Jill Marano, deputy administrator, Nevada Division of Child and Family Services
BY JOAN WHITELY -- Child Haven complied with all state policies and regulations, according to Jill Marano, a deputy administrator for the Nevada Division of Child and Family Services. Her office investigated the June 11 incident in which five children went missing for 24 hours.
The staff person at the emergency shelter used only words, and no physical contact, to attempt to deter the five Nicholas children from leaving Child Haven, where they had arrived earlier that same day. It took police a day to locate the siblings, who had travelled 10 miles across the valley and spent the night at large.
The youngest Nicholas child was 7 years old, the oldest was 14. Some of the siblings were wearing swimsuits and flimsy sandals when they left the shelter midday with an outdoor temperature over 100.
Child Haven operates under Nevada policy which is comparable to that of child shelters in other states, Marano added. It’s a federal requirement to keep (foster) children in the most home-like environment possible.
“Children aren’t locked up when they’re at home. We don’t want to lock them up when they’re in foster care,” is how Marano explained the policy to not physically restrain children who want leave the shelter where they’ve been placed while authorities investigate if they are victims of abuse or neglect at home.
“Even though they’re children, they still have civil rights,” the official said.
Marano says her investigation didn’t show negligence on the part of the staff.
“The children didn’t sneak away. There wasn’t a lack of supervision where someone didn’t know they had left,” Marano said. “There was a recognition that they were leaving. A staff person did try to stop them.”
The staffer used what Marano called “verbal de-escalation,” which entails trying to reason with the children to prevent their departure. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Child Haven employee followed the five children through a parking lot to the nearby Freedom Park, before returning alone to telephone police about the runaways.
Recruiting more foster homes in Southern Nevada is the best way to prevent sibling groups from running away from Child Haven, said Marano.