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Owner vows to fix problems at Davis home for troubled youths

Published: Sunday, Jun. 9, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3B
Last Modified: Sunday, Jun. 30, 2013 - 12:23 pm

The owner of a youth home in Davis where two teen boys were arrested Wednesday on suspicion of raping an 11-year-old girl vowed Saturday to "fix the problems" at the juvenile facility.

"We go to great lengths to keep our children safe," said EMQ FamiliesFirst CEO Darrell Evora during an interview with The Bee at the group home.

Evora made the trip to Davis on Saturday following a media frenzy after allegations of the sexual assault surfaced last week.

Police said two boys, ages 13 and 14, raped the girl last weekend at a park. All three minors lived at the home and were not under staff supervision at the time of the alleged incident, officials said.

Evora offered few details about the incident, citing ongoing investigations by Davis police and the state Department of Social Services, which licenses the facility.

"Once they complete their investigations, we'll initiate our own internal review," Evora said, adding that no staff members have been suspended or fired so far.

In addition, he said, the organization will hire an outside expert to conduct an independent probe of the program.

The sprawling facility in the 2100 block of Fifth Street houses children who have some sort of mental health diagnosis, Evora said.

The alleged rape was the latest in a long list of controversies to rock the facility.

Just in the last two weeks, Davis police said they arrested several children from the home for "serious assault offenses." The facility also has been the target of numerous complaints to the DSS.

A department investigator reported in January that a child's arm was broken in two places as a result of being physically restrained by staff members – even though the child's behavior did not warrant restraint.

Davis police said the facility had placed more than 500 calls for service this year, including 100 calls for children who had gone AWOL.

"I find that number surprising," Evora said. "We've always met minimum license requirements for staffing."

Neighbor Mike Phillips said he has seen children from the facility "horsing around in the middle of the street."

"They were running amok," Phillips said. "They're just out of control."

Evora noted that staff members are not allowed to restrain clients or prevent them from leaving the campus unless there is "imminent danger."

"I can follow you, but we can't have big tall fences with razor wire," Evora said.

Campbell-based EMQ FamiliesFirst operates in more than 30 counties across the state. The residential programs are typically funded by county governments and private donations.

Evora said no youths have gone AWOL since the facility put in new measures – including increased staffing – early last week.

Call The Bee's Richard Chang, (916) 321-1018. Follow him on Twitter @RichardYChang.

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