Search This Blog

Friday, March 29, 2024

Abuse in California

 In The Politics of Autism, I discuss services for people with disabilities.

Regional centers are private nonprofits that contract with California's Department of Developmental Services to coordinate or provide services for people with developmental disabilities. The 21 regional centers help disabled people and their families find and access a variety of services.

At LAT, Rebecca Ellis reports on abuse at Elwyn-Mayall, a home in Northridge for developmentally-disabled adults.

In California, an alphabet soup of bureaucracies is tasked with making sure people with developmental disabilities are not abused — and if they are, making sure those responsible are held accountable.
But advocates say the oversight system has broken down in California, allowing problem homes to stay in business and abusers to circulate through them.

The California Department of Social Services, which licenses group homes, often takes the lead on big investigations and can permanently bar employees from all homes if it finds enough evidence that abuse occurred. But advocates say complaints of abuse are rarely proved, making it easy for problematic staff, like Fabunmi, to drift from one home to another.

“The state doesn’t have enough investigators to do the sort of due diligence that’s required to understand what really happened,” said Jody Moore, a lawyer who represented Carter and specializes in cases of abuse in nursing and group homes.


In the last five years, the state has investigated 25 complaints alleging adults in Elwyn homes were injured or physically mishandled, according to publicly available investigation reports from the state’s licensing division. All but three were not substantiated.

The regional centers, meanwhile, have the power to impose sanctions on problem homes, including pulling their contract. But advocates say they rarely do, instead encouraging families to move their loved one out of the home — a “sanction” that families say is useless when there’s nowhere to go. On Nov. 2, the north county regional center sent Elwyn-Mayall a letter that cited state regulations, saying they would recommend relocation and “discuss the consequences of refusing to relocate” with families immediately. Nobody 

Former and current staff at regional centers say there’s little appetite for cracking down hard on providers when there’s a shortage of beds, particularly for those who need the most intensive support. It leaves staff with an essential question: How bad does the care have to be before it is worse than nothing?

“I’ve heard of vendor programs where the [inspectors] went in and the place is infested with bedbugs, the sheets haven’t clearly been changed in months, and they really are faced with a tough choice,” said a former longtime regional center staffer who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss her past employer. “They know there’s no open beds. So what do they do?”