The state has revoked the license of a second foster home overseen by an embattled placement agency, after a 12-year-old girl was raped in the home last year.
Meanwhile, the agency, Family Alternatives, on Monday appealed the state’s decision to revoke its license. The Department of Human Services took that action Friday following its investigation into the death in December of 6-year-old Kendrea Johnson, who was found hanging from a jump rope tied to a bunk bed in a Brooklyn Park foster home licensed by Family Alternatives.
Joan Riebel, the executive director of Family Alternatives, said her agency is being scapegoated for Kendrea’s death.
“That’s the feedback I’m getting from my colleagues. [They’re saying] we’re the sacrificial lamb,” Riebel said Monday. “This is a much bigger issue than us.”
Family Alternatives, a Minneapolis nonprofit, is paid about $2.6 million each year from counties and the state to oversee 69 foster homes. The DHS investigation found that Family Alternatives failed to investigate numerous violations at Kendrea’s foster home, operated by Tannise Nawaqavou. Her foster license also was revoked.
The revocation order for Family Alternatives also refers to violations at another home. In that case, a 12-year-old girl was placed in a Coon Rapids foster home operated by Patricia Ann Woodard, according to juvenile court and state records. While there, 23-year-old Evans Ongera, a former foster child in the home, repeatedly raped the girl in April and May 2014, state records show.
Ongera pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal sexual conduct in February and is expected to be sentenced in April.
In its order revoking Woodard’s license, DHS said that she allowed Ongera to stay in the home despite being investigated for rape. DHS also determined that “two additional adult individuals that visited your home had sexual contact with foster children in your care.”
Woodard was aware of the sexual contact, according to the DHS revocation, but she failed to immediately report it either to Anoka County or Family Alternatives as required.
Woodard could not be reached for comment Monday.
According to DHS records, Family Alternatives was told in May about numerous other problems in the home, including that children were taken on outings where a former foster child used drugs, and that Woodard was aware that children smoked marijuana.
Family Alternatives failed to investigate all but one of the complaints, DHS said.
DHS had sanctioned Family Alternatives in September for failing to investigate the reported abuse in Woodard’s home, records show. Family Alternatives then investigated, took corrective action, and in October recommended that DHS take action against Woodard’s license.
Asked why it took six months for DHS to revoke Woodard’s license, DHS spokeswoman Karen Smigielski said no foster children were living in the home after July 2014.
At a third foster home, DHS said Family Alternatives failed to investigate after two foster children used electronic devices to make contact with gang members, met with them and were sexually assaulted.
Riebel said Monday that her agency did respond to that incident, but Family Alternatives did not take any action against the home because the foster parents no longer allowed the foster children to have unsupervised access to electronic devices.
“To say we did not investigate a licensing complaint is not telling the whole story,” Riebel said.
Now that Family Alternatives has appealed its revocation, the agency can continue to operate for at least 90 days. Riebel said she is unsure what will happen to the children in the 69 homes the agency oversees.
Last week, DHS Inspector General Jerry Kerber said the agency will work with Hennepin County to ensure that children in those homes are safe and only move them if necessary.