday at a news conference in Lincoln.

The department was still investigating Wednesday's drop-offs. The abandoned siblings were in no danger and it wasn't clear why their father gave them up, Landry said.

Five of the nine siblings were placed in a foster home and the rest were taken to an emergency shelter, he said. The department was working on a new arrangement that would keep the kids together.

In the other cases on Wednesday, one child was temporarily placed in foster care and the other was in the hospital for evaluation.

Youngsters abandoned under the safe haven law are generally placed in protective custody while the courts decide where the child should live.

Parental rights don't end automatically but parents who change their mind about abandonment may find it difficult to regain custody. A county attorney may determine that a child should be allowed to return home, Landry said.

Nebraska was the last state in the nation to adopt a safe-haven law. Under previous law, a parent who abandoned a baby could have been charged with child neglect or abandonment, both misdemeanors, or child abuse, a felony.

State Sen. Arnie Stuthman said he introduced the bill intending to protect infants. In a compromise with senators worried about arbitrary age limits, the measure was expanded.

Abandoning teenagers was not the original intent of the law, Stuthman said Thursday.

"People are leaving them off just because they can't control them," he said. "They're probably in no real danger, so it's an easy way out for the caretaker."


On the Net:

Nebraska Legislature:

Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services,


News Items / Group seeks foster parents, mentors (NY)
« on: September 21, 2008, 11:54:40 AM »
OWEGO -- Wanted: People to serve as foster parents and mentors for children in need. Must be patient and love kids.

Glove House, on Taylor Road in Owego, is recruiting foster parents and mentors for Southern Tier children.

The agency provides services for children and families in need, including foster care and group homes,

Its ads, placed in the Press & Sun-Bulletin, Ithaca Journal and Elmira-Star Gazette, began running in June and will run through the end of the year, said Donna Corbin, director of specialized services for Glove House.

"Please help me," part of the ad reads. "If you can open your heart and home to a kid like me, please call Glove House at 1-877-687-1265."

A total of 60 people have answered the call and are enrolled in foster care classes in Binghamton, Owego and Elmira, Corbin said. Applicants have to be at least 21 and must have some source of income other than a stipend given to foster care families. The stipend amount varies, depending on the age and needs of a child. Mentor applicants, who are volunteers, must be at least 21 and have a steady address and source of income. Both mentors and foster care parents must be fingerprinted and undergo a criminal background check.

"It really takes a unique person to be a foster parent," said John Treahy, president and chief executive officer of Glove House.

But more foster homes are needed, Corbin said. Twenty-five children in Broome, Tioga and Chemung counties are now in foster care.

There also are 10 children in the Owego group home, 10 in the Ithaca group home, and 40 in four group homes in Elmira, Corbin said. Not all of these children will enter foster care, but many will.


News Items / Church compound quiet after child porn raid
« on: September 21, 2008, 11:07:59 AM »
FOUKE, Ark. - A 15-acre church compound was quiet Sunday morning following a raid by federal and state law enforcement officers as part of a child-abuse and pornography investigation. A prosecutor said an arrest warrant was likely.

A man at the gate of the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries turned away an Associated Press reporter Sunday morning. He refused to give his name and said no one was available to comment.

Police said the church complex would be allowed to open for Sunday services.

More than 100 state officers and FBI agents hit the compound Saturday in a raid that ministry leader and convicted tax evader Tony Alamo claimed in a telephone interview was part of a federal push to legalize same-sex marriage while outlawing polygamy.

Prosecutors once labeled Alamo as a polygamist who preys on girls and women.

Mayor Terry Purvis said he watched as the left around 12:30 a.m. Sunday. He said authorities did not tell him what they found.

"In an investigation like this, they're pretty lip-locked," Purvis said.

U.S. Attorney Bob Balfe did not respond to a call seeking comment Sunday.

The raid started an hour before sunset at the complex in tiny Fouke, in southwestern Arkansas. Armed guards regularly patrol the headquarters, but there was no resistance as agents moved in, state police said.

No one was arrested, but U.S. Attorney Bob Balfe said before the raid that he expected an arrest warrant for Alamo to be issued later. The federal investigation centered on the production of child pornography, while state police were looking into allegations of other child abuse, he said.

Social workers interviewed children who live at the complex, which critics call a cult. A two-year investigation involves a law that prohibits the transportation of children across state lines for criminal activity, said Tom Browne, who runs the FBI office in Little Rock.

In a phone call to The Associated Press from a friend's house in the Los Angeles area, Alamo — who was also once accused of child abuse — denied involvement in pornography.

"We don't go into pornography; nobody in the church is into that," said Alamo, 73. "Where do these allegations stem from? The anti-Christ government. The Catholics don't like me because I have cut their congregation in half. They hate true Christianity."

Alamo and his wife Susan were street preachers along Hollywood's Sunset Strip in 1966 before forming a commune near Saugus, Calif. Susan Alamo died of cancer in 1982 and Alamo claimed she would be resurrected and kept her body on display for six months while their followers prayed.

In 1988, following a raid near Santa Ana, Calif., three boys whose mothers were Alamo followers were placed in the custody of their fathers. Justin Miller, then 11, told police that Alamo directed four men to strike him 140 times with a wooden paddle as punishment for minor offenses. Alamo was later charged with child abuse but prosecutors dropped the charge, citing a lack of evidence.

Alamo was convicted of tax-related charges in 1994 after the IRS said he owed the government $7.9 million. He served four years in prison.

Prosecutors in the tax case argued before sentencing that Alamo was a flight risk and a polygamist who preyed on married women and girls in his congregation.


Associated Press writer Thomas Watkins in Los Angeles contributed to this report.


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