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YOLO COUNTY NEWS
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FamiliesFirst teens accused of rape

EMQ FamiliesFirst, a nonprofit organization that offers housing and support services for foster youths from around the region, is under investigation by Davis police after two teenage residents were arrested Wednesday on suspicion of raping an 11-year-old girl. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

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From page A1 | June 07, 2013 | 13 Comments

The Davis Police Department announced Thursday the launch of what officials called a “complex, multi-layered investigation” into alleged criminal activity linked to, and poor supervision practices at, the EMQ FamiliesFirst facility in Davis.

The nonprofit organization offers housing and support services for foster youths from around the region.

Assistant Chief Darren Pytel said two male residents of the facility at 2100 Fifth St., ages 13 and 14, were arrested Wednesday following a report from an 11-year-old girl “that she was held down and forcibly raped by the boys.”

The alleged assault occurred at a nearby park and not on the FamiliesFirst premises, though other youths from the facility were present and their involvement is being investigated, according to Pytel. None had permission to leave the campus at the time, and they were not under the supervision of staff as required.

“During the course of that investigation, we received reports of other incidents of illegal sexual activity” occurring off-site over the past couple of months, as well as allegations of shoplifting, theft and fighting, Pytel said.

Police also have made several felony arrests of FamiliesFirst youths involving serious assault offenses — just some of the more than 500 calls for service coming from the agency since Jan. 1, he added. More than 100 of those calls were to report runaways.

The youths involved in the assault cases, both male and female, ranged in age from 9 to 15. Many of the incidents, Pytel said, “are related to supervision issues at FamiliesFirst.”

Pytel said authorities have met with the agency’s management multiple times in recent months in an attempt to resolve the issues, but “despite recent efforts, we know that minors are routinely leaving the facility, they were not well supervised and were involved in illegal behavior off the campus.”

Police are now working with the California Department of Social Services and the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office to investigate both the alleged illegal activity as well as any possible violations of the agency’s state-issued license.

Yolo County Child Welfare Services also is involved for the purpose of assisting the agencies in tracking down the home counties of the children at FamiliesFirst, Yolo County spokeswoman Beth Gabor said. No children from Yolo County are currently living at the facility, she added.

The campus was quiet on Thursday morning, the only sign that something might be amiss being the presence of Davis police officers in the administrative offices and, at one point, two officers leaving with a boy in custody.

Gordon Richardson, executive director of the capital region of EMQ FamiliesFirst, refused to answer any questions on Thursday, citing the ongoing investigation. But he did issue the following statement: “The Davis Police Department and Community Care Licensing initiated an investigation to ensure that the children in our program are safe. We are fully cooperating with the investigation… we have been answering questions and assisting CCL and Davis PD with conducting interviews with children.

“We are deeply committed to the safety and well-being of all the children on the campus and in the community. Given the ongoing nature of the investigation, we are unable to provide additional information at this time,” Richardson added.

Kristine Austin, director of communications for the EMQ FamiliesFirst headquarters in Campbell, near San Jose, also declined to comment or discuss staffing issues Thursday, citing the ongoing investigation and federal HIPAA privacy laws.

The Yolo County District Attorney’s Office had no comment on its role in the investigation. Chief Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Raven said there were no new details to release Thursday regarding the rape case.

Both suspects were lodged at Yolo County Juvenile Hall in Woodland following their arrests.

Meanwhile, 10 young residents have been taken into protective custody and have undergone interviews at the county’s Multidisciplinary Interview Center, according to Pytel. The Police Department also plans to make contact with other juveniles at the facility “to make sure they’re living in a safe environment.”

“This investigation is extremely complex,” Pytel said. “It’s going to take time to sort through all of the issues and do a good job to ensure these minors are going to be well taken care of in the future.”

About 60 children typically live on the East Davis premises, though Pytel noted there are currently fewer due to the ongoing probe.

FamiliesFirst was founded in Davis in 1974 as the Praul Center, a small group home serving three emotionally disturbed boys, according to the organization’s website. Its name later changed to FamiliesFirst “in recognition of the central importance of the family in children’s lives.”

The organization has provided treatment programs for troubled youths throughout Northern and Central California for about 30 years, its primary programs including include foster care, adoption, residential treatment, community-based services and school programs.

FamiliesFirst merged with EMQ Children & Family Services in 2009 and currently provides services to more than 18,000 children and their families in 33 California counties.

The state Department of Social Services, which first licensed the group home on Nov. 1, 1995, issued a statement confirming the removal of children from the facility, adding that “steps have been taken to ensure the safety of those remaining.”

“These are very serious circumstances. The safety of all children in the care of the facility is the top priority,” agency spokesman Michael Weston said in the emailed statement.

“Licensing investigators from the Department of Social Services have been at the facility and are working closely with Davis police and the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office in their investigations. The Department of Social Services will take appropriate actions based on the findings.”

— Reach Lauren Keene at lkeene@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter @laurenkeene. Enterprise staff writer Anne Ternus-Bellamy contributed to this report.

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Discussion | 13 comments

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  • SparkyinCAJune 06, 2013 - 11:01 am

    So glad to see the investigation going on at FF! Day in and day out there have been calls listed in the Davis Police Logs of runaways, rape and all sorts of problems. I was driving by FF on 5th street when it was clear a juvenile had tried to run away and folks from FF were trying to calm her down bringing all traffic to a halt in both directions while this played out. There is something clearly wrong at FF with so many trying to run away. Our Davis Police department should not have to devote so much time, energy, and security for this organization at the taxpayers expense. This is coming from someone who gave generously monthly donating to FF here in Davis for a long time. I stopped donating when I realized this is harming more than helping these kids. Looking forward to finding out the results of the investigation to solve these problems as it's clear there are problems on many levels at FF. The kids need to be safe and the community needs to be safe or shut it down.

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  • I KnowJune 08, 2013 - 7:18 pm

    @SparkyinCA. I am also a person who reads the Davis Police Logs on a daily basis. And, it sucked that you had to witness what you did on 5th St. I was probably there. I can show numerous calls from the community (not FF involved) to the Davis Police that should not have to devote so much time, energy, and security to our taxpayers, and they are ADULTS. If you really read them you would agree. My example call....@17:41 on June 8th which I think is 5:41pm on a Friday night. A call to Davis Police Dept. People were being too loud in the pool and that she couldn't study. Versus a girl in the middle of the street almost getting hit?

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  • I KnowJune 08, 2013 - 9:51 pm

    @SparkyinCA Davis Police Log....6:55am Miscellaneous Noise Complaint...."Leaf Blowers Being Used Prior To 0700" which is 7:00am. So the hard working people started 5 minutes early, warranted a call to Davis Police Department? You have a point but don't be one sided by the media.

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  • SparkyinCAJune 08, 2013 - 10:35 pm

    @ I Know - Sorry, I'm not buying your argument. The Davis Police Dept is here to maintain quality of life issues for the community (from barking dogs, nuisance calls, to rape, murder etc..). 500 calls from one specific entity crosses that line and demonstrates that FF needs to fund adequate security for the business they are running. By shifting their responsibilities to the tax payers of Davis, they are shirking their responsibility on many levels. That's what I have a problem with. I don't have a problem with someone calling about leaf blowers at 655am, nor do I have a problem with someone calling about someone making noise that is causing someone not to be able to study. Davis has a noise ordinance and these rules need to be enforced. Many of us live in Davis because of these types of rules that improve our daily quality of life. There were no police when I was going down 5th street that day. It was clear the young lady was having a traumatic episode in the middle of the street. All driver's stopped to ensure her safety while a couple of adults were trying to calm her down. It did not "suck" as you wrote to witness this - it just solidified in my mind bad things are happening at FF as I can't even drive down 5th street to go to the Post Office without a dramatic event happening caused by something going on at FF that I keep reading about in the Davis Police Logs. Your comments are naive at best. The media is not swaying my comments. The facts speak for themselves. Either FF needs to take control of what's going on or it needs to be shut down as soon as possible. The only thing I can blame the media for is not posting the Davis Police Logs as a community service in the Davis Enterprise to get the information out as to what is happening in our community. I truly don't understand why they don't include it for everyone to read. Most smaller town newspaper do that or is it politically incorrect to post that kind of information here? Someone please enlighten me.. And please remember, abuse flourishes when there are secrets. These secrets need to be exposed so the problems can be solved at FF. I'm glad there is an investigation going on to get to the bottom of whatever secrets are being kept at FF causing all these problems that have warranted over 500 calls to the Davis PD. That's the point I'm trying to make.

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  • I KnowJune 08, 2013 - 11:52 pm

    @ SparkyinCa...It does suck when I witness a a troubled child that can't make the right decisions on her own. I do respect your opinion, not trying to argue but there are so many more factors that aren't being reported. That's ok. I too, have chosen to live in Davis for the last 21 years for the same reason you wrote. "Many of us live in Davis because of these types of rules that improve our daily quality of life". But, you don't have all the information and I won't disrespect your opinion of what you know. Hope the kids that are still there can prosper and grow from this unfortunate situation.

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  • JoeCAJune 06, 2013 - 1:39 pm

    Its sad to hear that this is happening in the city of Davis. I expected this to happen after all the lay offs that happened in December of last year. I was shocked that they were going to leave the remaining supervision of such troubled youth in the hands of such little staff. There was such little supervision as is even before the lay offs. I blame this on poor organization skills on both EMQ and the police department. If this was a reacquiring issue for so long why did they wait until something horrible happened until they decided to make changes or start an investigation. The police department are there to protect and to serve or so it says on there squad cars. Maybe its a lie or they just dont care about children as much as we think. You would think it would be easy to help EMQs facility since there a block away from each other. I dont understand this type of negligence on both parts. They are both to be blamed and someone should do a full investigation on both EMQ and Davis police.

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  • TGH in DavisJune 08, 2013 - 9:56 am

    EMQ FamiliesFirst at 2100 Fifth St. in Davis, CA must close immediately. The inhabitants of this facility pose a tremendous risk to the community...in addition to tying up police with 500 service calls in only 5 months – time the police could have spent on proactive patrol for increased safety. Do you donate to United Way? If so, then you could be supporting EMQ FamiliesFirst – a facility whose residents have been responsible for fights, shoplifting, theft, and now forcible rape of an 11 year-old girl. How can United Way continue to support the horrible outcomes of this facility and the threat to public safety? http://www.emqff.org/about/locations/yolo.shtml Another fact about United Way, one of the financiers behind the atrocities committed by EMQ FamiliesFirst in Davis, CA. Many public agencies compel their employees to donate to United Way. This takes staff time to administer. So…as a taxpayer, you may be indirectly supporting the horrible things occurring at EMQ FamiliesFirst simply by funding the administration of your local government. Here are agencies supporting United Way in the Sacramento area: http://www.yourlocalunitedway.org/article/united-way-campaigns This is the Board of Directors for the Capital Region of EMQ FamiliesFirst. Call them and ask how they can support the atrocities occurring at their facility in Davis: http://www.emqff.org/about/agency/board.shtml#capital

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  • I KnowJune 08, 2013 - 7:53 pm

    @TGH in Davis....I would also implore you to look at the Davis Police Department police log calls. There is a bunch of calls every day for ADULTS doing stupid things. At least 10 a day which would average 300 a month. Which would equate to 1500 calls in 5 months. And most for ADULTS drinking/driving, drunk in public, stealing, pan handling. They care for the kids who no one wants, can't have, can't deal with, and can't get better to get them back! What would you do?

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  • I KnowJune 08, 2013 - 6:47 pm

    @TGH in Davis, is your comment a forum against United Way? The last time my Non-Public agency promoted donating to the United Way, I had a choice to which cause I wanted my money to go to.

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  • TGH in DavisJune 08, 2013 - 9:26 pm

    @I Know – re: United Way…this organization is identified by EMQ FamiliesFirst as a primary funding source. The quickest and surest way of ridding our community of these malfeasants is to cut off their funding source. If United Way is providing the financial means for these heinous crimes to continue, then they should share responsibility unless they take immediate action to stop financial support. With regard to the crimes and the comparison to “stupid things” that adults do…I can’t imagine that you are factoring into your comments the rape of an 11-year old girl. I have a female child who is exposed through the Davis Unified School District to the criminals harbored at EMQ FamiliesFirst. If these adults who do “stupid things” as you say trespass on my daughter’s school campus, they are removed immediately. The criminals harbored at EMQ FamiliesFirst are allowed to legally infiltrate our children’s classrooms and playgrounds. Are you suggesting that as a father, I should turn a blind eye because these kids need somewhere to go? Are you suggesting that this organization has more a right to be in this community than my daughter has to public safety? EMQ FamiliesFirst has demonstrated over and over the inability to control its charges. I am compassionate toward children who otherwise have nowhere to go, but I will never let that compassion interfere with my duty as a father to protect my child.

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  • I KnowJune 08, 2013 - 10:45 pm

    @TGH....I also have kids in the Davis Unified School District and I Know what FF is about. What you are hearing, is the part media wants you to hear. But I respect your opinion. Whatever happens, I hope the kids in the highest non-lockdown group home in California (level 14) will prosper after this terrible ordeal. Which many do at FF...Taking care of the kids that aren't able to be at home with their parents or guardians.

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  • daniel ferrarisJune 09, 2013 - 8:31 pm

    Ok as a former resident at family's first in Davis I would like to say I completely agree that the supervision there is very sketch in the night hours but from 7am to 10pm there is at least 3 staff for 9 kids if not more.... at least when I was there from June 5th 2009 to June 21 2011... but other than that I have to admit that the kids there are crazy and find it fun to hurt staff members when angry... I admit I did it once but after that all I did was talk smack alot... sorry staff of mountaineer and trailblazer

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  • carolJune 18, 2013 - 12:04 pm

    I would like all the attention and money focus not on investigating but on HOW to best help these children. These are the kids nobody wants to deal with. some are the children of drug addicts. Some have suffered sexual or physical or who knows what kind of abuse. They are seriously at a disadvantage. All the money and attention needs to focus on how to help not punish FF. Do you think you could handle these kids, ask yourself.

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