State regulators will shut down two St. Paul-based group homes for troubled children, citing a broad range of “serious and chronic” licensing violations that exposed youth to assaults, serious injuries and inadequate medical care.
The Vintage Place Inc., a nonprofit with a long history of run-ins with state regulators, failed to report incidents in which residents ran away and assaulted one another, resulting in some cases in serious injuries and medical treatment. At times, children at one of the homes went completely unsupervised, with no staff on duty.
In an extensive and unusual order issued Monday revoking the operator’s licenses, the Minnesota Department of Human Services cited more than a dozen incidents last year in which police or emergency medical personnel were called to respond to assaults, damaged property and threatening behavior. Employees also failed to report at least seven cases in which residents ran away or went missing from the two group homes.
“The nature and severity of the ongoing violations unacceptably jeopardize the health and safety of children in your program to receive services that are crucial to their well-being and development,” the revocation order said.
Established in 2002, Vintage Place cares for troubled boys at two group homes, each housing up to six children, on St. Paul’s East Side. It has a history of regulatory violations dating back more than five years. In a 2011 licensing review, it was cited for 27 violations, from failing to report critical safety incidents to lacking a daily schedule of residents’ activities. In more recent years, Vintage Place employees have gotten into fights with residents. In 2013, a staff member grabbed a resident by the throat and threw him onto a bed; later the next year, a staff member punched a resident in the jaw during an altercation, state records show.
Roberta Opheim, state ombudsman for mental health and developmental disabilities, questioned why regulators had not acted sooner.
“How many kids over these five years were subjected to substandard care?” she asked. “These types of citations and the chronicity of the problem should not be allowed, especially when [public] funds are being used to pay for it.”
In early June of this year, state licensing investigators visited the Vintage Place North home at 1853 Cottage Ave. E. in St. Paul and discovered that no staff were present to supervise the children. An employee told investigators that if staff needed to leave the home while residents were away at school, they posted a sign on the front door telling children to walk to the other Vintage Place facility, approximately a mile away.
In interviews, children told regulators that on several occasions they had returned to the home on Cottage Avenue E. and “no one was there.”
State investigators also found the group homes repeatedly failed to provide adequate health care. Medical records indicated that one child went without lithium, an antipsychotic medication, for eight days after the child’s supply had run out, while another child did not receive anti-depressants as prescribed for five days.
The licensing revocation takes effect Oct. 17, though Vintage Place still has 10 days to appeal the order and can continue to operate until the appeals process concludes. Telephone calls and e-mails to the group homes were not returned Wednesday.
According to its website, Vintage Place “teaches youth the values necessary to become a well-adjusted and contributing member of society through a family setting.” The group homes target boys, ages 10 to 18, who have been involved in the juvenile court system or have been diagnosed with a behavioral or mental health problem. “Many of the youth have not had a fair opportunity to succeed in life,” the website says.
The move to shut down Vintage Place is highly unusual. Since 2011, the state has revoked the license of only one other children’s residential services facility.
Staff researcher John Wareham contributed to this report.