Report Notes Two Decades Of Problems At Juvenile Detention
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 6, 2006
MONTPELIER, VERMONT--Young people with disabilities housed at the Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center's D-Wing are at serious risk of harm, according to a report that Vermont Protection and Advocacy issued on Wednesday.
In a 51-page report, subtitled "Time is Running Out", VP & A revealed "systemic, programmatic and oversight" problems at the 16-bed short-term stay unit, some of which have been brought up in previous reviews going back nearly 20 years.
In a year-long investigation, the advocacy group found that, in addition to problems that impact all D-Wing residents -- such as a lack of necessary air conditioning, sprinkler systems and cleaning services -- there were "serious failings" in the ability and willingness of staff and administrators to accommodate the large number of youth with disabilities who are often held for weeks and months at a time. Those failings include a lack of adequate assessment and training of staff on disability-related issues, a lack of appropriate special education services, and an overuse and under-documentation of the force staff use on residents, that "unnecessarily deprive them of the ability to fully participate and benefit from the positive aspects of the D-Wing program".
The report offered 42 specific recommendations that can be taken by the Department of Children and Families (DCF), which operates the center. While some of those recommendations would require immediate action, and others are more long-term in scope, some advocates have expressed frustration that many of the problems have not been adequately addressed in the past.
"Every one of these concerns has been mentioned in every report by independent evaluators and RLU (Residential Licensing Units) since 1988," said VP & A advocate Linda Kramer. "The political will and leadership at all levels has been lacking. There are many things we recommend that can be implemented without additional funds, if there is leadership and willingness on the part of the staff to do them."
DCF commissioner Steve Dale told the Vermont Guardian that many of the recommendations are already being implemented, particularly those having to do with the physical environment, such as air conditioning, sprinkler systems and grounds maintenance.
"Report: Juveniles in state facility remain a risk" (Vermont Guardian)
"Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center: Detention Unit: Time is Running Out' (Vermont Protection & Advocacy)