Jul 15, 2011 11:55 PM by Maddie Garrett

Juvenile Facility with Trouble Past is Closing

New Directions juvenile facility in Lafayette will close at the end of the month and the decision means displacing 24 juveniles in the State's care. New Directions staff said it will no longer be in operation by July 31, 2011, because of financial reasons. But the Louisiana Department of Child and Family Safety (DCFS) and the Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice (OJJ) placed a moratorium on the facility several months ago, citing serious deficiencies.

Problems at New Directions date back to nearly a year and a half ago in December 2010, when the Department of Child and Family Safety said it found that a critical incident, juvenile resident being taken to the emergency room, wasn't reported to authorities.

"What we found was that the reporting was lacking. The process that they used to report critical incidents was not very efficient," said Trey Williams, Director of the Bureau of Communications for DCFS.

But that's not all, Williams said DCFS and OJJ placed a moratorium on New Directions in March because they found: "Criminal background checks were not performed on employees, as well as health statements were not done for all employees, there were also some cases with incidents involving children and staff that were inappropriate," said Williams.

DCFS cites 18 of the 23 employees did not have State requirement background checks performed before employment at New Directions. And 16 of the employees did not have proper documentation proving they were tuberculosis free. They also found several instances where critical incidents were not properly reported.

"They have a number of deficiencies that we deem serious and a lot of times these deficiencies are repeating," explained Williams.

On March 30, 2011, the moratorium was issued and no additional children could be brought to New Directions as the State tried to work with the facility in fixing these problems.

Then, in May, police arrested New Directions employee John Gaspard and charged him with molestation of a juvenile and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Lafayette Police said the arrest was a result of a reported incident that occurred at New Directions.

Gaspard was also fired from New Directions, DCFS cites the reason as "inappropriate behavior with a resident."

New Directions staff called the the incident unfortunate, but maintain it is not the reason for closing the facility. New Directions Corporate Compliance Officer Daryl Allen sent this statement to KATC in an email:

"The moratorium was already underway when the unfortunate incident was discovered. As soon as we became aware of the issue, we notified the authorities and have worked closely with them. Our decision to close was not based on the incident; we made this decision for financial reasons and based on a structural realignment."

When asked specifically about Gaspard, New Directions declined comment.

DCFS said it is in the process of moving the children still at New Directions to other State-run facilities. As for Gaspard, he remains in jail awaiting a court date.



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