Thursday, January 29, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

FamiliesFirst fights to save license

President and CEO of EMQ FamiliesFirst Darrell Evora, left, spoke at a press conference Friday, June 14, in response to allegations of inadequate supervision and criminal activity at the troubled local group home. He was joined by Neal Sternberg, a residential and youth services consultant. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise photo

By
From page A1 | June 23, 2013 |

EMQ FamiliesFirst is fighting the state’s decision to revoke its Davis group home license, arguing in papers filed Friday that the Department of Social Services does not have the authority to do so since the alleged illegal activity at the heart of the action — multiple rapes and assaults by and against children from the group home — did not occur at the facility.

The department moved June 13 to revoke the group home’s license and bar clinical director Audrie Meyer and capitol region executive director Gordon Richardson from ever working in a licensed group home again.

That action followed an investigation by the department which found as many as half a dozen children from the group home, at 2100 Fifth St., were raped and several others assaulted in the space of a month. Three teenagers, including two residents of FamiliesFirst, have since been arrested in connection with those assaults.

The crimes were alleged to have occurred off campus after the FamiliesFirst children left the facility without permission — a chronic problem according to both the state and the Davis Police Department.

In its 16-page report, the social services department cited some 80 instances just since January when children left the facility without permission, including at least seven instances where a rape or assault is alleged to have subsequently occurred at nearby park, hotel or private residence.

Because those alleged incidents did not happen on the FamiliesFirst campus, attorneys for the facility, as well as for Richardson and Meyer, argued in papers filed Friday that the Department of Social Services lacks jurisdiction in the case.

“The alleged acts which constitute the basis for the accusation did not take place at the licensed facility,” said attorney Linda Kollar, who represents FamiliesFirst and Richardson. “The department does not have jurisdiction over events that occur outside the licensed facility and such events cannot be the basis for the accusation.”

Attorney Robert Sullivan, representing Meyer, offered the same defense.

Both attorneys also argued that accusations that FamiliesFirst, Richardson and Meyer failed to keep children from leaving the facility without permission essentially put them in a Catch-22 situation.

“Under the circumstances, compliance with the requirements of its regulations … would result in the violation of other regulations,” the attorneys argued. “Specifically, clients cannot be prohibited from leaving or departing the facility when to do so would result in violations of their personal rights.”

FamiliesFirst, Richardson and Meyer also claim the state didn’t give them a chance to comply with any regulatory deficiencies before seeking to revoke their license.

At a news conference a week ago, Darrell Evora, CEO of EMQ FamiliesFirst, vowed to fix any problems at the Davis facility.

Joining him at the news conference was Neal Sternberg, a residential and youth services consultant hired to establish best practices at the Davis facility, including training the staff in safety intervention techniques aimed at keeping children from leaving.

State regulations call for imminent danger to be present “before you can place hands on that youngster to stop them, so your best bet is to convince them,” Sternberg said.

Sternberg said FamiliesFirst’s calls to police “have gone down dramatically” since the facility underwent staffing and security increases earlier this month, which the Davis Police Department later confirmed.

“Since we have gone in and started working with the state, the situation has greatly improved from where it was before,” Assistant Police Chief Darren Pytel told The Enterprise at the time. “We still have had a couple of runaways from the facility, which causes us concern. However, it’s not causing the same problems in the community it has previously, and it seems to be isolated.”

Michael Weston, a spokesman for the Department of Social Services, declined to address any of the arguments raised in the papers filed Friday, saying, “since this is an active case, the department cannot comment.”

In its 16-page complaint released June 13, the department alleged multiple cases of criminal activity involving FamiliesFirst children between May 7 and June 1, including public disturbances, alcohol and drug consumption and forcible sexual assault with alleged victims ranging in age from 10 to 17.

The department also claimed FamiliesFirst supervisors ignored their own plan of operation and emergency intervention plan, including guidelines for preventing and coping with runaways; that in October 2012, two staff members improperly restrained one boy, breaking his arm in several places; and that staff members often didn’t shadow children who bolted and, instead, police found them throughout California — including one found on the freeway by the California Highway Patrol.

FamiliesFirst, Richardson and Meyer deny all of the allegations.

The matter now heads before an administrative law judge, who will hear the case within 90 days and EMQ FamiliesFirst will continue to operate the facility during the appeal process.

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at [email protected] or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy.

Comments

comments

Anne Ternus-Bellamy

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Work continues to modernize Davis Healthcare Center

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

     
    Holman continues to educate and inspire

    By Daniella Tutino | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    ‘Huck’ and ‘Tom’ float old Arboretum dock to removal

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Teens arrested after midnight joyride

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

     
    Biologists: Raising California dam would harm salmon

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

    Meet the mayor for coffee at Peet’s

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Author joins radio show

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

    Make your own SoulCollage on Sunday

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

     
    Overweight video game avatars ‘play’ worse than fit ones

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    Walk through Quail Ridge Reserve on Feb. 14

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Calling all chicken owners: Apply for coop crawl, share information

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Hopmans named associate vice provost for global affairs

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

     
    Review motivation to refresh your healthy-habits plan

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6 | Gallery

    Tips to protect skin this winter

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

     
    For health and healthy appearance, there’s just one quick fix

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

    Measles outbreak grows

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A9

     
    NAMI-Yolo examines inpatient services at potluck

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

    .

    Forum

    Basement living, with attitude to match

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    50 years since Ash Hall

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10 | Gallery

    Can climate change bring us together?

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

     
    Paso Fino coming to a vote

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    .

    Sports

    Aggies still looking for record hoops win

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Blue Devil Hammond has a huge day at home

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Pent up? Join Davis’ latest athletic event

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Two in a row for Devil boys

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    UCD roundup: Aggie football players crack the books

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

     
    Youth roundup: Harper hoopsters off to hot start

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Treys send Toronto past Kings

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

     
    .

    Features

    What’s happening

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A8

     
    College Corner: Have wanderlust? Go overseas for college

    By Jennifer Borenstein | From Page: A8

    District learns from bomb threat incident

    By Kellen Browning | From Page: A8

     
    It’s Girl Scout Cookie time!

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A8 | Gallery

    Feenstra-Fisher wedding

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

     
    .

    Arts

    Show explores the evolution of dance

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    A rose by any other name — if there is one

    By Michael Lewis | From Page: A11

     
    Acclaimed guitarist Adrian Legg to play at The Palms on Saturday

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11 | Gallery

    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    James George Tingus

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Thursday, January 29, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: B6