Our View

We are accountable for these children

By From page A10 | June 16, 2013

The issue: As a community, we must ensure that troubled kids at FamiliesFirst are properly cared for

The litany of crimes is horrifying: Child 2 injured in an assault; Child 8 assaulted; Child 11 raped; Child 9 raped; Child 15 raped; Child 5 raped and forced into sex because of fear; Child 17 forced into sex because of fear.

And all of these crimes took place in the span of just over two months. It’s shocking.

THE NAMES and even the genders of these children — residents of the EMQ FamiliesFirst group home on East Fifth Street in Davis — are not known. But they are our community’s children for as long as they’re living here. We are accountable.

No matter where these kids came from or what they’ve done before or what their lives had been like until this shocking spring, the victims were all Davis kids when these crimes happened.

It doesn’t matter if the crimes were committed in the group home or in a Davis park, this community needs to see justice done. It appears that the Davis Police Department and the California Department of Social Services are off to a good start with their investigation, which has led to the state moving to revoke FamiliesFirst’s license to run its Davis facility.

THREE BOYS were arrested last week on suspicion of sexual assault, and several other cases are actively being investigated. Kudos to the Davis police, whose resources already were stretched thin with the ongoing investigation of the April stabbing deaths of two South Davis residents. After receiving more than 500 calls for service from the group home since Jan. 1, including more than 100 for runaways alone, the police have been proactive in confronting these problems head-on.

The state alleges that FamiliesFirst lacked adequate, competent staffing; that two staff members broke a boy’s arm; and that children often walked off the premises without permission or, in increasing numbers, ran away.

FamiliesFirst spokesmen have not denied these allegations, but they said last week that they plan to “fully respond” and fight to keep the group home open. They have until June 27 to appeal to an Office of Administrative Hearings judge.

But they’re going to have to present a pretty convincing case that they’re able to adequately protect and serve these troubled children. This is an opportunity for the community to think long and hard about what happens to kids in these circumstances, because troubled kids do come from Davis — not just someplace else. How should they be cared for?

IF DAVIS WANTS to be the place of “best practices,” as is so often said at City Hall and at UC Davis’ Mrak Hall, and if Davis wants to be a community that cares about young people — and we think it is both of those — then kids in trouble need to be included in that equation.

Debbie Davis

Debbie Davis

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