Topic: Press Release

Turnabout Brian Pope

Allegations against Northwest Children’s Home lack merit

 

Brian Pope

 

Several important points need to be made in reference to the state of Idaho’s licensing evaluation of Northwest Children’s Home (NCH) and the Lewiston Tribune’s subsequent reporting of that evaluation.

First, the licensing agent’s report refers several times to a “rape” occurring at NCH. Likewise, the Tribune’s headline cites “rapes” happening at NCH.

What led to these misleading claims was a single incident in which two residents ran away from NCH property. Upon returning, one resident claimed the other had sexually assaulted him. NCH immediately reported the incident to the police. It remains an unproven accusation.

For the licensing agent to characterize this allegation repeatedly as a rape – and for the Tribune to blare in a headline that “rapes” occur at NCH – is misleading. In doing so, both unfairly and improperly transformed allegations into proven facts.

We note that in 2014, Idaho’s licensing agent directed NCH not to detain residents from leaving the facility unless they present “imminent danger to self or others.” This, of course, creates a classic Catch-22 whereby NCH, or any similar agency, can be blamed no matter what action is taken or what the eventual result. Thus, the state can blame NCH if children run away (and for what happens while they are offsite) or for preventing them from doing so.

Next, Marty Trillhaase in his “Cheers and Jeers” column accuses NCH of “blaming the messengers,” implying that a state licensing agent could never be overzealous, biased or unfair. Anyone who has dealt with government investigators knows that this is not so. Ask any small business owner.

NCH is not looking to hide anything; rather, it asked state licensing to send additional evaluators and conduct further, more extensive assessments. Licensing denied the request.

NCH has for more than a century served as a non-profit agency striving to help kids who are victims of severe, ongoing neglect and abuse. Too often, these children are viewed by the general public simply in the abstract as “disadvantaged,” “at risk” or “emotionally disturbed.” To actually read a resident’s case history makes the abstract a reality, as one sees the litany of severe criminal neglect and physical, emotional and sexual abuse inflicted, usually at the hands of those who were supposed to love, care for and protect these children – parents, relatives and other “caregivers.”

NCH is charged with taking care of the most difficult youth populations in the Northwest.

So treatment is challenging, difficult for all concerned and fraught with setbacks. But definitely at all times, it is worth our best efforts.

NCH is not always perfect and successful in treating these children; no program anywhere can claim that. But our efforts are sincere, committed and ongoing.

We are appreciative of the community for its care and concern regarding these troubled youth, shown by its ongoing support of our programs over the years.

We plan to continue to earn and deserve that kind of positive support. We do regularly conduct open houses, and plan to increase those events. In addition, community members are always welcome to schedule an appointment and, while respecting the residents’ confidentiality, come to campus, have a tour and see firsthand our program and how it works.

Meanwhile, we will continue to strive to make any and all improvements we can, take corrective action in any areas that warrant it, and work hard to be a positive member in a community that is a strong and loyal supporter of our mission.

Most importantly, we will strive every day to best serve the population we are here for: those severely damaged and disadvantaged kids who deserve some help in a world that has so drastically stacked the odds against them.

Pope is CEO of the Northwest Children’s Home.

Brian Pope, LCSW

Chief Executive Officer

If you need immediate assistance, please call me on my cell:  208-413-4403

 

Statement to the Press – 12/13/2016

The Northwest Children’s Home (NCH) has been reviewing line-by-line the allegations made in the 28 page Statement of Deficiencies document prepared by a Licensing agent from the Division of Family and Community Services (“Licensing”) of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. We believe that every allegation in the Statement can be refuted and/or explained in proper context. The report is replete with facts taken out of context and redundant in that the same isolated incidents are cited multiples times as the basis for different deficiencies. It is disheartening to me that one person can have this much authority to negatively influence and severely affect the reputation of our agency.

A few examples:

1. Elopements

  • We’ve had an opportunity to make a comparison with a similar treatment facility in a neighboring state. They had over 60 elopements per month versus NCH’s 60 elopements in a six-month period. This comparable facility has on average 10 times more elopements than NCH; however, the facility was inspected by its state licensing agency and was reported as having no deficiencies.
  • Lewiston Police Department (LPD) data shows that over a five-year period elopements in 2016 were down 4% compared to a five-year average. In 2015, NCH had 157 elopements; in 2016 NCH had 102 elopements, a 35% decrease.

2. Calls to the Lewiston Police Department

  • NCH broke down the data provided by the LPD, disproving the Licensing agent’s allegations that calls to the police have increased. In 2015, there were a total of 339 calls ranging from juvenile problems, assaults, elopements, etc. In 2016, the number of police calls dropped to 194. This is a 43% decrease in calls to the LPD in a one-year period.

3. Sexual Offenses 18 total in the past year

  • 10 of the 18: The Licensing agent cites multiple elopements under the heading of”sex offenses” because the residents were from the Hopper program, our specialized program that treats sexually reactive youth; however, there is no evidence any sexual acts occurred during the elopements. The fact that the residents who eloped were emolled in the sexually reactive youth program does not make their elopements sexual offenses.
  • 7 of the 18: Sex offenses range on a continuum from kissing or holding hands to other sexual behaviors. All seven of these acts were consensual between adolescents. One of the acts was determined to be unfounded and the remaining ones show evidence that our programs completed immediate corrective action plans per incident which were subsequently approved by the Licensing agent. These corrective action plans provided additional trainings to staff.
  • 1 of 18: Allegation of forced sexual assault (The licensing agent refers to this as a “rape,” using that specific term a total of 7 times throughout the document for the same allegation). The facts: Two residents eloped and upon return to the facility one alleged that the other performed a forced sexual assault while the two residents were on the run from the facility. The matter was referred to the prosecutor’s office and is being resolved through the court system.

4. Fire Suppression deficiencies:

  • In April 2016, a contractor conducted a full inspection of our fire suppression systems. NCH provided sufficient documentation to the Department of Licensing several times to show that all deficiencies were corrected. The Licensing agent did not accept our documentation (signed-off service requests and invoices stating scope of work). The Licensing agent called the contractor directly to complain that the documentation was insufficient. She then called the contractor and ordered an additional inspection without notifying Northwest Children’s Home. Note: Our Jewett program (oldest building on campus) is in the process of getting a full fire suppression system with a negotiated Licensing due date of completion of 12/31/2016. This is going to cost our agency over $100,000 and is a major project at our facility. NCH has clearly complied with all these steps in a reasonable manner.

In Summary

I worked for the Department of Health and Welfare in the Division of Family and Community Services for over 15 years in the areas of child protection and children’s mental health. I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in the State of Idaho. Based on my experience, I believe that the Department’s Statement is unfair and biased. We are concerned that the Statement reflects a personal agenda or vendetta rather than being an objective report. I also worked in another residential treatment facility for an additional four years of my social service career. I have been at NCH for almost two years now and every day I am highly impressed with the quality and dedication of our staff, continuous care our programs provide (assuring safety) and improvement in treatment outcomes for a majority of our kids. I will continue to work with the NCH team in enhancing treatment services to this vulnerable and specialized population of kids who have been traumatized by abuse and neglect.

At no time during my employment at NCH have I seen or heard of a child being endangered at our facility. We have complied with all corrective action plans negotiated with Licensing and strive to reduce any issues raised by Licensing while minimizing police involvement, a needed and valuable resource in our community. Our valuable reputation with our referral contractors, the local public who supports us and our competence as an agency has been damaged due to skewed information and inaccurate assumptions. We have filed a notice of appeal and are looking forward to NCH being heard.

Brian Pope, LCSW
CEO
Northwest Children’s Home, Inc.