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State moves to revoke Chehalem Youth and Family Services' license

Long investigation and unsuccessful attempts to remedy problems lead DHS to latest action


The state Department of Human Services intends to revoke Chehalem Youth and Family Services’ license to operate residential care homes, following a months-long investigation.

Numerous complaints about neglect, maltreatment, lack of supervision, failure to complete mandatory reporting, failure to perform duties to protect a youth’s health and safety, and financial mismanagement led up to DHS’s decision last week.

If its license is revoked, CYFS would need to shut down its three Newberg group homes which provide residential care for 16 youths who are wards of the juvenile court. A fourth CYFS home recently sold and is no longer used for residential care, records show.GARY ALLEN - The Department of Human Services plans to revoke Chehalem Youth and Family Services' license to operate residential care homes, citing a history of neglect and abuse on the part of the Newberg-based organization.

Residential care puts youths into a “treatment program that provides behavioral support, life skills and professional mental health services,” according to CYFS.

The Newberg care provider has 30 days to contest the decision before the houses would be shut down. In the meantime, DHS is beginning “transition planning” for the youths in CYFS care that would transfer them to other state-licensed facilities if the CYFS homes are shut down.

The June 8 notice was delivered to CYFS executive director Deborah Cathers-Seymour and lays out the state’s case for revoking the license. Attempts to contact Cathers-Seymour for comment have been unsuccessful. As of press time Tuesday morning DHS had not received an appeal from CYFS.

Since DHS last renewed CYFS’s child caring agency license in the summer of 2014, the state has received “a series of concerning reports about unsupervised youth and unauthorized behavior management at the facility,” the notice says. The reports have ramped up, especially since the fall. Multiple incidents at CYFS homes in September were investigated by the Office of Adult Abuse Prevention and Investigations (OAAPI), an office within DHS. The incidents involved failure to notify emergency personnel when a youth was “unconscious for nearly one hour,” youth missing from a CYFS home overnight and unnoticed, and several mandatory reporting failures involving allegations of sexual assault.

OAAPI’s investigations found “substantiated findings of neglect, maltreatment or failure to perform duties required to protect a youth’s health or safety,” according to DHS.

Numerous incidents

Through the investigations by OAAPI as well as the Office of Licensing and Regulatory Oversight, another DHS entity, the state found five major areas of concern.

DHS determined there was a failure to follow mandatory reporting requirements, stemming from an incident in December when a youth reported to a staff counselor, describing having been raped at least 11 times since March 2015.

The counselor told a CYFS operations manager, who had already conducted an investigationinto some of the youth’s reports of rape months earlier, and had “concluded the youth had engaged in consensual sexual contact, obviating the need to make report to either DHS or the child abuse hotline.”

CYFS staff eventually reported the resident’s statements two weeks later to DHS, which violated the requirement to report “critical events” within one business day of learning about them.

DHS also determined the operations manager’s investigation into the rape allegations was “inadequate” because there was reason to believe the youth was suffering abuse, given the multiple disclosures to CYFS staff in the previous months.

DHS found CYFS does not have the required staff-to-child ratio to properly supervise and protect the youths in residential care.

As an example, DHS described an incident in October 2015 when three youths left a CYFS house through a window and stayed out for about seven hours without being noticed, during which time they drank alcohol and had sex. Although a CYFS staff member said the room checks had been completed, video surveillance confirmed the rooms had not been checked. According to the youths, this happened on multiple occasions.

DHS also learned of an incident in late April when four youths in CYFS care left their house in the evening and began prowling vehicles, found prescription drugs in a vehicle and ingested nitroglycerin requiring medical attention. CYFS had not reported any of the youths as missing when police found them four hours after they had left the house.

Besides the staffing deficiencies, CYFS is also not providing adequate training, DHS found.

Staff on the overnight shift “reported receiving no training beyond a five-minute course conducted by a coworker,” which included instructing staff to “check on the youth ‘every once in a while’ by shining a cell phone light into their rooms.”

One staff member also reported being afraid of a certain youth and as such avoided checking on him often.

The investigations during the fall also confirmed “willful infliction of pain or injury and the use of profanity toward a youth,” stemming from an incident when a staff member was restraining a youth, was kicked by that youth, and became upset and kicked the youth back.

The staff member told investigators he was “set up for failure” because he hadn’t had much training on interventions with clients.

Another altercation between a staff member and youth came in late May, when the staff member “lost their temper,” made verbal assaults toward a youth and the situation escalated into physical assault injuring the youth.

CYFS has also had trouble following emergency procedures, DHS found.

In September a fight broke out between two youths, and while one was in a staff hold the other threw multiple items at the restrained youth, “including a heavy, metal watch.”

The “watch” hit the youth in on the back of the youth’s head, causing his head to hit the wall. The youth “lost consciousness, experienced interrupted breathing, and mucus was running from his nose.” But staff did not call for emergency services for more than an hour, despite the youth beginning to shake while still unconscious.

He was taken to a hospital about 90 minutes after his head hit the wall.

CYFS’ own emergency protocols require staff to call 9-1-1 or transport an individual to an emergency room if a client has any serious illness or severe pain that the staff member believes “might result in death or serious injury if not treated.” DHS says the unconscious youth fell into that category, but emergency protocols were not followed.

Finally, DHS found substantial problems in CYFS’s financial situation. An auditor for the state looked into the finances and found that from July 2015 through February 2016, CYFS had projected a $25,202 profit. But the actual result was a $201,518 loss, DHS found.

DHS “concluded CYFS is on a trajectory to insolvency” and asked CYFS to take corrective action.

CYFS responded in May, but DHS determined “the response is not adequate to address the financial condition” and that CYFS is still heading toward financial insolvency.

Based on all its findings, DHS determined CYFS’s practices “constitute a danger to the health and safety of its residents and prevent the accomplishment of DHS’s purposes – to provide safety and well-being.”

Another license revoked

Last fall, prior to the most recent action, DHS revoked CYFS’s license to provide care for developmentally-disabled youths at a home on Brandon Drive.

A notice similar to the recent letter was sent to Cathers-Seymour in August, describing incidents of residents destroying window alarms and leaving the home at night, taking drugs, having sex and not receiving proper supervision.

There were “substantiated” allegations about improper supervision dating back to 2014, and DHS determined these were “placing residents and the community at risk.”

Although CYFS contested the move to shut down the Brandon Drive home, its license was revoked during the fall.

Last week city and police department officials said they had been unaware of that license revocation.

DHS spokesman Gene Evans said it’s not standard procedure to inform municipalities when DHS has revoked a license within their jurisdiction.

But the recent move to revoke the CYFS residential care license was shared publicly, Evans said, “because of the amount of contact between DHS staff and community members.”

Longstanding local issues

The state agency has not been alone in its concerns about CYFS.

During the past six months the Newberg City Council has brought up several times the increasing number of criminal complaints at CYFS youth houses.

Police Chief Brian Casey described the nature and frequency of the call volume to CYFS houses, which he said can vary: sometimes officers respond to five to seven calls at the houses in a single day, but then can go three or four days with no calls to those locations.

”There have probably been very few weeks that we haven’t been out there,” Casey added. “It’s consistently busy, is the best way to put it.”

Often the police respond to reports of runaways. They’re a relatively minor call in terms of crime severity, but they can be very time consuming, Casey said. Officers take the report, make an effort to look for the runaway, pick the individual up and return to the house.

In some cases, the youth is back outside running away again within 10 minutes, Casey added.

With officers spending so much time at CYFS facilities, the City Council and other citizens have raised concerns over what’s getting neglected elsewhere in the city.

In December the council discussed the possibility of shutting down at least two CYFS houses. Councilors described a history of meetings with CYFS representatives including Cathers-Seymour, discussions which never led to any solutions.

“There doesn’t seem to be any control over where the kids are going,” Councilor Mike Corey said in December, adding that the neighborhoods around these houses are being “ravaged” with neighbors afraid to say anything. “Nothing against the kids, I know the kids need help. But obviously, these two homes have proven that in Newberg they aren’t being helped, it’s messing up the neighborhoods, it’s dealing with too many citizens who are good, taxpaying citizens, and there’s no need for our citizens to have to put (up with) that in my opinion.”

Based primarily on the council complaints and the police call volume, CYFS was included on the “radar list” that became public in December. This was an informal list of facilities that were “of concern” to DHS, but after it became public it was discontinued in favor of finding a different approach to keep track of troubled facilities.

Two other facilities on the list have had their licenses revoked following review.

Problems persist

Although the agency has had concerns about CYFS for more than a year, DHS began more thoroughly reviewing CYFS in November when new DHS director Clyde Saiki convened the Licensing and Safety Review Team to replace the former “radar list.”

Cathers-Seymour said CYFS also requested a DHS review to “dispel rumors and misperceptions” after the list of troubled facilities came out.

As part of this process the state conducted an unannounced site visit in early January to follow up on the neglect and abuse findings from the fall.

After that visit DHS issued a number of corrective actions based on the recent problems at the care homes.

Although CYFS was compliant with the state’s demands within the required 45-day period, reports of problems have continued. With all the additional issues (the lack of adequate supervision, failure to follow emergency medical protocols, and the plummeting financial situation), DHS moved forward in the revocation process last week.

On June 8, Saiki described the “extraordinary efforts” the agency has made to resolve the problems in a letter to state legislators and representatives from the NDPD, Newberg School District and Newberg City Council.

“These serious and continuing issues constitute a risk to the health (and) safety of the youth in care at Chehalem, and I directed our Office of Licensing and Regulatory Oversight to issue the notice of intent to revoke their license,” he wrote.

CYFS has 30 days to contest the notice and request a hearing on the case, which would be held before an administrative law judge. If CYFS does not contest the findings, DHS intends to revoke its license in 30 days.