State: West Liberty group home workers injured, got high with kids

The state has revoked a West Liberty group home’s license following several alleged violations against staff members, including injuring children and showing them how to “get high.”

The Adriel School, which houses and teaches children with behavioral issues from across Southwest and Central Ohio, plans to appeal the loss of its license from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. But CEO Todd Hanes said it might shut down its residential program anyway.

RELATED: Fights lead to 9 juvenile arrests at Adriel group home in Logan Co.

“At this point I think we do need to take a hard look at what our future is and does that include residential,” Hanes said.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services sent an 11-page letter dated Jan. 24 to Adriel saying it had determined the group home hadn’t complied with several state regulations.

The letter, obtained by the Springfield News-Sun, alleges several incidents were caught on video in February 2016, including a staff member mixing cough medicine and soda. The video appears to shows the staff member and three children drinking the mixture “for a ‘high,’” the document says.

READ MORE: Adriel School under state, county investigation

In the same month, another video appears to show a staff member crushing pills and showing the children how to make a straw from paper bills, before snorting the crushed pills with three children, according to the state’s letter.

“We dealt with it when it happened,” Hanes said of these incidents. “These employees were held accountable. They were terminated. These were unacceptable things that happened here.”

A child also sustained a broken wrist during restraint that wasn’t treated medically until the next day, the state’s letter says, despite the child’s complaints.

A former employee at Adriel, Debbie Roberts, said that behavior doesn’t surprise her.

“It wasn’t the kids that were shocking, it was the other employees and the supervisors and the things that went on that I saw personally that were not OK,” she said.

DETAILS: Spike in police calls to youth home challenges community

Roberts worked nights in the home in 2015 and said she was fired after she tried to come forward about what she saw as possible violations.

“I blame the people at the very top,” she said. “And I think that Adriel, if it’s going to have a future, needs to get back to their roots.”

Jon Keeling, spokesman for Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, said in an email that the safety and security of the young people who live at this location are the state’s first priority.

“Our inspectors take this responsibility very seriously, and as a result of their investigation a determination was made to revoke this location’s license,” he said. “As is protocol, Adriel has 30 days to appeal.”

Adriel had previously developed a corrective action plan for re-certification that was implemented Feb. 1, 2016.

The state’s letter also cites a physical abuse report of one child that was substantiated by Clermont County Children Services in March 2016.

A July 19, 2016, complaint alleged a staff member showed two children a video of men engaging in a sex act together, according to the state’s letter.

EARLIER COVERAGE: Police calls to youth center nearly double

Another citation against Adriel was that children weren’t allowed to attend religious services when requested.

Hanes doesn’t deny the letter’s accuracy, but he said all situations were addressed and new policies have been put in place to prevent them from happening again.

“Our defense is not that they didn’t happen,” he said. “Our defense is that they happened, they’re unacceptable and absolutely not tolerable.”

The board will discuss if the group home should close, he said, to focus on its foster care division.

West Liberty Police Chief Shane Oelker said his department frequently responds to the group home and he’s glad its operations are being examined.

“There’s obviously some changes that need to be made,” he said.

Hanes took over as CEO of Adriel in October 2015. Before then, the West Liberty campus was riddled with complaints from the community and police department, mostly about runaways. But so far this year, there has been runaways and large fights again.

Staying with the story

The Springfield News-Sun has provided extensive coverage of problems at the Adriel School for more than three years, including stories digging into the number of police calls to the group home and concerns of neighbors.

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