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State Rep. Roberto DaSilva recently introduced legislation intended to make it much more difficult for the state Department of Children, Youth and Families to send children in its care to out-of-state residential treatment facilities.
He said he was moved by the story of Nicholas Alahverdian, who was the subject of a column by The Providence Journal’s Bob Kerr.
Alahverdian says he endured years of abuse and neglect in two out-of-state residential facilities where he was sent by DCYF. He has formed his own nonprofit organization to advocate for children in DCYF care. He has also filed state and federal lawsuits stemming from his alleged mistreatment.
DaSilva said in a General Assembly news release that Rhode Island has the resources to provide children with the treatment they need within the state. DaSilva said he is concerned about the well-being of children in state care and also about keeping taxpayer dollars in the state.
"We’re paying out-of-state residential facilities hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more, to house our own state residents," DaSilva said. "It just doesn’t make sense, especially in these dire economic times."
Among the children the DCYF takes into its custody are those who are victims of abuse or neglect caused by their primary caretakers, those who are in the juvenile justice system and ordered by courts to have access to rehabilitative care, and those with emotional, behavioral or developmental challenges who need out-of-home care and treatment and whose parents give DCYF temporary custody, according to DCYF interim Director Kevin J. Aucoin.
The DCYF has said it is working to reduce its dependence on residential treatment programs, both in Rhode Island and in other states. So we wondered whether the agency is still spending as much as DaSilva says on such placements.
We asked DaSilva where he got his information and he referred us to a website called the Rhode Island DCYF Transparency Portal. It shows the agency’s expenditures in various categories such as personnel and foster care. The top expenditure is residential services.
For fiscal year 2010, for instance, the portal shows the state spent $117 million for residential care for youth in DCYF custody, which also includes costs for foster home placements and varous community services
Much of that money was spent on local services such as Child and Family Services of Newport County or Ocean Tides, a residential treatment program in Narragansett for male juvenile offenders. The DCYF also budgets an additional $22.4 million this year for youths sent to the Rhode Island Training School.
But the website shows that millions of dollars go to out-of-state programs. For example, Mass Mentor Inc., which provides services at several Massachusetts locations to children with developmental disabilities was paid $376,829 in the first quarter.
During the same quarter, the Bennington School in Vermont was paid $77,769 and the Glen Mills School in Pennsylvania got $59,246.
We asked Kevin J. Aucoin, interim director of DCYF, for more data. He said that this fiscal year, the DCYF expects to spend $65.5 million on residential services for 718 children, with $9.5 million going to out-of-state facilities, most of them in nearby states.
Aucoin says the spending on residential programs has been declining. In fiscal year 2007, for example, the state spent $85.4 million for 1,102 children. In that year, it spent $18.4 million to send 154 children out of state.
All residential placements are expected to be reduced as the agency adopts a new model of care that focuses on keeping families together.
Aucoin said the DCYF sends children out of state for specialized treatments not offered by in-state providers. Those include multiple psychiatric diagnoses and severe and profound developmental disabilities. The majority, he said, have severe aggressive behaviors. Some may be youth with significant "sexual offending behaviors."
Aucoin said children are placed out of state only with approval of the Family Court and only after the agency demonstrates there is no adequate program in-state.
So it appears the only fault with DaSilva’s claim is it is too conservative. Instead of spending the "hundreds of thousands," DaSilva claims, the state actually expects to spend nearly $10 million on out-of-state programs.
We find his claim to be Mostly True.
Legislative Press & Information Bureau, "DaSilva bill keeps children under DCYF care in-state,"
March 21, 2011, accessed March 31, 2011
"An Act Relating to State Affairs and Government - Department of Children, Youth and Families," March 3, 2011, accessed March 31, 2011
The Providence Journal, "Bob Kerr: Out of state and Out of Mind," Feb. 27, 2011, accessed April 1, 2011
The Providence Journal, "DCYF plans savings through home-based services," March 28, 2011, accessed April 1, 2011
State of Rhode Island DCYF Transparency Portal, accessed April 1, 2011
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