Santa Clara County Supervisors Call for Closure of Intake Center for Abused, Neglected Kids

The boy’s whimpers, sobs and screams emanated from the other side of the scuffed-up door—“Nooo! No, no, no, no, no no!”—followed by a man’s voice telling the child to stop.

The exchange, captured in gut-wrenching cellphone video obtained by San Jose Inside, memorializes 18 seconds of an Oct. 17 incident in which an employee of an emergency children’s intake center allegedly yanked an 8-year-old severely autistic boy out of a bathroom, tackled him to the hardwood floor and restrained him.

When the door opened, a witness reported seeing the child on a twin bed with the man laying on top of him, holding the boy down.

A host of disturbing reports have been surfacing lately about the Santa Clara County Receiving, Assessment and Intake Center (RAIC), a last-resort placement facility in San Jose for abused children taken from their guardians.

Earlier this month, records show that first-responders rushed to the center after two kids overdosed on meth. Meanwhile, foster parents have been sounding the alarm after hearing about numerous assaults at the processing center and a recent report that a sexually compulsive teenage boy molested a little girl.

Despite years of pushback against the policy, RAIC houses kids of all ages together, instead separating them based on whether they’ve been admitted before or are new to the system. Concerned citizens have also criticized the RAIC for keeping some kids for months on end—in violation of state law—even though the facility is designed for only 24-hour stays before placing kids with relatives, foster parents or a small care homes.

In response to myriad complaints about RAIC, county supervisors Cindy Chavez and Dave Cortese are now calling for its immediate closure. In a Wednesday morning press release demanding a moratorium on the Enborg Lane center, they expressed doubt about its ability to meet the needs of the troubled, vulnerable kids in its care.

Chavez and Cortese, who serve on the county’s Children, Seniors and Families Committee, want the administration to look for alternative sites for an emergency children’s intake and placement center. They placed the matter on the agenda for next week’s Board of Supervisors meeting and expect the county to report back with a list of RAIC alternatives by Nov. 19.

“We have repeatedly expressed our concerns about the RAIC and called for reforms,” Cortese. “One of those reforms, the common-sense separation for younger children from older children, has not been followed.”

Chavez echoed her colleague, saying she’s worried about the people who work at RAIC, too. “We are also concerned about the health and safety of our county staff as they deal with a challenging mission,” she said.

When asked for comment about the reported abuse at RAIC, county Social Services Agency spokeswoman Kayla Cushing declined to disclose any details.

“Confidentiality laws prohibit the county from commenting on any specific allegations of child abuse or on personnel matters,” she wrote in an email. “However, the county takes any allegation of child abuse extremely seriously, and any allegations of misconduct by county staff are immediately and thoroughly investigated.”

Denise Marchu, who leads the county’s Foster and Adoptive Parent Resource Center, said she’s unsurprised by news of RAIC’s proposed shutdown. The facility is ill-equipped to deal with the influx of severely disabled children coming through its doors, she says. And its policy to mix kids from different age groups has long been a point of contention.

“The children that are coming in now have tremendous needs, and I just don’t think that the RAIC is capable of dealing with them,” Marchu said. “I think this really needs to be addressed, and hope that they don’t just put a Band-Aid on it.”

The RAIC was never designed as a shelter, Cortese explained, and isn’t licensed to house kids for any longer than a day. About a decade ago, the county’s Department of Family and Children’s Services began shifting from a group home and shelter-based approach to family-based placements. The RAIC was established in 2012 to process kids, keep them for no more than 24 hours and immediately find them a safe place to stay.

“I was here when the children’s shelter still existed and I was here when it closed,” Cortese said. “And there’s a distinction we became familiar with back then. That is, a RAIC is not a shelter and a shelter is not a RAIC. It’s supposed to be an intake center. But the breakdown is that they can’t just default to using it as a shelter because they don’t feel like they have immediate placement options. It’s not OK.”

Now, the county’s dealing with the same problems that prompted it to close its shelter all those years ago, he added. “A child’s there to be protected from abuse in the first place,” Cortese said. “So when they’re being abused at the RAIC, that’s not good.”

When Chavez approached him earlier this week about how to respond to the reported abuses at the RAIC, Cortese said he advised a “sharp, sudden move.”

“I said let’s just ask the board to declare a moratorium,” he recounted. “Of course we don’t want kids to be unserved, and we’ll see how staff responds. If the moratorium works, I hope it forces the issue and we end up seeing a diversion of those kids into proper placement—even if it’s out of the county.”

Cortese said the ongoing push by him and Chavez for the county to enact certain reforms at RAIC has been “almost like watching a feet-dragging exercise.”

“We’ve been asking for the appropriate facilities for years,” he said. “It makes us feel like, at some point, you need to make a wholesale move as an elected official.”

The situation at the RAIC is both heartbreaking for the kids and a liability issue for the county, Cortese continued. “It’s predictable that if you don’t segregate children properly and don’t house them in healthy circumstances, that you’re going to have unhealthy contacts,” he said. “It’s predictable, but it’s not acceptable.”

The Board of Supervisors will discuss the RAIC moratorium when it meets at 9:30am Tuesday at the County Government Center, 70 W Hedding St., in San Jose.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

9 Comments

  1. with everyone getting polished up for the upcoming elections. No oversight On behalf of the kids. Don’t these leaders know they are judged by how our most vulnerable are treated. “Close it down”. Now what…? If closing things down solved the problem of “unlawful” treatment, why is that damn murderous jailhouse still open. This is a bad comic strip.

  2. All the County Supervisors have for years known the abuses and trauma those innocent children have suffered and have done NOTHING about it. It is pathetic and disgraceful that for 11 and 7 years that Cortese and Chavez have, respectively, been in power they have ignored the plea of Social Workers and Staff at the RAIC center, who for years have presented evidence of the dangerous conditions those children have been forced into.

    Whistleblowers who have denounced these conditions have been retaliated and punished. Our tax dollars have been funneled to pay for legal defense of these chronies. Its is pathetic that Chavez being the Chair of the Children, Seniors and Families Committe for years has condoned these abuses against innocent children.

    Chavez, Cortese and the rest of the Supervisors have violated residents’ trust and miserably failed to the most vulnerable in our County. It is disgusting that these politicians waited for years until SEIU 521 exposed these conditions to the public and Cortese is running for Senate and Chavez has a opponent who has made Children, Seniors and Families her personal fight, for those two to care for our children.

    Chavez and Cortese anouncing the closure of the RAIC center is NOT leadership on their part, but an abysmal failure as politicians. They must be made accountable for their lack of oversight and accountability and incompetence which has distroyed innocent lives. Their leadership is criminal.

    Those children and their loved ones will always remember that Chavez, Cortese, Simitian, Wasserman and Yeager failed them when they need it the most. I hope voters remember this too.

  3. It’s sickening to read about all the ways our social service system is failing these children. These abysmal conditions need to be addressed immediately with proper oversight. It doesn’t make sense to assume the same staff perpetuating this kind of failure will have an adequate solution for serving these children if the RAIC is closed. Using out of county placements is convenient for politicians and puts the children out of reach of the local supports and services needed to stabilize them in their own community. The article doesn’t say but I’m curious to know how long the eight year old with severe autism was being housed at the RAIC? Wouldn’t he be eligible for SARC services? Wouldn’t SARC be responsible for finding specialized emergency housing for him and the other children with severe disabilities?

  4. The key is to keep no one there longer than 24 hours. Why are the kids piling up? What, if anything, has changed since 2012?

    If 24 hour max detention is not possible, maybe the county could buy back the Union Avenue shelter from Harker School? Just a thought.

    Let’s review why the county closed the shelter, way back in 2012:

    (From a Mercury News article)

    1. A major policy shift to place kids in family homes, not shelters.
    2. The shelter was effectively an intake center, with the vast majority of the 132 beds empty.
    3. When it was a shelter:
    (a) counselors physically restrained children
    (b) and placed them in isolation rooms. There were.
    (c) daily attacks on staff and other children, and
    (d) rampant self-abuse

    The shelter was replaced with a downtown intake center/ Eight beds were thought to be ample to handle the two or three children expected at any one time. Kids were to stay there no more than 24 hours before being placed
    1. with relatives,
    2. with foster parents, or
    3. in small group homes.

    I guess that was a terribly wrong assessment.

    • It was always a wrong assessment. We knew it then but the Board pushed it on us. Now its our fault that it failed. No ownership by board or execs.

  5. This been going on, they called it the quite room. This system has done nothing but profit of our kids. My kids dad and uncle is a victim of this sick twisted plot they have created for their greed. And now my 2 son’s has become their victim. Before I continue I accept that it’s my fault and take full responsibility of my actions. I did and continue to do everything my social worker ask of me. I went to jail for the first time for vandalism. I spent 74 days in jail my kids was place in foster care. My 8 years old was physically and verbally abused by two foster parents has been placed 8 times. In November of 2018 my son confessed to me and his grandmother how he was being punch in the face and at night he was taking to a closet and being force to watch porno and the person would touch his private part and his bottom and wanted him to do the same to them and when he refused he was punch in his face. My heart and soul dropped. I felt so horrible. But I remain strong and I asked him who was it? How many times did it happen? And if there’s other kids that they’re doing it to. He called out three other kids name. I wrap my arms around him and I said to him remember you always wanted to be a super hero? Well consider yourself one because by you trusting me and nanny to tell us about it. Makes you a super hero because you are not only procteting yourself you also saving and protecting those 3 other kids and many more. I call my social worker and she came and took him back to the Raik. The DA got involved it was proven to be true and I didn’t know what happened after. But I know my kids never suffered any kind of abuse in my care. I made a mistake. I’m paying for it daily. After doing everything that was required of me without my social worker offering me any kind of assistant because I cannot afford a place to stay I’m currently staying with a friend in exchange as his caregiver. My social worker and DFCS decided to put them up for adoption. Instead of offering me housing it’s easier to adopt my kids. I pray and hope that someone will step up and protected our kids. I know there is some horrible parents out there and deserve to have their kids place with someone who cares. I’m not perfect but I am a good mom. I don’t have any family here in the us to place my kids with. Families has been rip apart and broken by this system. When will someone say it’s enough of abuse and tearing family apart and put and end to their abuse of power? Mothers, fathers, families when are we going to raise or voice? When are we going to stand up and fight for us, for our children? Yes we makes mistake because we are human and that’s our natures. What happen to doing the right thing when no one is looking? I’m going leave it right here.

  6. Ms. Cushing claims that all reports of abuse are thoroughly investigated. OK, fine. Then what happens? Are the investigative reports just tossed into a bureaucratic black hole?

  7. and yet they fund corrupt children’s agencies such as Silicon Valley FACES……..knowing children in their camps are abused.

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