Safehouse says systemic problems led to moratorium on accepting children from Social Services

Shelter manager was violently attacked in June

The executive director of Operation Safehouse, a non-profit that helps runaways, homeless youths, and other youths in crisis, says a systemic issue at the Riverside County Department of Public and Social Services (DPSS) led to the organization to placing a moratorium on accepting placements by DPSS.

SafeHouse Executive Director Kathy McAdara said a child placed at the shelter by DPSS attacked the manager of the Riverside shelter without provocation on June 13.

"It was a violent attack against our shelter director," McAdara explained, which damaged Safehouse property, which included ripping a phone off the wall, tearing up their security system, ruining a computer, and throwing furniture across the room.  She said one month later, the shelter director is still recovering physically and emotionally.

Law enforcement had to be brought in before the child was finally removed from the shelter. A criminal charge was considered, but McAdara does not know if some were filed since the suspect was a juvenile.

McAdara indicated that the DPSS worker knew about the child's history of violence, however, they did not follow protocol and failed to ensure proper notification, placing staff and other residents in harm's way.

"In this particular situation we were specifically told that the girl did not have a violent history.  As it turns out, she does have a violent history.  If we had known that, maybe we could have taken precautions, maybe done things a little bit differently," said McAdara.  "But we just feel like this is so serious, that at this point, somebody needs to shine a light on this."

In a statement to News Channel 3, Gene Kennedy, DPSS Senior Public Information Specialist said "DPSS immediately launched an investigation into this incident. That investigation continues."

"Also, the department has had ongoing communication with SafeHouse managers for the last month to address and resolve concerns," Kennedy continued.

McAdara said children placed at Safehouse facilities in both the Coachella Valley and in Riverside are typically foster children between the ages of 11 and 17 who are in need of interim care while they're being placed somewhere else, or who have run away from foster homes.  

Last year Safehouse served more than 140 youth from DPSS, according to McAdara.

The moratorium by Safehouse went into effect at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday.

"That affected four children," said Kennedy.  "And DPSS found the kids new placements by July 18, the deadline SafeHouse asked us to comply with. As for future child placements, we will continue to use our other placement facilities."

"We would be reluctant to take this action if this were an isolated incident," McAdara said. "But it is our experience that DPSS has been negligent in disclosing truthful information in the past, and we simply cannot knowingly put our staff or other children at risk, and so we urge DPSS to align their practices with their policies."

McAdara went on to say, "Of course we will continue to offer SafeHouse shelter services to runaway, homeless and at-risk youth from the community, as we always have."

SafeHouse serves all of Riverside County and operates shelters in Riverside and Thousand Palms. Click here for more information or call 888-343-4660.

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