Davis youth home tied to alleged rape has troubled past

06/08/2013 12:00 AM

06/30/2013 12:23 PM

The home for youths in Davis where two teen boys were arrested Wednesday on suspicion of raping an 11-year-old girl has been the target of numerous complaints to the state Department of Social Services over the past two years.

The rape, allegedly taking place over the weekend at a park, is the latest in a string of controversies to plague the facility owned by EMQ FamiliesFirst, according to documents the department released to The Bee on Friday.

In January, a Department of Social Services investigator reported that a child's arm was broken in two places as a result of being physically restrained – even though the child's behavior did not warrant a restraint.

The most recent complaint, dated May 21, alleges that children at the home were inadequately supervised.

"It has been established that clients are AWOLing and physically acting out at a significant rate, causing concern for staff, other residents and the community at large," Ashley Sinclaire, an inspector for the Department of Social Services, wrote in a report.

The report recommends increasing the staff-to-client ratio to three staff members for every 10 children.

"Anytime we get a complaint, the department will visit the facility within 10 days," said Michael Weston, spokesman for the Department of Social Services. "These are very serious circumstances."

Kristine Austin, spokeswoman for Campbell-based EMQ FamiliesFirst, said she was unaware of the complaints, but released a written statement.

"We've already increased our staffing to address issues in the investigation. We've also revised our plan for responding to children who attempt to leave the facility without permission," the statement said.

The circumstances of the alleged rape remain unclear, but police said the boys, who are 13 and 14, lived in the group home on the 2100 block of Fifth Street with the alleged victim. Authorities said the juveniles are supposed to be supervised at all times, but none of the FamiliesFirst staff was present when the incident allegedly occurred.

First licensed in 1995, the home has capacity for 72 people, but Austin said as of Friday, 40 people lived there. Most of the minors have "special needs" and have been placed there by family members or courts, according to police.

Davis police have fielded more than 500 service calls from the facility this year. In addition, more than 100 reports of juveniles running away from the home have been documented.

"It's an enormous drain on resources," Davis police Lt. Paul Doroshov said.

Investigators said they have uncovered other alleged crimes by group home residents, including sexual offenses, shoplifting and theft.

EMQ FamiliesFirst operates in more than 30 counties across California and is "one of the largest, most comprehensive mental health treatment programs in the country," according to its website.

Separately, the organization is being sued by a San Jose law firm alleging the nonprofit was negligent in allowing a counselor to molest children at its Los Gatos facility.

In one case, a 12-year-old girl living at the Bay Area home was allegedly forced to perform oral sex on a FamiliesFirst counselor, according to the lawsuit filed in Santa Clara Superior Court.

"We do not comment on active litigation," Austin said of the lawsuit.

"EMQ is simply not staffing itself properly to protect the children," said attorney Robert Allard, who is suing the nonprofit in two separate cases.

No criminal charges have been filed against FamiliesFirst or its staffers in the Davis case.

Weston said Friday his department would take the "appropriate action" once the investigation is complete.

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

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