This case involves a 16-year-old adolescent residing in a residential treatment facility who was sexually assaulted after being left unattended in a public park.
The adolescent was part of a group from the facility that had embarked on a field trip to the park, supervised by their counselors. During this outing, the adolescent became a target of bullying by other group members, leading her to refuse to rejoin the group for the return journey. The counselors contacted their supervisor and conversed with an officer before deciding to leave the adolescent alone at the park while they returned to the facility with the rest of the group.
Despite reporting her as absent without leave (AWOL), no one from the facility returned to search for her. Tragically, while seeking help in the park, she was approached and sexually assaulted by three men.
The crux of this case is whether the supervisors at the residential treatment facility were negligent in their handling of this situation and if they breached their duty of care by leaving a minor unattended in a public space.
Questions to the expert and their responses
Please describe your background in residential treatment facility administration, particularly with minors.
My background spans over four decades working within residential treatment programs, private schools, and residential services. I have personally assessed clients for placement, conducted critical incident evaluations, and reviewed incidents involving both clients and staff.
As an educator for 16 years, I taught Community Care Licensing standards for residential facilities and developed curriculum for Residential Counselors’ Certification programs.
Briefly, what are the standard procedures pertaining to transporting residents who are minors to and from the home?
The regulatory and industry standards for outings and field trips in residential treatment programs require advanced planning to ensure appropriate supervision, a safe environment, and a plan in case of problems on the trip, including medical issues.
Without specific details, leaving an adolescent unsupervised or not waiting for additional support staff would not align with industry or best practice standards.
Have you ever reviewed a similar case? If yes, please elaborate.
Throughout my career, I have encountered cases alleging negligence by administration or staff within residential treatment centers. I am well-versed in reviewing such cases and providing expert opinions.
About the expert
This expert brings over four decades of experience in youth crisis and community housing administration, with a BA in Sociology and an MS in Criminal Justice Administration. They have held significant roles such as the Executive Director of multiple treatment centers and schools, and Manager of Treatment Services at a youth development organization. Currently, they serve as a principal consultant at a youth services consultancy in California, offering program assessment, evaluation, incident investigation, crisis management support, and child advocacy.