2 Retarded Clients Living in Care Home Once Closed by State
A community care home for the mentally retarded in South-Central Los Angeles--closed by state officials two years ago because of alleged failure to provide proper care to clients--has been illegally operating for months with the knowledge of state licensing officials and private social workers for the developmentally disabled, state officials acknowledge.
One of two retarded residents now living in the Lois L. Jones Family Home on West 63rd Street gave birth there to a child who drowned in a toilet before the facility was closed. The woman--who records indicate has the mental capacity of a 10-year-old child--now has a 9-month-old baby living with her in the facility. State Department of Social Service licensing officials consider that situation potentially dangerous for the residents and infant.
About half a dozen clients were removed from the home in the spring of 1987 after years of substandard care, state licensing officials said. Inspectors maintained that the memory of Lois L. Jones, operator of the home, had become so impaired that she could not give proper care to the clients. Officials also charged that Jones’ son, who has a record of committing violent crimes, was living in the home and posed a potential threat to residents.
The most dramatic and tragic allegation made by state inspectors was that on Jan. 23, 1986, a client--call her Jane for reasons of confidentiality--gave birth to an 8-pound baby boy in a bathroom of the home; the child drowned in the toilet and was put outside in the trash. Jones apparently was in another room of the house when the baby was born and later told police that she was not even aware that the client was pregnant.
Another Baby Born
When the home was closed more than a year later, Jane and another client--call her Mary--were placed in the Salubrium Living Center, a large rundown home for the retarded and mentally ill in a tough neighborhood on West Washington Boulevard. In May, Jane gave birth to another baby at that facility. Jane, 35, and Mary, 41, then moved back into the Jones Family Home along with the baby, against the advice of their social workers.
The South Central Los Angeles Regional Center--a private, nonprofit agency responsible for providing state-funded services to the developmentally disabled--has been aware for nine months that its clients, Jane and Mary, had moved back into the Jones Family Home.
But officials at the center say that the adult women do not have legal guardians and therefore have the right to refuse social workers’ advice and may live wherever they choose, regardless of how vulnerable they may be to exploitation. Officials of the regional center also say that they were under no obligation to report to state licensing inspectors that the clients had moved into the unlicensed home.
‘No Need to Inform’
“There would be no need to inform them because we don’t have a relationship with the facility (Jones Family Home),” said Dexter A. Henderson, director of the regional center.
Social Security disability checks are used to pay the nearly $500 per month each woman is charged to live in the Jones home.
Officials of the state Department of Social Services, the agency responsible for licensing most homes for the retarded, say that the women may indeed have the right to live wherever they choose, but Lois Jones does not have the right to provide them with what the state defines as “care and supervision” without a license. They also say that regional center social workers should have informed licensing officials when the clients moved back into the facility in May.
But state licensing officials in Los Angeles--after learning in September that the home was again in operation--did not take action for months, despite concern for the safety of Jane’s baby as well as that of the women residents.
“I was afraid of child endangerment,” acknowledged Leo Riske, licensing program supervisor in the Los Angeles office of the state Department of Social Services.
On Jan. 9--three months after learning that the women and baby were in the home--state licensing officials notified the Los Angeles County Department of Children’s Services that they were concerned over the welfare of the infant. Children’s services officials refused to divulge details of any investigation into the case, citing privacy regulations.
Anita Blyth, Los Angeles district manager of state community care licensing, said she waited until last week--when The Times inquired into the status of the Jones home--to ask attorneys in Sacramento to begin the time-consuming process of seeking an injunction to close the facility. Asked why she had not acted sooner, Blyth said, “I guess it’s just a matter of training staff and keeping up with all the other cases we have to keep up with.”
In the meantime, the 65-year-old Jones, who can’t remember such details as her own age, is often left in charge of Jane’s baby while Jane attends a day program sponsored by the regional center. Jones’ son, whose criminal record reportedly includes assault with a deadly weapon, battery and burglary, lives in a house behind the facility and eats meals in his mother’s home.
Jane says she has had a total of three children, including a baby born while she was living at a community care home in Little Rock, Calif., several years ago. She said she gave up custody of that child.
When Jane and Mary were relocated from the Jones home to the Salubrium, they found themselves in a neighborhood frequented by street hoodlums and drug dealers who frequently victimized residents of the home, according to Bobbie Jean Hopkins, operator of the facility.
The father of Jane’s most recent child is a man she met in front of a liquor store one day on her way back to the Salubrium from church.
The Salubrium has a long record of substandard conditions in the files of the state Department of Social Services. There are several pages listing citations for broken-down furniture, stained and worn mattresses and rooms needing cleaning and repainting. Licensing officials have scheduled a meeting for Tuesday to warn Hopkins to clean up the facility.
A source familiar with the case said that Salubrium staff members nailed boards over the window of the shabby little room that Jane and Mary shared in an attempt to keep Jane’s boyfriend out of the facility at night.
Jane gave birth to the baby in her room at the Salubrium late in May and she and the infant were subsequently taken to a hospital by ambulance. When Jane left the hospital with her new child, she was taken by the infant’s father to the Jones Family Home because she feared she would not be allowed to keep the baby at the Salubrium. Mary, who sources say is mildly retarded and mentally ill--as well as being militant in her pursuit of freedom of choice--followed Jane to the Jones home the next day.
Women’s Desires Cited
Both women are adamant in their desire to stay at the Jones Family Home, which is a pleasant-looking Spanish-style house in a residential neighborhood. Jane and Mary share a cluttered bedroom, where the baby, who has no crib, sleeps with her mother.
The case of Jane and Mary, say some advocates for the retarded, not only demonstrates the shortage of well-run community facilities and the frequent lack of communication between agencies serving the developmentally disabled, but also illustrates the conflict between the rights of retarded adults to freedom of choice as opposed to their need for protection against harm and exploitation.
Henderson of the South Central Los Angeles Regional Center says that his social workers counseled Jane on birth control, but says that she ignored the advice.
Joseph Rhine, managing attorney for the Southern California Protection and Advocacy--a federally funded legal agency responsible for protecting the rights of the retarded--insists that people such as Jane have the right to live where they choose and to engage in sexual relationships with or without birth-control precautions.
“Some people would argue that someone with an IQ of a 10- or 11-year-old shouldn’t be having a baby. . . . I disagree with that vehemently,” he said.
Some Are Good Parents
“Some will be good parents,” he said, “and some will be bad parents. . . . She (a retarded woman) has the right to feel sexual urges. . . . How is that different from the secretary who goes to a bar at night?”
The difference is that public and private agencies are being paid with taxpayer funds to protect retarded clients from exploitation, says Frederic Hougardy, executive director of the Assn. for Retarded Citizens of California, a private organization that works for programs on behalf of the developmentally disabled.
“The tendency has been, when things get tough, for the care givers and other professionals involved to hide behind the clients’ constitutional rights to do as they please,” Hougardy said.
“If all these people are powerless to prevent these destructive events from happening to their clients,” he said, “maybe we should cash in their salaries and then clients could afford to live out of these slums and won’t have half these problems, anyway.”