Local

Foster care facility under fire after teen's death

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

We have new information about the treatment center for troubled kids where a 16-year-old died. We know the death wasn't the first at Daystar Residential Facility in Manvel and now we're learning more from state inspection records we obtained today.

Investigators and caseworkers have been to Daystar since the teen's death on Friday. They say they will continue to monitor the facility, but one child advocate group doesn't believe that is enough.

Friday's death of Michael Owens, 16, was not the first time investigators focused in on the Daystar residential home in Manvel, prompting questions not just from investigators, but also from the spokesperson for Justice for Children who says action cannot come soon enough.

"To me, this is like horror hotel. I can't imagine any agency that considers itself in the business of protecting children placing a child at a place where the risk is extremely high," said Randy Burton with Justice for Children.

Records from the state Department of Family and Protective Services show the agency was involved in 76 inspections the past two years; 13 deficiencies were weighted as high priority.

Those deficiencies range from cosmetic issues like a broken fence and pool supplies being too accessible to children, to cleanliness issues involving rodent droppings, to physical concerns like a caregiver pulling an arm behind a child's back as a restraint, and a staff member hitting a child with a closed fist that resulted in bruising of his right eye.

The attorney representing Daystar, which houses more than 50 teens and young adults, says there is not full understanding of what kind of situations staff members and the residents are faced with every day.

"They have long histories in the business. I don't know that the public realizes the high level of activity that does go on in this kind of system," said John Carsey, attorney for Daystar.

No new children have been placed at this facility since June of this year. A special monitor was assigned to the home from June 21 to September 30.

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