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Ongoing trouble at several youth homes in Citrus Heights draw questions

The front gate at one of Paradise Oaks’ youth facilities in Citrus Heights. The address has been blurred to protect the privacy of juvenile residents at the facility. // M. Hazlip

By Mike Hazlip—
A Citrus Heights youth organization is frequently listed in police call logs, with its group homes drawing questions and complaints from residents.

Paradise Oaks Youth Services operates at least two group homes in Citrus Heights, along with offices at 6060 Sunrise Vista Drive, records show. A review of the past 30 days of police incident logs shows seven entries on Sept. 6 at Paradise Oaks facilities on Rosa Vista Lane and Mariposa Avenue, largely dealing with missing person(s) reports — but also including two assault reports, including one that led to an arrest for battery.

Another five entries appear the next day on Sept. 7 regarding a missing person or persons, and another seven entries appear three days later on Sept. 10 at various Paradise Oaks facilities mostly relating to missing person(s), as well as another assault report. Numerous entries involving police activity at Paradise Oaks facilities in the city also appear in the logs throughout the month.

Police Lt. Michael Wells told The Sentinel in an Oct. 4 email that the department has had “a high volume of calls for service” from Paradise Oaks facilities, and that officers most frequently respond to reports of runaway juveniles from the locations. Police have also responded to calls for vandalism, fights among juvenile residents, assaults against staff, and other criminal acts, Wells said.

“While we cannot divulge specifics due to the sensitive nature of many of the calls for service, we have historically and continue to attempt to work collaboratively with this organization to address some issues that we have identified as those that their administration can remedy at their level instead of utilizing police resources,” Wells said.

The Sentinel contacted Paradise Oaks CEO Robert Pye asking for clarification on the organization’s policies and procedures for dealing with at-risk youth. Pye said the organization is licensed and serves adolescent boys and girls. His full statement to The Sentinel is included here:

“Paradise Oaks Youth Services provides residential and therapeutic services to Adolescent boys and girls referred to us by Sacramento County and other counties from throughout Northern California. Paradise Oaks is licensed by the State of California, Community Care Licensing Division and follows CCL regulations and the Foster Care Bill of Rights in the operation of its program,” Pye said.

His reply did not include a response to specific questions asked by The Sentinel regarding the organization’s policy for calling police, how many facilities the organization has in Citrus Heights, or how many youth are served by Paradise Oaks.

California’s Foster Youth Bill of Rights enumerates 41 rights that youth in the state’s foster care system have. Among the listed rights, youth in California’s foster care system have the right “to not be locked in any portion of their foster care placement, unless placed in a community treatment facility.” Youth also have the right to “trauma-informed and evidence-based deescalation and intervention techniques,” the document says. Law enforcement intervention should only be requested when there is “an imminent threat to the life or safety of a child or another person or as a last resort after other diversion and deescalation techniques have been utilized,” according to the bill.

City records show concerns from neighboring residents were raised during a May 10, 2018, City Council meeting. At the time, resident Sue Stack “addressed concerns with Paradise Oaks Youth Facility,” the meeting minutes show. Then-City Manager Chris Boyd informed the City Council that the Police Department “is looking into the issues and will provide an update to Council,” the document says. It is unclear whether that update was ever made.

Stack again raised concerns along with another resident, Joleen Hotter, during a Jan. 10, 2019, City Council meeting. The minutes from that meeting say Stack and Hotter both “expressed safety concerns regarding Paradise Oaks Youth Services.”

Another resident last month reached out to The Sentinel to ask whether police have any tools to issue fines or require reimbursement from organizations or locations who “overuse” police resources. Asked about this, Lt. Wells said “at this time, the CHPD does not receive any reimbursement compensation for call response.”

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