“Kids are being warehoused in police stations, chained to chairs while family service workers sit with them for hours at a time,” [VSEA Executive Director Steve] Howard said.
Today, three Senate Committees heard testimony from DCF Commissioner Sean Brown about DCF’s “plan for placement of youths” with nowhere to go after the closure of Woodside. It was a much-needed hearing, and it came as VSEA warns in a press release this morning that something has to be done NOW to protect the kids and the state employees who are caring for them in the interim.
VSEA Press Release:
The Vermont State Employees’ Association (VSEA) is calling today for the Legislature and the Scott Administration to take immediate and urgent action to address Vermont’s System of Care that includes “justice-involved youth” and children involved in the child protection system. The union representing state employees is warning that the system is at a breaking point due to a lack of resources, including detention, mental health beds and foster homes.
“Since the Administration and the Legislature closed Vermont’s only secure facility for justice-involved youth, DCF Family Service workers are too often being forced to put themselves in extremely dangerous situations with these young Vermonters, some of whom are in mental health crisis and exhibiting violent and assaultive behavior,” explains VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard.
Howard adds that the State is expecting DCF Family Service workers to step in and do work performed up until now by Youth Counselors at the Woodside Rehabilitation Center in Essex.
The VSEA recently sent a letter to DCF Commissioner Sean Brown, demanding that DCF immediately hire retired law enforcement officers and former Woodside employees to help ease the crisis. The union also advised involving staff from the Department of Mental Health to help provide oversight to youth who are in mental health crisis.
VSEA also recommended that the Scott Administration immediately open a secure residential facility to house justice-involved youth and to open beds in community facilities that previously did not accept youth in need who would otherwise be housed at a secure residential facility. This includes mental health beds, when required.
“Being assaulted attacked or worse is not an acceptable working condition, but it’s happening right now to VSEA’s DCF FSD members,” warns Howard. “The Administration and the Legislature must act quickly to address the situation before someone else is seriously hurt—or worse.”