PHILADELPHIA — City officials will pull all 53 Philadelphia children out of residential campuses run by Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health after a six-week safety review found that staffers repeatedly failed to watch over them.
“We found (staffers) doing nothing. They weren’t doing their jobs,” Kimberly Ali, commissioner for the city’s Department of Human Services, said late Wednesday. “They were not watching the children. And if they were doing it, some of them were doing it sporadically.”
That finding was among those revealed in a Philadelphia Inquirer investigation, published Aug. 11, that detailed how lapses in supervision, training and care fueled an environment where staffers sexually abused children at Devereux.
“The article raised issues around young people being sexually abused by staffers at Devereux, and given the fact that Devereux was our provider, of course we wanted to assess the safety of young people at Devereux,” Ali said.The day after the story ran, workers with the city’s Department of Human Services and Community Behavioral Health, contracted by the city to place Medicaid recipients in psychiatric residential treatment, were immediately dispatched to Devereux’s three campuses in Chester County. They talked to children, their parents and Devereux employees.
Headquartered in Villanova, Devereux specializes in treating children with intellectual disabilities, mental disorders, and trauma at 15 residential campuses in nine states, making it the nation’s leading nonprofit health organization of its kind. It cares for 5,000 children across the country every year.
On Wednesday, city social workers began to call families with children at Devereux about alternative placements. The process of relocating children will take several months, Ali said.
In a statement Thursday, Devereux said “we are incredibly saddened that we will no longer be able to fulfill our mission and provide the best care available” to these Philadelphia children.
Devereux is seeking additional explanation from CBH and DHS.
“We believe the decision is unjustified and inconsistent with findings of multiple reviews conducted by various independent entities and conversations we’ve had with CBH and DHS during the past six weeks regarding the quality of care provided in our residential programs,” Devereux wrote.