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Group Home Chain on Probation Gets $35,000 State Grant

Times Staff Writer

The operator of a chain of group homes for the retarded that is on state Department of Social Services probation for alleged poor care and supervision of its clients has been awarded a $35,000 state grant to develop a “model curriculum” to teach retarded people how to take care of their children.

The grant was awarded last month to Social Vocational Services, headquartered in Torrance, by the Harbor Regional Center. The center, also based in Torrance, is one of a group of private nonprofit agencies around California under contract with the state to arrange services for the developmentally disabled.

Investigation Urged

News of the grant sparked an angry call for a state investigation from the Assn. of Retarded Citizens of California.

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“I am dumbfounded that any regional center could take such a step,” said Fred Hougardy, executive director of the influential private association that lobbies and provides services for the retarded.

Hougardy also questioned the need for developing a curriculum for developmentally disabled parents, pointing out that his organization already runs such a program in San Diego County.

The money for the grant comes from a Department of Social Services fund made up of federal dollars and fees that parents of the retarded in California pay for services.

Pat Del Monico, director of the Harbor Regional Center, said Social Vocational Services was the only agency to bid on the training program curriculum. She contended that the company’s probationary status is irrelevant.

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“My reaction,” she said of Hougardy’s call for an investigation, “is SVS is licensed to provide services and does provide services to hundreds of clients and as long as they are licensed to do that and they submitted a (bid) that was in keeping with our requirements, then they are a perfectly appropriate contractor for us.”

Del Monico said she was not familiar with the Assn. of Retarded Citizens’ program for developmentally disabled parents in San Diego County.

She said Social Vocational Services will study how such programs are run in other parts of the country and subcontract some of the research with the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute.

Social Vocational Services is run by Edward T. Dawson and his wife, Marcia, a former caseworker with the Harbor Regional Center.

The Dawsons also operate a company called Developmental Services Assn. in San Mateo County.

The Department of Social Services placed 13 group homes operated by the two companies on probation for 18 months late last year.

State attorneys accused the Dawsons of repeatedly failing to provide proper supervision and care for retarded clients living in their group homes. There were also accusations of physical and sexual abuse by staff members.

Edward Dawson has stated that any problems of care and supervision have been corrected.

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But in January, a regional center in Orange County canceled a $1.7-million contract with Social Vocational Services to run a work training program for the retarded after an incident in which a male client was allegedly sexually molested in a park restroom.

Edward Dawson denied allegations that the client was improperly supervised.

Edward Dawson faces a lawsuit in San Mateo County claiming damages over the alleged sexual molestation last year of a female group home resident by a staff member on parole for armed robbery. Dawson has stated in response that “an allegation doesn’t mean it’s true.”

Dawson did not return calls from The Times regarding his new grant.


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