One boy drowned; sex abuse alleged
COLUMBUS - The state wants to revoke the license of a
company that operates 15 group homes in Ohio for troubled children,
including one in Columbus where an autistic boy drowned in a
The Department of Job and Family Services accuses ViaQuest
Behavorial Health of violations of several state regulations,
including an instance when one boy allegedly sexually abused another
boy after the two had been left unattended. The state also said the
company failed to comply with a plan created after Kasey Warner, 13,
of Westerville, was found dead in 10 inches of bath water on Oct. 8,
"These are kids with serious problems," said Rick Smith, deputy
director of the Department of Job and Family Services' Office for
Children and Families. "We have to protect them from acts that could
result in further abuse, including death, injury, illness, neglect
ViaQuest - which houses up to 65 children total
at homes in Columbus, Mentor, Painesville, Westerville and
Willoughby - said some problems could be attributed to the difficult
children living at the facilities.
"We deal with the toughest kids around with the
most significant emotional, behavioral and psychiatric issues," said
Richard Johnson, founder and president of the company, which is
appealing the state's decision. "Incidents happen, but we
self-report everything to the state, which makes us look bad."
Chris Wolf, vice president of operations, said
Wednesday that the company has made mistakes and is working to
restore the state's confidence in ViaQuest. "I honestly feel they
are wanting to work with us," he said.
He said the company does dispute some of the
He said in the case of the boy who drowned,
there was no police finding of negligence.
In the matter involving the two boys, the
company feels there was no sexual assault, just two boys
misbehaving. Staff members who should have been watching the boys
were fired, Wolf said.
If ViaQuest loses its appeal, the children who
live in its facilities will have to be placed elsewhere.