Another Arrest for Rape, Documents Show Pattern of Problems at FamiliesFirst Facility

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The CEO of FamiliesFirst, Darrell Evora, spoke out on Saturday, telling news crews, “I’m outraged…  So I understand the public being outraged. We’d never want that to happen to a child in our care.”

“Very sad, and then shocked, and dismayed,” said Mr. Evora.  “We’re doing our best now to shadow kids and keep them in line of sight,” he added.

However, as the Davis police announced a third arrest, for another sexual assault, sources have told the Vanguard that some of the problems are self-inflicted.

The Davis Enterprise reports this morning that staff levels at the facility were increased this past week to three adults for every 10 children.  He also addressed reports that there were layoffs back in December and January that contributed to the problems, claiming that staffing was reduced because the number of children had dropped from 72 to 62.

While documents released on Friday indicate that there were problems at the facility leading to complaints dating back two years, Davis police officials told the Vanguard that the situation at the facility changed in the past few months to create a series of problems that had not existed previously at the facility.

The documents demonstrate, among other things, that the children who were residents at the facility were leaving the facility without permission and acting out at a very high rate.

State regulators cited the facility for not having sufficient staff to adequately supervise the children.

Sources told the Vanguard that the facility was operating below legally mandated supervision levels, even though it appeared as though staffing was at one adult for every three kids.  Several of those adults were not, in fact, in supervisory positions.

However, that problem has likely been exacerbated by other policies implemented recently.  State law prevents staff at Level 14 facilities from physically restraining children.  The facility itself is not locked.  Thus, we have had a number of reports, both in the comment section and elsewhere, that children have figured out they can simply leave the facility at any point in time.

It has been off campus where the rapes and other assaults have occurred.

However, a source told the Vanguard there is a way to deal this issue.  By creating a safety plan for the individual children who are causing a problem, the staff would be able to circumvent laws preventing restraint.  This would have been done for the safety of the child in question.

FamiliesFirst CEO Evora seems to acknowledge this when he indicated that they “changed their program model to restrain kids less last year, making it easier for them to potentially escape.”

“I knew the running behavior had increased; but, again, we thought that would go down in time as staff used alternative methods,” he told News 13 in Sacramento.

While it appears that FamiliesFirst has moved quickly, once the incident reached the public, to increasing staffing levels, it is unclear whether the staffing levels will be sufficient without additional measures.

Complaints also cited a compounding problem that the Davis facility, a Level 14 facility, accepted clients requiring more care than staff could offer, which produced disruptive behavior and led to a climate that contributed mightily to the current problems facing the organization.

Documents show that, in the last year alone, there have been no fewer than eight complaints to the state – many of which were sustained.

The critical question is why neither FamiliesFirst nor the State Department of Social Services made the necessary changes prior to the rape allegations becoming public last week.

Sources have told the Vanguard that some at the top of FamiliesFirst may be opposed to continuing residential treatment and that an internal struggle may have contributed to this problem.  Others have put the blame on the state for failing to come in sooner in the wake of allegations.

FamiliesFirst CEO Evora defended the organization’s policies on the news on Saturday, stating that in addition to increased staffing, they have added security in the parking lot.

They report, “He also says the number of runaways sounds high to him, but it could be because of the definition of runaway.”

“When a kid walks off our campus, even if someone follows him and he comes back, we have to document that incident. So I don’t believe it’s as bad as it sounds,” he said.

“There’s not big tall fences, or razor wire, and we can’t restrain the kids from leaving,” said Mr. Evora. “We can’t lock them in a room.”

However, the Davis police clearly believed when they issued the initial press release that they were getting less than full cooperation from the facility.

The police indicated that those involved in the initial rape allegations – both victim and alleged perpetrators, “had left the Families First facility without permission, which they were required to have, and they were not under the supervision of the Families First staff, as they were required to be.”

That indicates that this was not a case where the staff was following the children off site.

However, what is troubling is that it appears that FamiliesFirst was not responsive to police concerns.

Indeed, the police reported, “Over a hundred reports were made of youth running away from the facility. The police department met with Families First staff and management on multiple occasions in order to come up with ways to reduce the incidents and to ensure the minors were being properly supervised. Despite efforts, minors were routinely leaving the facility.”

The history of both the police comments and the documentation shows that this has been a problem for a long time, and only now do FamiliesFirst and the state appear to be taking matters seriously.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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13 thoughts on “Another Arrest for Rape, Documents Show Pattern of Problems at FamiliesFirst Facility”

  1. medwoman

    [quote]Indeed, the police reported, “Over a hundred reports were made of youth running away from the facility. The police department met with Families First staff and management on multiple occasions in order to come up with ways to reduce the incidents and to ensure the minors were being properly supervised. Despite efforts, minors were routinely leaving the facility.”[/quote]

    The wording of this comment is interesting. To “meet on multiple occasions in order to come up with ….” is not the same as having developed effective measures capable of being implemented. So a few questions:
    1) Did the police offer a list of suggestions that are demonstrated effective at other similar facilities and not
    in place here ?
    2) If such a list was offered, was it ever analyzed by anyone with the authority and capability to implement ?
    3) Was there a formal escalation policy in place to address problems that could not be handled by the on site
    staff ?
    4) Was this deliberate financial decision making, or were people at an appropriate level of decision making not
    made aware ?
    5) Within the state, who ultimately has the responsibility for overseeing these types of group homes ?
    6) If the police were aware of ongoing problems which were not being actively addressed, why was this person
    or department not notified ?

  2. JimmysDaughter

    Wow. I’ve been thinking about all the dangerous situations my own kids were in when I placed them in the care of others. Families First just takes that to another level. The reason I’m writing this is to tell all parents to be extremely vigilant when another person is watching your child. Even if you spend a small fortune, it is no guarantee that your kids will be safe.
    In Natomas, I put my kids in an expensive daycare. When my son was a toddler there, he had his face slapped and also had a bookcase fall on his head. Unbelievably, the bookcase was not secured to the wall! His head was bleeding profusely. Did they call 911? No, they were worried about who would pay for his hospital charges! They called me at work! I told them to call 911 but in the end, I worked so near that I raced over there and drove him to the ER myself. He had many stitches and has a scar on his face.
    In Davis, a daycare forgot him and left him behind at the Community Pool. I told the daycare director; he had no idea it happened because his staff were too scared to tell him! Another time, the same daycare left several boys alone in a room with a computer. They accessed bad websites, then the daycare called my husband to complain his son had looked at bad websites… They also called me to complain that for several days afterwards, my son was acting depressed and unsocial! The staff (college kids that were not majoring in education) played football with some boys in a grove of trees. They threw a pass to my son, he turned at the last minute and ran head first into a tree, got two severely black eyes. The next day his elementary teacher called me in the evening & asked me a series of questions to make absolutely sure he wasn’t being abused. (That was good, she was doing her job.) I had to get them a letter from the daycare, even though it was adjacent to North Davis Elementary. No one at CDC bothered to tell my son’s teacher what happened, even though they walked him over to the classroom the next morning when I dropped him off early.
    At elementary school, my daughter had a few minor incidents, too. One particularly cruel incident was the principle scolding her for things her brother did the year before. That woman had a very long memory and she really wasn’t nice sometimes. She is retired now. Psychological damage to children is as bad as physical.
    So I had to write this today. Families First dropped the ball. But watch your kids daycare, too. They may be dropping the ball, too.
    I always asked my kids what happened at daycare as we drove home. That’s the only way I discovered that my son’s “teacher” (In Natomas)slapped him in the face when he was a toddler. (She was fired, so I did not sue them.)
    Lastly, I hired a high school girl to watch my kids when they were older. I went to the park early one day, to see what she was doing and make sure she was helping my kids with their homework as she promised. I asked her where my daughter was. (My daughter was about 11 years old.) She said she didn’t know for sure but she thought she was in the restroom. She was fired, too.

  3. David M. Greenwald

    I asked Darren Pytel of the Davis Police, the questions Medwoman posed. Here are his responses.

    1) Did the police offer a list of suggestions that are demonstrated effective at other similar facilities and not
    in place here ?

    Answer: “The primary suggestions was to return to previous protocols they used which were largely successful and from what we were were told by the state legal and proper. Families First has been in Davis the entire time I have been here (30 years now if you count cadet time). We can all recall dealing with families first issues over the years, but at no different rate than any other school in town. What has happened in the past year is a significant departure from the past issues. Why that occurred is under investigation.”

    2) If such a list was offered, was it ever analyzed by anyone with the authority and capability to implement ?

    Answer: “We met with the facility director, the regional director and at my insistence general counsel from EMQ. The regional director assured me the highest levels of EMQ were involved and general counsel told us EMQ had every intent of following the law and establishing proper protocols for all of the issues and concerns, which we laid in plain and certain terms. I very strongly recommended they have staff counsel on site every single day to help them deal with all of the issues. Although much of their staff seems qualified to deal with the issues the kids have, I wanted to make sure they understood all of the legal issues involved.”

    3) Was there a formal escalation policy in place to address problems that could not be handled by the on site
    staff ?

    Answer: “Yes”

    4) Was this deliberate financial decision making, or were people at an appropriate level of decision making not
    made aware ?

    Answer: “See #2”

    5) Within the state, who ultimately has the responsibility for overseeing these types of group homes ?

    Answer: “Community Care Licensing which is part of the Department of Social Services.”

    6) If the police were aware of ongoing problems which were not being actively addressed, why was this person
    or department not notified ?

    Answer: “They were.”

  4. JustSaying

    “Sources told the Vanguard that the facility was operating below legally mandated supervision levels, even though it appeared as though staffing was at one adult for every three kids.”

    What does this mean?

    “However, a source told the Vanguard there is a way to deal this issue. By creating a safety plan for the individual children who are causing a problem, the staff would be able to circumvent laws preventing restraint.”

    Love your secret source this time around. Let’s circumvent the law and illegally restrain children,

    “Davis police officials told the Vanguard that the situation at the facility changed in the past few months to create a series of problems that had not existed previously at the facility….it appears that FamiliesFirst was not responsive to police concerns.”

    This is the second story (“heads should roll”) where this conclusion is made without any specifics listed.

    “The police indicated that those involved in the initial rape allegations – both victim and alleged perpetrators, ‘had left the Families First facility without permission, which they were required to have, and they were not under the supervision of the Families First staff, as they were required to be’. That indicates that this was not a case where the staff was following the children off site.”

    I’m confused. Are you suggesting that a staff member is supposed to follow each kid wherever they wander? Great idea, maybe, but one that would require much more supervision than could be provided.

    It appears the police department is attempting to isolate the blame here to the FF staff when there’s plenty to go around. (Teenagers do something “without permission, which they were required to have.” How could that ever happen!)

    And, of course, once they sneak out they’re no longer “under the supervision of the Families First staff, as they were required to be.” Not really surprising, either. So, FF calls the police department, time after time.

    Would it be fair for the community to blame the police department for crimes that happen under their watch, teen rapes in playgrounds, other violence? Is this really so much different than other incidents where the teens who do the crimes come from our own homes–where, of course, they’re required to have permission to be out and about the town? Let’s try to keep some perspective to our outrage here.

    It’s easy to see where this “heads must roll” coverage with vague charges from anonymous sources is leading. Calls for the FamiliesFirst operation to get out of our backyard. And that would be an unfortunate result.

  5. Davis Progressive

    Just Saying: It means they were counting staff that was not in the position to help with the problem as counting toward the state mandated ratios of staff to children.

    It is not circumventing the law, they are legally allowed to restrain kids within the context of a safety plan. I had the exact code written down, but I’m out of town for the weekend, and neglected to bring my pad.

    I wasn’t given specifics on the police contention and thus could not provide them. I was told by the police that circumstances changed, they made a vague statement and did not elaborate (I guess in hindsight should have mentioned that).

    I’m not suggesting staff is supposed to follow each kid, but the director indicated that in some of the AWOL cases, that happened because they could not prevent them from leaving.

    I think it’s true that the department is isolating blame on FF and the state. We will see whether the police need criticism as well here. Right now, the info I have gotten from non-police sources, put the blame on FF and the state as well. So we’ll see.

    I’m not calling for FF to get out of our backyard, I support their work. But it’s clear their policies – which they admit changed – are not working.

  6. David M. Greenwald

    Just Saying: It means they were counting staff that was not in the position to help with the problem as counting toward the state mandated ratios of staff to children.

    It is not circumventing the law, they are legally allowed to restrain kids within the context of a safety plan. I had the exact code written down, but I’m out of town for the weekend, and neglected to bring my pad.

    I wasn’t given specifics on the police contention and thus could not provide them. I was told by the police that circumstances changed, they made a vague statement and did not elaborate (I guess in hindsight should have mentioned that).

    I’m not suggesting staff is supposed to follow each kid, but the director indicated that in some of the AWOL cases, that happened because they could not prevent them from leaving.

    I think it’s true that the department is isolating blame on FF and the state. We will see whether the police need criticism as well here. Right now, the info I have gotten from non-police sources, put the blame on FF and the state as well. So we’ll see.

    I’m not calling for FF to get out of our backyard, I support their work. But it’s clear their policies – which they admit changed – are not working.

  7. JustSaying

    “The primary suggestions was to return to previous protocols they used which were largely successful and from what we were were told by the state legal and proper.”

    Specifics, please.

    Would these “previous protocols” have kept this incident from happening?

    With regard to the one specific noted, have an attorney there to advise the staff overseeing 62 kids “although much of their staff seems qualified to deal with the issues the kids have,” this seems like expensive overkill. If the staff isn’t knowledgeable about such basics of this work, train them.

    The fact that FamiliesFirst has gone from “not a problem” any bigger than other schools during three decades to a significant police concern in recent months means something specific has changed dramatically. What is it? It shouldn’t take much of an investigation to determine, nor much action to correct. It remains to be determined whether the alleged rape wouldn’t have happened in any case.

  8. David M. Greenwald

    JustSaying:

    It’s hard to get to specifics, when I’m not being given them. My answer to your question is that the available information seems to suggest that this is a reason problem that presented itself with the change in regulations – some of which may be the result of state law. Hopefully I can get a better answer to that.

    I agree with you. It seems to be a confluence of staffing changes, state law changes, a conscious decision by FF (as indicated by teh quote from their exec dir) to have a less intrusive intervention policy. The result of these changes appears to be that FF went from background noise to a serious problem since January.

  9. JustSaying

    “It is not circumventing the law….” Now, where would I have gotten the idea that it would be, sorry.

    I wouldn’t think you’d want to see FF shut down. My concern is that the coverage–complete with anonymous folks tossing around unsupported charges–is getting frantic and “heads should roll” soon will become “get FF the F out of here.”

    I read today for the first time that the police spokesman observes FamiliesFirst to have been a good citizen for 30 years. I hadn’t gotten any such impression from the tv, newspaper and other reports until you noted it today.

    Bad things happen sometimes. We don’t need to rush to find someone to blame beyond the perpetrators (or alleged perpetrators). When we have a murder in a high school, should we fire the principal and other staff because it happened under their supervision?

    Good weekend for you to be out of town, by the way.

  10. Mr.Toad

    You may be right that heads should roll or it may be they need more heads or different heads in place. First they need to secure they safety of the children, then they need to investigate and make those determinations. i do think you have a tendency to call for people to be fired quickly. I remember referring to you as the Red Queen when you demanded heads roll at City Hall. It feels flippant when you do so repeatedly. Having been in education where everyone is critical of everyone without knowing the whole story I’m always skeptical of such demands. I hope you think a little more about how harsh such statements sound when you make them. Remember we don’t run things here like Stalin, we don’t shoot our own generals.

  11. davehart

    I did a quick search on Families First and EMQ Families First, the new owner. The last tax return for the “old” Families First was for tax year 2008. EMQ (Eastfield Ming Quong, Inc.) absorbed Families First and since then have not filed a tax return because EMQ has a permanent exemption as a 501(c)(3). Also, the web site glassdoor.com that allows employees to review employers lists seven reviews. The two lowest reviews indicate that since the departure of the former CEO Jerry Doyle several employees feel the organization has been more out of touch with its employees and a more difficult place to work. Four of seven say they would not recommend a friend to work there. That could just be a few malcontents, but one begins to wonder if Eastfield Ming Quong, Inc. is more interested in harvesting pubic funds and private donations to pay salaries at the top than in what goes on in their facilities until a problem arises: Management by Brush Fire.

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