Labor leader resigns union posts amid sexual assault investigation

Watchdog: Mich. withholds records on foster facility abuse claims

Francis X. Donnelly
The Detroit News

A watchdog group has filed a lawsuit against a Michigan agency for failing to turn over records of alleged abuse at a Detroit foster care facility for disabled children.

The watchdog, Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service, said it has received complaints about the Paul Martin Home for Boys about lack of treatment, missing children, frequent fights, neglect by staff and physical abuse by staff.

When MPAS tried to investigate the complaints, it alleges the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which licenses the foster facility, declined to produce records.

MPAS filed a federal lawsuit against the DHHS; its director, Nick Lyon; the Michigan Children's Services Agency; and its director Herman McCall.

The lawsuit asks a federal judge to require DHHS  to provide all reports, documents and records dealing with alleged victims, and to ensure the agency continues to follow state and federal laws during the investigation.

Bob Wheaton, a spokesman for DHHS, which oversees the Children's Services Agency, said Monday that he had to consult with the agency's legal services before making a comment.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a state audit that gave a scathing assessment of DHHS. The Michigan Auditor General's Office said earlier this month the agency struggled to respond to complaints on time, conduct required background checks and contact victims in a timely manner.

Gov. Rick Snyder responded to the audit by assigning a top aide to help the DHHS quickly improve its performance in the criticized areas.

In the federal lawsuit, MPAS disclosed several problems experienced by the Paul Martin Home for Boys.

Since January 2017, the police have handled 126 calls at the foster facility, mostly having to do with runaways and missing children.

In the past year, the state has issued 15 special investigation reports of the facility dealing with multiple problems there. Of the reports, only one was posted on the licensing's website, according to the lawsuit.

MPAS said in the lawsuit it has received allegations of a number of children disappearing for long periods of time, including several months.

MPAS said it also has received allegations of children who were suicidal or hurting themselves, with the children cycling in and out of psychiatric hospitals.