DC Family Shelter Mishandled Sex Allegation Follow Up

7:10 PM, Mar 31, 2010   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- The non-profit company contracted to manage the Family Shelter at DC General Hospital came under fire Wednesday at a public hearing before city council and dozens of homeless families.

Four managers with Families Forward, Inc. responded to inquiries from Council Member Tommy Wells, who heads up the Committee on Human Services.  He asked why employees did not tell the city's Department of Human Services they had fired at least two employees for having sex with residents this past month. 

"I know I should have notified them," said Joi Buford, the Shelter's Program Manager.  "There is no excuse."

During their testimonies, it was revealed that one newly hired employee actually witnessed another staff member engaging in sex with a resident but went three days without reporting it.  That staff person knew she had to report it but was unsure how to go about reporting it, according to Ruby King-Gregory, CEO of Families Forward.  That staff member who witnessed the act is still working for the shelter. 

"I think we have to find out the degree which this was isolated or not isolated," said Wells.  "Did you find out if there was a pattern involved?"

Wells' question came after two women testified about the alleged inappropriate sexual behavior they both witnessed. As first reported by City Paper, one of them wrote an e-mail to Mayor Adrian Fenty's office alleging that a staff member made advances on her.  She also wrote that staff offered favors in exchange for sex.

That female resident who wished to be known as P. H. addressed the panel in business attire and was visibly nervous. 

"For an organization that's been around for 8 years, to me...the treatment I received and my family received was unfathomable," she testified. 

The second woman told the panel that she had read the news reports about P. H. and wanted to come forward. 

"She's not lying.  When I was there in 2006, the staff was having sex with residents," the woman who wished to be called Q.J. testified.  "There was a whole lot going on.  I brought it to Ms. Buford's attention.  It was there and it did exist and Ms. Gregory was aware of it because I brought it to her attention too."

Later, she interviewed with 9NEWS NOW, holding onto her release papers from the shelter dated in 2006.  She talked about how she thought the city should handle this new knowledge.

"I just want them to be professional about these programs. If something happens, go back and do your research.  Sneak up. Visit the places.  Go in and do your own research.  Don't take anybody's word for it," she said. 

Staff at Family Forward testified they were trying to make sure what happened "stays in the past," said James Peters, Facilities Operation Manager for Building 42.  He added they were trying to right the wrongs they made. 

Some of those wrongs may in the public eye be linked to the death of two babies in two years at the Shelter along with the case management mistakes made in the Banita Jacks case

When asked if they had reviewed those cases in detail, managers gave vague answers.  They testified they did not inquire how either of the babies died and did not pursue interviewing the mother of one of the infants.

They told Council Member Wells that it's never been a practice staff notified DHS about firings.  They also mentioned they spoke with the five board members that oversee the organization. 

"At the provider level, I think it's appropriate that they fired their staff when they learned of misconduct but i am concerned that I don't know the degree to which the board that has responsibility for the organization is paying attention," said Wells.  "You want to know they have the proper controls in place to be sure that people are protected.   I'm still not at a point where I'm confident those controls were in place."

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