Thursday, April 24, 2014
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

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 aternus@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy.

Anne Ternus-Bellamy

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 2 comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • stevie price jrJune 23, 2013 - 1:44 am

    They should just close down the families first and then Davis can be normal

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • ScottJune 24, 2013 - 12:36 pm

    Does it matter that the people who live here don't want the facility?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

News

 
4-H members get ready for Spring Show

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Will city move forward on public power review?

By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

 
Obama to Russia: More sanctions are ‘teed up’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2, 1 Comment

 
2 pursuits, 2 arrests keep Woodland officers busy

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

 
 
Youth sports in focus on radio program

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Rummage sale will benefit preschool

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Concert benefits South Korea exchange

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Conference puts focus on Arab studies

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Davis honors ‘green’ citizens

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Water rate assistance bill advances

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Program explores STEM careers for girls

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5, 3 Comments

 
Embroiderers plan a hands-on project

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Central Park Gardens to host Volunteer Orientation Day

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Volkssporting Club plans North Davis walks

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Hotel/conference center info meeting set

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
MOMS Club plans open house

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

 
Cycle de Mayo benefits Center for Families

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A8

Author to read ‘The Cat Who Chose to Dream’

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A12

 
.

Forum

Things are turning sour

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

 
The high cost of employment

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

High-five to Union Bank

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
Broken sprinklers waste water

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

Three more administrators?

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
Neustadt has experience for the job

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

Here’s a plan to save big on employee costs

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6, 3 Comments

 
Davis is fair, thoughtful

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

Ortiz is the right choice for Yolo

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

.

Sports

DHS tracksters sweep another DVC meet

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Another DVC blowout for DHS girls soccer

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1, 2 Comments | Gallery

Young reinvents his game to help Aggies improve on the diamond

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
DHS boys shuffle the deck to beat Cards

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

DHS/Franklin II is a close loss for Devil softballers

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
Baseball roundup: Giants slam Rockies in the 11th

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
UCD roundup: Aggies lose a softball game at Pacific

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

 
Jahn jumps to Sacramento Republic FC

By Evan Ream | From Page: B8

.

Features

.

Arts

Congressional art competition open to high school students

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
Emerson, Da Vinci to present ‘Once Upon a Mattress’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
Winters Plein Air Festival begins Friday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
Bach Soloists wrap up season on April 28

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A11

 
.

Business

.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Comics: Thursday, April 24, 2014

By Creator | From Page: B6