Ex-detention center director hired at child welfare agency

November 15, 2017

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — An administrator who resigned his post at Rhode Island’s juvenile detention center following a melee has been put in charge of training for the state’s child welfare agency.

The Department of Children, Youth and Families conducted a review of the Rhode Island Training School after a chaotic disturbance in July left two children and six staff members injured. Lawmakers discussed it Tuesday.

The Providence Journal reports Democratic Rep. Patricia Serpa asked about ex-executive director, Kevin McKenna.

He’s now head of workforce development, according to DCYF. Director Trista Piccola said that while McKenna wasn’t successful leading the detention center, “that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have other skills.”

Serpa, chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee, said she couldn’t fathom how an administrator who was in charge during a riot would be a good choice for that post.

Authorities said the incident involved one or more juveniles refusing to go to their room and a staff member being assaulted by residents using a broomstick and a chair.

Serpa said Wednesday that of all the agencies lawmakers are overseeing, they have perhaps the greatest concern for DCYF.

“It’s troubling to think that children are at serious risk due to the inadequacies of a state agency,” she said.

DCYF also told lawmakers that union negotiations stalled plans to give the detention center’s workers uniforms and utility belts with portable radios.

Officials have said the casual attire of staff is a concern because it’s difficult to quickly tell the difference between workers and residents. The detention center expects the issue to be resolved this month.

The assessment of the detention center cited challenges prompted by inconsistent oversight, an unclear reporting hierarchy and staffing deficits. It revealed that staff training, data collection and reporting methods, security equipment and the array of programming for youth need improvement.

Police also were called to the Cranston facility in May after four workers were injured in a melee.

Piccola told lawmakers that youth at the center are now housed in one facility instead of two to enhance safety and security and a state police captain was dispatched there to look for safety issues.

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