Upstream. A Mohawk Valley Blogzine.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

NY State's Surrogate Parents Held To Lower Standard Than Natural Parents.

Yesterday’s news gave one more example of why the State needs to look more closely at its residential treatment facilities. Anthony Hawkes, a 22-year-old employee of Vanderheyden Hall in Rensselaer County was charged with third-degree rape after he had sex with a 15-year-old resident of the home for troubled youth.

Residential Treatment Facilities in the area include Charlton School For Girls, Northeast Parent & Child Society, Berkshire Farm and St. Anne’s. I don’t know about the employment policies of any of these institutions except for Northeast. For the vast majority of each day and during the weekend and vacations, children at Northeast are looked after by people who are only required to have a high school education and a driver’s license to get the job. The job is low paying and it’s not surprising that it’s hard to get quality applicants. My guess is that the other treatment facilities have similar job requirements.

I posted several days ago about information I had received that an aide at Northeast had a sex party at her house at which some teens from Northeast may have been present. After turning that information over to a relatively responsible staff member at Northeast, I deleted the post out of deference to Northeast and because I had no way of confirming the information, although it came from a fairly reliable source and came in such a way that it gave it credence.

Maybe I should not have deleted that post. In any event I still think Northeast Parent & Child Society should be investigated as I stated in an old post. The only difference now is that I think all of our residential treatment facilities should be investigated.

Children end up in these facilities in a number of ways, mainly through Family Court. In some cases they are adjudicated juvenile delinquent and sent there. Some go there because parents can’t handle their child and file a PINS (Person In Need of Supervision) petition in family court to get help. In some cases parents voluntarily send their children to residential treatment facilities because their children have mental health problems and the residential treatment facilities are supposed to provide their children with more intensive therapy than they can get on the outside. (Whether they actually get more intensive treatment is another story). Finally, some children are taken from their parents because of neglect or abuse and sent to residential care facilities.

The biggest problem with residential treatment facilities is that parents expect that their children will be looked after by people who are at least as responsible and qualified to parent as they are, but for the most part that doesn’t happen. Not only are the qualifications low for the job of aide, but many of the aides are in their twenties and have little or no parenting experience themselves.

Our counties in the Mohawk Valley have contracts with these facilities to send troubled youths to them. One gets the impression that the main criteria the counties use in signing contracts with these facilities is who provides the services in the least expensive way. When I discussed the situation at Northeast with Bob Lennon, Director of Foster Care in Montgomery County, his non-response was that Northeast is a fine institution. I then asked him how often he had visited the facility, and his response was once. Bob Lennon has been with the foster care department for years and only has visited Northeast once. I find it disturbing that the man who is primarily responsible for sending children to a residential care facility has only visited that facility once.

Even if the State investigated these facilities, I don’t hold much hope that the problems at these facilities will change. When two girls committed suicide at Charlton School For Girls, the State investigated and said the facility was not responsible in anyway. You can bet if those girls had committed suicide at home, that their parents would have been held responsible.

Why are surrogate parents in State licensed facilities not held to the same high standards that natural and foster parents are held to?

Here are a couple of other old posts I wrote about the kind of people the State and Counties hire to look after our children.

Who’s Protecting Your Children In Montgomery County?

Who’s Protecting Your Children In Schoharie County?


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