Worker Pushed On Girl's Back Until She Died, Investigators
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 3, 2004
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA--On September 11 of this year, 12-year-old Shirley Arciszewski got into an argument with the worker at the Covenant Group Home where the girl lived.
The argument was over a toy ball.
According to two eyewitnesses, the worker grabbed Shirley by the hair and pulled her down to the floor. Then she pushed or lay across the girl's back and held her face-down.
At some point, Shirley said she couldn't breathe.
The worker, who has not been identified in news reports, ignored Shirley's pleas.
The home's director arrived a few minutes later to find the girl was not breathing. Attempts to revive her were not successful.
Investigators later learned that the worker was not trained on restraint techniques. They also learned that she had been fired from her job at another group home less than a month before she began work at Covenant.
State regulators fined the group home's owners $5,000 for failing to protect the children from harm while being restrained, and another $5,000 for failing to follow the rules that require workers to be trained before using restraints. The home's license has also been revoked for five years.
Local editorials condemned the organization that operated Covenant and other group homes, along with government regulators for a lack of oversight. One suggested the state reconsider its trend toward privatizing community-based services for adolescents and children with mental illnesses.
"Child witness says girl cried: 'I can't breathe'" (Charlotte Observer -- September 17, 2004)
"Time ticks by: Need for review of N.C. group homes remains urgent" (Charlotte Observer -- November 8, 2004)
"Editorial: Small comfort -- Penalties for girl's death further expose weak oversight" (Charlotte Observer)
"Editorial: Group home girl's death calls for review of N.C. mental health privatization" (Asheville Citizen-Times)