Child Welfare | North Carolina may pull its children from Hampton Roads treatment center after sexual abuse claims
by Bridget Degnan
Posted 4/25/11, 05:54 pm

Failure to meet state requirements and years of media coverage of problems have begun to take their toll at the Pines Treatment Center in Hampton Roads, a center for troubled youths under the age of 22. A Virginia investigation has revealed that the private facility failed to report sex abuse allegations by a North Carolina resident.

In response to the investigation, North Carolina has suspended all new admissions to the facility and may withdraw over 100 North Carolina residents currently participating in the treatment program.

"The Pines has a history of noncompliance with state licensure requirements," stated an OIG report conducted in 2010. "[L]ast summer's media coverage highlighting an extensive Corrective Action Plan exacerbated concerns about the welfare of the residents of this facility."

The Virginia investigation, completed by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services [DBHDS], revealed that a North Carolina youth returned from the Pines having been sexually abused by another resident. The Pines failed to notify parents and properly report the incident to North Carolina and Virginia officials.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is working to "determine appropriate placement" for the 113 North Carolina children currently residing at the Pines, according to a news release by department spokeswoman Renee McCoy. The majority of North Carolina children will remain at the treatment center until other facilities are located.

"Over the past several years, we have encountered significant problems at the Pines' facilities that have required tremendous monitoring time by [our department]," wrote Meghan McGuire, spokeswoman for DBHDS, in an e-mail to the Virginia-Pilot. "Since concerns continue to arise despite staff's continual efforts, it may again be time to reevaluate the status of their license."

According to the agency report, the boy described three separate incidents of sexual abuse, two involving other residents who touched him "inappropriately" and one involving his roommate who "flashed" him while staying at the facility. The boy's parents removed him from the home within days of hearing about the incidents.

Despite the Pine's declining reputation, past OIG reports have acknowledged the "challenging population" that the center treats.

"Given the challenging nature of the population served by the Pines, serious incidents will occur in the future," noted a 2010 report. The Pines's website notes that one of its three facilities, the Brighton Center, is "designed for males ages eight to 19 years old with a history of sexually abusive behavior and/or mental retardation and developmental disability."

"The effectiveness of the Pines' program will be judged by how well it manages these critical incidents, what the leadership learns from the events, and what strategies it devises to forestall future reoccurrences," the 2010 report noted.

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