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Child Welfare | The Pines youth treatment facilities, following sex abuse scandal in April, allowed limited admissions
by Eric Burk
Posted 8/25/11, 05:55 pm

Virginia officials said Monday they would allow limited admissions at three treatment centers for troubled youth in the Hampton Roads area after officials halted admissions in April for a series of violations.

Beginning Sept. 1, the centers, operated by The Pines Residential Treatment Center, can begin admitting three residents per week, said Les Saltzberg, director of the Office of Licensing for the Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services.

The department suspended admissions at the centers two in Portsmouth and one in Norfolk in April and downgraded the company's license following numerous violations that included failing to report allegations that a North Carolina boy was sexually abused ("Enough-almost," April 25).

Saltzberg said the department had spent more than 700 hours providing consultation and oversight to the company since April. He said the department would re-evaluate the center in two months.

"While (the department) has seen enough significant improvements made by The Pines to improve its programs and operation to warrant lifting the provisional license, based on its history, we will move forward in a cautious manner," Saltzberg said.

The centers currently have 47 children, down from 280 on April 25. They are licensed for 424 youths.

North Carolina officials withdrew many residents after a parent reported the sexual abuse of a boy at The Pines' Norfolk campus.

According to the investigation report, the boy claimed he was inappropriately touched by two different residents and flashed by a roommate. Following the incident, his parents removed him from the facility.

Virginia department officials determined the center had failed to properly document the incident or to notify the state or the child's parents.

Although Virginia now allows new admissions to the facilities, Brad Deen, a spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, said, "At this time we are not approving any new admissions into the Pines."

Deen could not say exactly how many North Carolina children were pulled from the three centers. Two children remained at the centers because the state was unable to find alternative housing.

"The Pines offers very specialized services," Deen said. "It's very difficult to find alternative placements for these children appropriate treatment for them."

Virginia spokeswoman Meghan McGuire said the abuse incident was not responsible for the license suspension. Instead, the suspension was "the result of ongoing performance issues that must be corrected to ensure safety and effective treatment for the troubled children there."

Facilities on provisional licenses have six months to make improvements or face having licenses revoked. While a downgrade to a provisional license does not threaten a facility's government funding for residents already in the program, it often limits the number who are admitted, McGuire said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Eric Burk

Eric is a former WORLD contributor.

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