Investigation details widespread abuse in New York group homes

New York’s network of more than 2,000 state-run group homes failed to report thousands of cases of abuse to law enforcement officials in 2009, in violation of state law, according to a recent New York Times’ investigation.

The yearlong investigation, released March 12, found that the system “operates with scant oversight and few consequences for employees who abuse (people with disabilities).”

“In hundreds of cases reviewed by The Times, employees who sexually abused, beat or taunted residents were rarely fired, even after repeated offenses, and in many cases, were simply transferred to other group homes run by the state,” according to the article.

The difficultly of firing abusive employees was attributed to, in part, to the Civil Service Employees Association’s zealous defense of its employees. Other significant factors were the lack of proper training by state-run employees and communication issues with people with disabilities alleging abuse by group home workers.

Of the 13,000 allegations of abuse in the state-run homes in 2009, fewer than 5 percent were referred to police. In sexual assault cases, only about a quarter was referred to the law enforcement officials.

The state initiated termination proceedings against 129 employees of the group homes, but succeeded in firing just 30 of them.

Upon learning of the Times’ findings, Gov. Andrew Cuomo fired the head and chief operating officer of the state’s Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons With Disabilities <link no longer available>.

The Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons With Disabilities is funded, in part, by the federally funded protection and advocacy system and is a member of the National Disability Rights Network.