Amid Abuse Concerns, New Group Home Safeguards Unveiled
Weeks after a newspaper investigation uncovered widespread abuse at New York group homes for those with developmental disabilities, state officials are making changes, but advocates say they don’t go far enough.
Under the plans announced Wednesday by the state’s Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, new group home staffers will be required to have a high school diploma and will be subject to psychological and drug testing. Current staff will receive additional training emphasizing “individual respect, dignity and professional ethics,” state officials said.
In addition, the agency will establish a centralized team to oversee abuse and neglect allegations and create a review panel to ensure that disciplinary steps are consistent.
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“The protection and quality of care for the developmentally disabled is our highest priority,” said Courtney Burke, acting commissioner of the state disability agency. “The actions we announce today are the critical first steps on the road to improving the protection and quality of care for those we serve.”
The developments come after a New York Times investigation published earlier this month revealed a group home system plagued with cases of abuse rarely brought to the attention of law enforcement. In 2009 alone, The Times identified 13,000 abuse allegations among group home staffers. Police were involved in less than 5 percent of the cases.
Advocates for people with developmental disabilities, however, say the new measures are completely insufficient, pointing out that the state is not taking steps to remove group home workers with a history of abuse.
“To create yet more management teams and bureaucracy will never stop these systemic problems,” said Michael Carey, a disability advocate whose son died in 2007 while in state care.