Lansing State Journal [Lansing MI]
May 21, 2021
By Ken Palmer Kara Berg Lansi
St. Vincent Catholic Charities is suspending operations at its children’s home while it deals with issues involving staffing.
The agency decided to halt operations while it revamps staff recruiting and retention efforts to better meet “the needs of the ever-changing population of children in crisis,” St. Vincent spokesperson Andrea Bitely said in an email.
“The challenges faced over the last year have made it clear to St. Vincent’s leadership that a temporary pause in programming is necessary to properly provide the highest quality of care, the best and safest environment and the right forms of management for both the children and their staff,” Bitely wrote.
The home accepts children ages 5 to 17 who suffer from abuse and neglect, providing counseling, education and other services. More than 90% of the children placed there are wards of the court, according to the agency’s website.
State records show the facility on West Willow Street has a capacity of 40 children and is operating on a provisional license that expires in September.
The agency has unresolved licensing violations but hasn’t been ordered to shut down the home, the records indicate.
In a renewal inspection report completed in September 2020, a DHHS licensing consultant cited violations involving staff training, tuberculosis screening for employees and volunteers and employee records.
For example, the facility had no written evaluations addressing criminal convictions for five of the 31 employees hired within the past year. according to the report, which is the most recent available.
The agency also had no current performance evaluation on file for one of its employees, and there was no documentation that four of the 31 employees hired over the prior year had received proper orientation.
DHHS found no incidents of maltreatment but said it investigated an incident in which residents were allowed to use a public restroom together without staff being present, and one of the residents “may have acted out sexually with the other resident.”
Another incident involved two residents kissing and touching while their group was trick-or-treating.
St. Vincent submitted acceptable corrective plans in response to both issues, the report said.
“The facility continues to have a high turnover rate, which then creates issues with gathering and maintaining documents for employee files,” the licensing consultant said in the report. “The facility can eliminate several of the citations just by ensuring all documents are located in the file or provided to the consultant at the time of the on-site inspection.”
Bitely said St. Vincent is focused on training and educating staff to provide quality care for children. The agency is working “cooperatively and closely” with DHHS on licensing issues, she said.
It wasn’t clear whether St. Vincent had begun transferring children out of the home.
DHHS spokesman Bob Wheaton said his agency typically works to find safe places for children when they have to be moved out of a care facility. He said he didn’t know specifically what DHHS was doing to help that process at St. Vincent.
St. Vincent also is licensed as a child placement agency. It was unclear how – or if –those operations would be affected by its decision to halt operations at the children’s home.
In a licensing renewal inspection report completed in March, the DHHS’ child welfare division said St. Vincent has struggled with staff turnover, the COVID-19 pandemic and what it described as an “unqualified” program director.
“This is evidenced by the large number of violations including repeat violations,” the report said. “The agency currently has a qualified leader in place who has been in charge of the adoption department at the agency for years. The adoption department did not have any violations during this review, which speaks to the new director’s ability to accomplish the task needed to achieve compliance.”
Contact Ken Palmer at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @KBPalm_lsj.