The New York Times ran a troubling article “At State-Run Homes, Abuse and Impunity” recently chronicling the abusive care– and lack of accountability– encountered by residents in the more than 2,000 group homes scattered throughout New York.
Of the more than 13,000 cases of alleged abuse reported in 2009, less than 5% of the cases were transferred to law enforcement for follow-up. Just a handful of the cases reported to law enforcement resulted in criminal prosecutions or employee discipline.
Rather, a strong group home employee union consistently opposed any abuse charges brought against employees– even when the evidence presented against them was substantial. The prosecution of the group home abuse cases were further impaired by the fact that many of the victims suffered from conditions such as Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy and autism– making testimony against alleged abused consistently inconsistent — or impossible.
The resulting situation begs for more state oversight and control of these particularly vulnerable living arrangements. Particularly when a specific facts relating to abusive acts carried out against disabled people living in group home are uncovered by newspaper reporters, it is particularly troubling that the regulatory agencies failed to take any disciplinary action against the perpetrator or move to protect the victim.
Certainly, I don’t have all the answers, but it seems like a system needs to be effectively implemented that both utilizes better oversight of all group homes and importantly holds employees who witness abuse– yet fail to report it equally accountable for fostering an environment where abuse thrives.
Lastly, as a lawyer who has prosecuted matters involving group home abuse, I encourage families to immediately report abusive conditions to law enforcement as soon as the situation comes to bear. Further, if there is any physical evidence of abuse, I encourage families to document the same with their own photos and videos.
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