WEST LIBERTY – Allegations of staff abusing drugs with youths and showing pornography to youths and allegations of other abuses at Adriel may force closure of the residential facility in West Liberty.
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services issued a notice of a proposed revocation of Adriel’s license to operate a children’s residential center and group home at the end of January. The notice gives Adriel a chance to seek a hearing on the possible revocation.
Adriel President and CEO Todd Hanes said Friday the issues were not a surprise to him; but it was a surprise the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services decided to go this route and seek revocation of Adriel’s license.
“If you look at the issues that were caused by employees, all of those issues revolved around three different employees. Those employees were terminated,” he said, following Adriel’s own investigations into the misconduct. “We took action, appropriately, transparently, and I believe with great accountability. We had some bad actors and we know that.”
Hanes said Adriel officials had been working with ODJFS to correct problems, and having this notice come up while it was working through its issues was a surprise.
“This went to our counties and us at the same time. We believed we were in corrective action plan mode. We thought we were working together with the licensing specialist and fixing every issue that came along. The surprise is the method used to communicate this,” he said.
Hanes said Adriel is seeking a hearing on the potential revocation of the license.
“ODJFS is doing its job. We are going to participate in a hearing, because we do believe we have a story to tell,” he said. “Many thousands of youth over the years that come through this place experience this program and experience tremendous success. That’s not (ODJFS’) job to tell that story. Their job is to highlight the things that did not go right. We believe there is a story to tell around our efforts to improve, to provide the highest quality program. We won’t argue the facts. The facts are accurate.”
The notice lists 15 violations in the Ohio Administrative Code, including staff assisting youths with drug and cigarette use, multiple abuse and physical injury claims to youths, and accusations of staff showing youths pornographic video.
One citation states a staff member mixed codeine and soda and drank it with a youth. Another citation states that same staff member was observed crushing pills and using a dollar bill to show youths how to make a straw and snort the pills. That same staff member is accused of showing youths a video on the staff member’s cell phone of staff members having sex with each other and showing other youths a video of two unknown men having sex.
Most of the citations occurred in 2016, according to the notice.
Other citations detail staff failing to investigate reported sexual assaults involving either residents or staff; not properly locking away medications, making it possible for youths to take them; and multiple complaints of abuse or misuse of restraints on youths. Additional citations note problems with methods of discipline, such as reducing the amount of food given to youths and taking clothing or bedding to punish youths for leaving the facility without permission.
One citation concerns youths placed in a “calm down room” and blocked from leaving it by staff. The citation notes Adriel does not have an approved isolation/seclusion room or policy and so is not permitted to place children in isolation or seclusion.
Still other citations note youths not given adequate consultation over grievances filed or follow ups. Some staff were accused of not allowing children to attend religious services when requested. Another complaint states the agency did not have enough staff on hand to support children attending regularly scheduled medical appointments.
Adriel provides a variety of services in 44 counties in the state. It has offices in Toledo, Archibold, Dublin, West Liberty, and some meeting space in Defiance, Hanes said. The organization holds two licenses – one for foster care, adoption, family preservation, visitation, respite services; and a second for the group home. It is the license for the group home that is potentially in jeopardy, he said.
There are currently 39 youths at the group home in West Liberty, Hanes said. There is also a school on that site. The youths at that home generally need a lot of assistance, he said.
“They come to us with tremendous trauma, abuse and neglect,” Hanes said, adding it takes some adjustment time to help those youths get back on track. It is generally new youths who tend to cause some of the issues reported in area newspapers, such as youths leaving the facility and committing crimes, he said.
Adriel’s group home is not locked down, which is another reason residents can leave and cause trouble in the community. Hanes said there’s a reason Adriel is not locked down. Youths are at Adriel because they are ready to be there, and locking them down will not help them move to a more positive path, he said.
“Forcing compliance won’t bring lasting change. It brings short-term compliance,” he said. Hanes added many youths who have left the group home on a positive path.
Adriel to close?
If the job and family services department revokes Adriel’s group home license, Hanes said, it would have bigger impacts than just on the one facility. The youths there would be returned to their home counties and likely go back into schools that had not been helpful for those children in the past.
The closure of the West Liberty facility would also have economic impacts on the surrounding community, Hanes said, adding Adriel staff purchase goods and services locally and contribute to the local economy in a number of ways.
Adriel administrators, however, are making plans if the state does revoke the group home license.
“We are planning in the event the hearing does not go well for us,” he said. “We are talking about what’s next. Every challenge, whether it’s invited or it just happens, every challenge can be dealt with in lots of different ways. I’m saying Adriel will come through this and be stronger on the other side. But it most likely will look different.”
Casey S. Elliott may be reached at 937-652-1331 ext. 1772 or on Twitter @UDCElliott.