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Following the Series
More Stories

Sunday: A Runaway Problem

To keep juveniles charged with or convicted of crimes out of jail, the District tries to place them in the "least-restrictive" settings possible, consistent with their care and rehabilitation. A fragmented system of supervision allows children to wander off 800 times a year. Some teenagers who run away commit murders, rapes and other violent crimes. Others are slain themselves. Despite persistent warnings, the city has done little to address the problem.


Monday: A Troubled Company

Re-Direct Inc., a company operating independent-living apartments and group homes for juveniles, ran into problems from the beginning. Six children under its care were slain in three years. Other Re-Direct youths say their rent went unpaid and at times they went hungry. The city kept sending children and making payments that reached more than $3 million, until lawsuits brought the company down.


Tuesday: One Hospital's Story

The last chance for many juveniles and foster children is Riverside Hospital on the edge of Georgetown. The psychiatric facility has been beset by reports of sexual and physical abuse and allegations that it kept children for unneeded treatment. Riverside officials say they have made improvements, and city officials keep turning to the hospital because it is one of the few places in the city that treat deeply troubled youths.


Wednesday: A Perilous Odyssey

The path of Kenneth Taylor underscores the challenges of treating the District's hardest-to-handle children. The city cycled Taylor through residential treatment centers, psychiatric hospitals and group homes. In the end, the system could not cope with Taylor's increasingly dangerous ways. He walked out of an unsecured group home and committed a series of crimes that set parts of the city on edge.



An Alternative to Group Homes
The Blueprints program in Lynchburg, Va., places children in the criminal justice system in the care of specially trained foster parents. Living with the foster parents, the children adhere to a structured routine and gradually make the transition back to live with their biological parents.
One Father's Crusade
Kenneth Barnes Sr. lost his eldest son, Kenneth Barnes Jr., on Sept. 24, 2001, when the U-Street shop owner was shot and killed by James Hill, a group home runaway.

After the shootings, Barnes founded Reaching Out to Others Together (ROOT) and through the organization began working with law enforcement officials and relatives of victims of violent crime.

Williams Discusses Juvenile Services
D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams answers questions about services for juveniles charged with crimes and foster children in the District at a luncheon with Washington Post reporters and editors on Monday, July 7.
Post Roundtable
Washington Post reporters Sewell Chan and Scott Higham spoke to washingtonpost.com's Christina Pino-Marina about their year-long investigation involving group homes, a psychiatric hospital and residential treatment centers for juveniles charged with crimes and foster children in the District.
One Child's Path
Kenneth Taylor's decade-long journey through the social services system devoted to helping troubled foster children and juveniles began when he was 7. It ended when he committed four armed rapes and a carjacking. In between, he touched nearly every base: four city agencies, thre psychiatric hospitals, four treatment centers, three independent-living apartments and one group home. His treatment in privat facilities alone cost the District about $450,000.
Far From Home
Locations of residential treatment centers across the country that have housed District children since 1989.
A Trail of Troubles
Riverside Hospital, the largest psychiatric facility for children in the District, treats many foster children and juveniles charged with or convicted of crimes in its short-term care units. A private, for-profit hospital, Riverside has drawn intense scrutiny from federal and city regulators over the years.
The Runaway Problem
To rehabilitate juveniles charged with crimes, District judges and social workers strive to place children in the "least restrictive" settings, including unsecured group homes where staff members cannot use physical force to keep the youths from running away.
Who Is Responsible
Responsibility for foster children and juveniles charged with or convicted of crimes rests with the District's courts and three city government agencies reporting to Mayor Anthony A. Williams. In addition, D.C. police are responsible for locating and apprehending children who run away from the city's custody.
Where the Children Are
Since 1986, when the District agreed to make several improvements to its juvenile system, juvenile crime has plummeted, and far fewer children have been sentenced to the city's juvenile jail and prison. But as of June 2002, 18 percent of juveniles who had been convicted of crimes and placed under city supervision had run away from the facilities housing them.
A Failed Vision
In 1998, James "West" Jones Jr., a public school teacher with a master's degree in special education, offered to fill the void when the District's only provider of independent living apartments for convicted juveniles faced a fraud investigation. Jones founded Education Solutions Academy Inc., which he later renamed Re-Direct Inc. His vision of providing "a safe, nurturing learning environment which encourages self-worth" quickly went awry.
Where the Homes Are
Each year, District judges and social workers send hundreds of juveniles charged with or convicted of crimes to live in taxpayer-funded, privately run group homes and independent living apartments scattered across the city. Many of the homes are located in high-crime areas.

The Post analyzed an index of 18,077 juvenile records and compared them with thousands of pages of monitoring documents, incident reports and other records obtained from city agencies through sources and under the D.C. Freedom of Information Act. The agencies include the city’s Youth Services Administration, the Child and Family Services Agency, the Department of Health, the Department of Mental Health, the Child Fatality Review Committee, the Metropolitan Police Department, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer and the Office of Contracting and Procurement. The newspaper also relied on records from D.C. Superior Court, U.S. District Court and U.S. Bankruptcy Court; the federal Justice, Commerce and Defense departments; and government agencies in Maryland and Virginia.

The Post removed addresses of the homes mentioned in the documents at the request of the District, reflecting the city government had about protecting children in the homes. Many of the government agencies removed names from the documents. All the young people named in this series have been convicted of adult criminal charges, are deceased or provided permission to publish their names.


Transcript: D.C. Superior Court Judge Hiram E. Puig-Lugo
Transcript: Carolyn N. Graham, deputy mayor for Children, Youth, Families and Elders.
Transcript: Gayle L. Turner, administrator of the Youth Services Administration
Transcript: Brenda Donald, chief of staff at D.C. Child Family and Services
Transcript: Riverside Hospital administrator Michael Goodman and director of development and community outreach Barbara Groves.
Transcript: Patricia Chamberlain, Oregon Social Learning Center
Transcript: Post reporters Sewell Chan and Scott Higham.

This series of articles on group homes, a psychiatric hospital and residential treatment centers for juveniles charged with or convicted of crimes and foster children in the District is the result of a year-long investigation by two Washington Post reporters, a database editor and a researcher.

The Post obtained thousands of confidential juvenile records, court files and other documents and conducted nearly 200 interviews to piece together what happens when the District sends its wards to places of last resort. The newspaper analyzed an index of 18,077 juvenile records and compared them with thousands of pages of monitoring documents, incident reports and other records obtained from city agencies through sources and under the D.C. Freedom of Information Act. The agencies include the city's Youth Services Administration, the Child and Family Services Agency, the Department of Health, the Department of Mental Health, the Child Fatality Review Committee, the D.C. police department, the Office of the Chief Financial Officer and the Office of Contracting and Procurement.

The newspaper also relied on records from D.C. Superior Court, U.S. District Court and U.S. Bankruptcy Court; the federal departments of Justice, Commerce, Defense and Health and Human Services; and government agencies in Maryland and Virginia. In two instances, the paper obtained confidentiality waivers from young men imprisoned on adult criminal charges to gain access to their juvenile files and medical records. The Post also obtained confidential government case notes, family court files, social work documents and mental health evaluations from sources. In addition to the documents, the newspaper interviewed social workers, lawyers, judges, facility employees, teenagers and their relatives.

All of the young people named in this series have been convicted of adult criminal charges, are deceased or have provided permission to publish their names.

 

© 2003 The Washington Post Company