Upstream. A Mohawk Valley Blogzine.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Three Letters To NY State About Northeast Parent & Child Society

Note: Below are three letters that have come into my possession, written by a parent to the State of New York concerning Northeast Parent & Child Society. The letters have been edited to protect confidentiality.

LETTER #1

Feb 19, 2005


NYS Office Of Children & Family Services
Albany Regional Office
155 Washington Ave. 3rd Floor
Albany, NY 12210

To Whom It May Concern:

On , 2004 we temporarily transferred custody of our daughter to the County Department of Social Services. She was subsequently placed in the Children’s Home run by Northeast Parent & Child Society in Schenectady.

It was our understanding that she would be in a safe and secure environment there. We were not told ahead of time that juvenile sex offenders and arsonists were housed in another wing of the same building.

When we did find out, we assumed that our daughter, who has mental health not criminal problems, would have no contact with sex offenders. To our dismay we have found out that she not only has contact with them on a regular basis, but also she has formed an emotional bond with one of them. He is a Senior in high school; our daughter is an eighth grader.


We discussed this issue with our daughter’s clinician at Northeast, but did not feel there was an adequate response. We had a meeting with and relayed our concerns about our daughter’s contact with sex offenders at Northeast. N. said she was told that non sex offenders and sex offenders were not allowed any contact at Northeast, including written contact. We told her that our daughter has an inch thick stack of letters from this guy. Also that our daughter had contact with him in the gymnasium and elsewhere on campus.

County DSS has not acted on our complaints to date. Last night my wife visited my daughter at Northeast and my daughter showed her photos of herself and the sex offender taken at the Valentine’s Day dance at Northeast.

As parents we are seriously concerned about our daughter’s safety. Some of the problems that sent her to Northeast revolve around sex, including a relationship with a 19 year old who has since been arrested. At this point we are not asking that our daughter be transferred out of Northeast, nor is this letter intended to be a blanket criticism of everything that Northeast does, but we are asking that an investigation be started immediately and our concerns be addressed before our fear for our daughter‘s safety becomes reality.

We need to know clearly what Northeast’s policy is concerning contact between sex offenders and other residents who are placed there because of mental health reasons. We would like to know what NYS Office of Children & Family Services’ policy is on this as well.

We strongly believe that sex offenders and non sex offenders should be segregated at Northeast, and that steps should be taken to see that they are. If we had known ahead of time that they weren’t kept apart, we would not have so readily agreed to transferring custody of our daughter to County.

Thank you for listening to our concerns.

Sincerely,

LETTER #2

March 10, 2005


NYS Office Of Children & Family Services
Albany Regional Office
155 Washington Ave. 3rd Floor
Albany, NY 12210

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a follow up letter to a letter I mailed you last Friday concerning our daughter’s relationship with a sex offender at Northeast Parent & Child Society’s children’s home on Park Avenue in Schenectady. In that letter I expressed concern for my daughter’s safety.

Around 9:00 p.m. on Saturday March 5, 2005, within twenty-four hours of mailing my previous letter to you, my wife called Northeast to see how our daughter was doing, only to find out that she had run away from the children’s home with two older guys from the sex offender unit.


Before I tell you more of what happened on that night, let me give some background leading up to it. On January 10, in a meeting with my daughter’s clinician, we told her about our daughter’s relationship with a sex offender. We also said that because of some of the letters the sex offender had written to our daughter, we believed that the two were going to make an attempt to run away together. Our fears were pooh-poohed by both the clinician and another staff member.

On the morning of February 23, 2005, my wife and I had a meeting with our daughter and her clinician at Seneca Dorm. Our daughter’s clinician said that our daughter had been manipulative lately and had tried to sneak out of the dorm to meet with the sex offender. On the afternoon of the same day, , a staff member at the children’s home, called to tell us that our daughter ran away, and it was believed she was trying to hook up with the sex offender off campus.

Knowing that our daughter had run away during her first week at Northeast and that the police had taken more than three hours to find her and then found her at the bus station on State Street at midnight, my wife and I were fearful that some harm could come to her. Because of that fear, I drove to Schenectady and after searching awhile found my daughter in the Holy Name Of Jesus Cemetery. She was with three other kids, but the sex offender was not one of them. I then drove her back to the dorm, and later on had a telephone conversation with her clinician concerning my daughter’s running away and her relationship with the sex offender.

Returning to the night of March 5, 2005, my wife and I again drove to Schenectady out of fear for our daughter’s safety, even though a report had been filed with the police and the police were supposed to be looking for her. We arrived in Schenectady about an hour after being told that our daughter had run away. We found her within fifteen minutes of being in Schenectady. She and the two guys were walking up State Street. One of the guys had a big yellow blanket wrapped around him. I was surprised that no one had found them, since the thing that attracted my attention to them was that yellow blanket.

I tried to persuade my daughter to get into the car so we could take her back to the children’s home, but she refused. My wife drove up to the home to notify them, while I followed the three run-aways from a distance. They went down a side street and into The Holy Name Of Jesus Cemetery. Several times I tried to persuade my daughter to come with me, but she refused. When I sensed I was getting nowhere, I walked back to State Street where my wife picked me up and we went to the children’s home, and a staff member called the police to tell them the kids had gone into the cemetery.

I then asked the staff to place a call to my daughter’s clinician which they did. The clinician called back, and I talked to her about the situation and expressed my concerns that my daughter’s relationship with a sex offender and her running away were not being taken seriously enough. , the clinician, suggested I call the police myself and talk to them.

By now it had been about 2 1/2 hours since our daughter ran away, and it was after midnight. I called the police and asked them to tell the officers trying to locate our daughter that she was with two boys that were older and from the sex offender dorm. The information about the age and status of the boys had not been given to the police previously. Within thirty minutes of my phone call, the police found the kids.

According to my daughter, kids frequently run away from the children’s home. (Northeast uses the euphemism “out-of-program” for running away.) Some don’t go far or for very long, but others are gone for weeks. According to my daughter’s clinician, staff is not allowed to stop kids when they run. All they can do is call the police. It seems to me that the police have better things to do. Furthermore, the kids run so often, I am not sure that even the police take it that seriously. I don’t know if anything bad has happened to any of the kids who have run away, but the potential is there, and I certainly don’t want my daughter roaming the streets of Schenectady at night with sex offenders. Furthermore, when the kids leave they often walk across Route 7, which is a very busy and dangerous four lane highway.

Why doesn’t Northeast have a system where people have to be buzzed in and out of the facility like other residential treatment facilities? It seems to me that if they did, the number of run-aways would be reduced. Security is virtually non-existent at the children’s home. People can come in and walk down the halls without anyone asking what they are doing there. Bags and parcels aren’t checked when people come in, and it would be very easy for someone to smuggle in contraband.

As I said in my previous letter, this is not a blanket criticism of Northeast. The place has many fine points, but taking my daughter’s health and safety seriously is not one of them. When I brought these issues up at a meeting with County Social Services, , said we could call the neglect and abuse hotline to report these things, but that did not seem to be the appropriate thing to do. Also since he is a representative of County and they currently have custody of our daughter, it seemed to me that he should be doing the calling and investigating. In any event, since no one seems to be taking this seriously and things have gotten worse since my previous letter, I do wish you would handle this letter in the same way you would a hotline call and investigate this situation.

I would like to hear from someone in your office concerning this situation.

Thank you for listening to our concerns.

Sincerely,

Note: The parent who wrote the above letters, received an answer to them from Mr. Glenn Humphreys of the NYS Office Of Children & Family Services, who said he would look into the matter. It is not known what he did in the way of an investigation and the parent believes that no changes were made at Northeast Parent & Child Society as a result of the above letters and the final letter below.

LETTER #3

March 26, 2005

Mr. Glenn Humphreys, Director
Division of Development and Prevention Services
NYS Office Of Children & Family Services
Albany Regional Office
155 Washington Ave. 3rd Floor
Albany, NY 12210

Dear Mr. Humphreys:

Thank you for responding to my letters concerning my daughter.

In my last letter, I told you that my daughter had run away on March 5 from Northeast Parent & Child Society’s Seneca Dorm with , a sex offender who is also in the care of Northeast. On the evening of March 17, we were notified by Northeast that had had sex with our daughter while AWOL from Northeast. This was extremely upsetting to my wife and me, as our daughter is very vulnerable right now and easily taken advantage of by others. Our daughter was tested for STDS this week, and we are waiting for the results.

Even though what happened is most likely a criminal action on the part of , due to their age difference and other factors, ,clinician at Northeast told me that Northeast has no responsibility to ask the police to investigate this incident. We do believe they have a responsibility to do so, and we believe County does as well. My wife and I will pursue this matter ourselves if Northeast or the County does not act.

I have asked Northeast what steps have been taken to ensure that this does not happen again. Apparently, steps have been taken to make sure and do not have contact in the children’s home, but no assurances were made concerning keeping them apart at Grout Park School (aka The School At Northeast), which they both attend.

Since you are the Director of Development and Prevention Services, I would like to respectfully recommend the following policy changes at Northeast and other Residential Treatment Facilities that might prevent what happened to my daughter from happening again.

1. When residents run away from the facility, the police be more fully notified of each resident’s age, gender, status (e.g. sex offender), and any other information that might make the police react more quickly so that crimes are not committed while residents are AWOL and so that residents’ lives and health are not jeopardized.

2. If any action by any resident of the facility commits or appears to have committed a crime, that the facility notify the police immediately.

3. That a policy be put in place whereby parents’ concerns for their children’s health and safety be taken seriously. That these concerns be looked into and addressed by a committee rather than just one employee of the facility.

4. That a policy be put in place whereby the County, Municipality or Agency that placed the child in the residential treatment facility also be required to investigate and address parents’ concerns when parents bring them to their attention.

Thank you again for listening to our concerns.

Sincerely,

Final Note: The parent who wrote these letter filed an incident report with the Schenectady Police Department. A year later, and after making many phone calls to the Schenectady Police Department, they have not heard anything from the officer who was supposed to investigate the incident.

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