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DelCo Advocates for Children Add Their Voice to Call for More Reforms

Amy Kobeta, PCCY
amyk@childrenfirstpa.org, 347-607-1058 mobile

DelCo Advocates for Children Add Their Voice to Call for More Reforms

Vacating Lima Detention Center Just the First Step to Protecting Kids in Care

PHILADELPHIA (April 19, 2021)—Twenty organizations and many prominent individuals in Delaware County sent a list of six demands to county and state leaders to ensure that the abuse that occurred at the Delaware County Juvenile Detention Center never happens to a child again and to call for better policies that improve community safety and respond to the needs of youth who break the law.

“Sending a child to a detention center where they are mistreated and abused is not making our communities safer,” said Leigh Anne McKelvey, Executive Director, CASA Youth Advocates. “We are asking the county and the courts to work on much more effective ways to improve community safety and promote the healthy development of children.”

“Complaints were made. Abuses reported. And the facility continued to operate,” said Laurie Dow, PCCY Director of Vulnerable Youth Policy. “Where was the government in monitoring these problems and taking immediate action to respond to reports of abuse or taking notice of what was going on in a facility under its supervision?”

Advocates called on the Delaware County Council to:

  1. Close the detention center permanently and find safer options for youth that rehabilitate youth with restorative practices and evidenced-based trauma supports.
  2. Redirect as much as possible of the $4.6 million budgeted to operate the Lima Detention Facility on effective diversion programs for children charged with crimes that do not merit secure detention.
  3. For any Delaware County youth sent to detention, follow the research and make sure youth are placed close to home so they can remain connected with their family.

Advocates noted that the Attorney General has begun an investigation, but more state action is needed including:

  1. Performing an immediate on-site review of the facilities where Delaware County children have been sent to assure youth are not exposed to further abuse, and to immediately commit to provide the Court, the County Children and Youth Office, Defenders, and the District Attorney’s office access to real-time incidence reports at each of these facilities.
  2. Hiring a third party to conduct a full-scale investigation inside the Department of Human Services to expose how reports could have been filed yet no actions were taken to protect the children housed at the Lima facility.

“The experience at the detention center tells me there is a systemwide problem. The public needs to have confidence that the state DHS is doing its job to guarantee the safety of children in state licensed facilities. We support the call that the state must immediately conduct a top-to-bottom review of any facility where children of Delaware County are being held,” said Alyssa Poole, Chief of the Juvenile Unit, Office of the Delaware County Public Defender.

The Delaware County Juvenile Detention Center in Lima was vacated by order of the Court in March 2021 after the Public Defender’s Office wrote to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services detailing allegations of physical, sexual, and psychological abuse by staff. Lima is a
county-run youth detention facility for youth ages 10 to 18. The facility was vacated but not formally closed.

PCCY is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that works to improve the lives of children in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties by developing initiatives and advocating for quality health care, child care, public education, and family stability. Learn more on our website (www.childrenfirstpa.org), Twitter (@pccyteam), and Facebook page (PCCYPage).

Letter attached.