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Employees Defend MacLaren Shelter

April 18, 1985|RICH CONNELL | Times Staff Writer

MacLaren Children's Center workers on Wednesday defended the quality of child care at the much-criticized county facility and contended that many charges of child abuse are either unfounded or are based on misunderstandings of what actions are appropriate when dealing with children who are difficult to control.

At a press conference called by the union that represents most of the workers at the El Monte shelter for abused and neglected children, four employees insisted that they have seen no evidence of mistreatment, as alleged in news reports and by members of the county's Commission for Children's Services.

"The public doesn't really understand the mix of kids we have," said James Blayde, a counselor at the center. He and other workers said many of the children there are emotionally disturbed or have severe behavior problems and have been placed at MacLaren as the "house of last resort."

Richard Shumsky, president of the deputy probation officers union, said that some "well-intentioned" critics of the facility have incorrectly interpreted "acts of kindness," such as physically restraining disturbed children and placing them in sparsely furnished "quiet rooms," as mistreatment.

Shumsky said some allegations, including a recent report by a television station that a prostitution ring may be operating out of the center, appear to be old, "recycled" charges that have previously been discredited.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors requested a county grand jury investigation of the facility.

Shumsky said that investigation is supported by the union because workers have nothing to hide.

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