YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Community News: South

SOUTH-CENTRAL : Foster Home Loses License; Abuse Cited

March 14, 1993|ELSTON CARR

After considering allegations of physical abuse of three boys living in a group foster home, a state administrative law judge has decided to revoke the home's operating license.

The judge's decision came two months after the Community Care Licensing Division of the state Department of Social Services suspended the operation of Harmony House, 1960 La Salle Ave., pending the administrative hearing to review the allegations.

In a four-page decision that resulted from three days of testimony by home residents, staff members and social services workers, Judge Robert A. Neher cited six incidents of physical abuse and corporal punishment that led to his decision.

The incidents included one occasion in the fall of 1992 when Cammie Turpin, the home's founder and director, reportedly hit a child with the cord from an electric iron. The same boy testified that Turpin slapped his face with her open hand in October, 1992.

In another reported incident, Mary Pettway, a staff member, allegedly hit a third child in the face with the boy's own hands while holding his wrists, and later struck his hands against a wall.

Turpin and Pettway denied the allegations.

The three boys have been placed in other foster homes.

Turpin, who opened the home Feb. 23, 1984, to serve emotionally and mentally disturbed children ages 6 to 17, said she has not decided whether she will appeal the ruling in civil court. "When I opened that home, I was concerned about taking care of these children," Turpin said. "There is no way I would run a home and abuse kids any more than I would abuse my own kids."

Pettway said that during the Dec. 16 incident, in which she reportedly tripped one of the boys and held his wrist, she was only trying to "restrain" him after he had threatened to jump out a second-story window.

But Neher rejected Pettway's interpretation of restraint and called the specific incidents threats "to the health, welfare and safety of the children in the facility."

"In aggravation of the above conduct it is also clear that other staff members used corporal punishment to get the younger or smaller children to obey orders; usually doing this under the guise of 'restraining' them," Neher said.

Turpin and her lawyer, Steve Bailey, called Neher's decision especially harsh because the allegations were the first to be lodged against the home. "I feel that it is unjustified," Turpin said. "If they want to close your home, they will find any reason."

But Kelly Hargreaves, a staff attorney for the Department of Social Services who represented the three boys, said that allegations were made against Harmony House on at least two other occasions. "I know I feel good in my heart that (abuse of children at the home is) not going to happen again," Hargreaves said.

Los Angeles Times Articles