Crime, Fire + Courts

Former FamiliesFirst client files negligence lawsuit

By From page A1 | August 07, 2014

More than a year after revelations of chaotic conditions at EMQ FamiliesFirst Inc., a former resident has filed a civil lawsuit alleging that he was sexually abused at the now-shuttered Davis group home.

Sacramento attorney and licensed psychologist Dr. Joseph C. George said the now 19-year-old plaintiff, identified as “John MF Doe” in the eight-page suit, also was physically restrained and locked overnight once in a room without food, water or access to a bathroom during his three years at the 2100 Fifth St. facility, when he was 12 to 15 years old.

“Instead of helping the child, the staff at the Davis home turned a blind eye and allowed the boy to be repeatedly molested,” George said in a statement announcing the lawsuit’s July 30 filing in Yolo Superior Court. “When he needed help the most, he was restrained and denied basic care and human dignity. EMQ FamiliesFirst must be held accountable to ensure this does not happen again.”

The lawsuit alleges negligence, false imprisonment and infliction of emotional distress, seeking unspecified damages.

EMQ FamiliesFirst spokeswoman Eva Terrazas declined to respond to the allegations. “We do not comment on pending litigation,” she wrote in an email to The Enterprise.

According to the Doe lawsuit, the plaintiff claims he was sexually abused multiple times by other minors at the group home, and there was insufficient or inadequately trained staff on site to ensure that the boy was protected and prevent other youths from acting out.

The teen also contends that on one night in October 2010, he was banished overnight to a locked “quiet room” with no bed, food or water. When he asked to use the bathroom, the boy “was given a bucket,” the lawsuit says.

Davis police revealed in June 2013 that the FamiliesFirst facility, which for years provided housing, education and mental-health treatment to troubled children, had been the subject of more than 500 calls for service over the prior five months. Many of the calls involved reports of youths walking away from the home without permission, but there were allegations of criminal activity as well.

Police later arrested two FamiliesFirst youths, boys ages 13 and 14, on suspicion of forcefully raping an 11-year-old girl from the facility at an off-site park, while a 13-year-old resident reported being sexually assaulted at an East Davis home after leaving the campus without permission. The latter incident resulted in the arrest of a 17-year-old boy who was not a FamiliesFirst client.

After the California Department of Social Services took steps to revoke the Davis facility’s license, EMQ FamiliesFirst announced in March it had reached a settlement with the state that would allow it to resume operations at the Fifth Street site, but officials later determined it would not be viable to do so.

Last July, former FamiliesFirst teacher Robert K. Oldham filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit against the Campbell-based organization, claiming he was fired after blowing the whistle on staffing and safety deficiencies at the Davis facility. That case is still pending.

— Reach Lauren Keene at [email protected] or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene

Lauren Keene

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