PUEBLO, Colo. - A child care facility in Pueblo has been shut down after reports of child abuse surfaced to the Department of Human Services.
Over the last year, El Pueblo Boys & Girls Ranch has had 11 repeat violations regarding use of physical restraints, six repeat violations regarding inappropriate discipline, 18 repeat violations of children's rights, and five repeat lack of supervision violations.
DHS requested on September 25 that El Pueblo Boys & Girls Ranch's license be suspended on the following grounds:
On July 20, the Department received a complaint stating that the "current Chief Executive Officer of El Pueblo inappropriately restrained a child." The Chief Executive Officer also submitted false and misleading documentation to the Department regarding the incident.
In August, another report made to DHS stated that a child ran from El Pueblo and rode in the back of a train for at least one hour. The child claimed that he was being bullied and that the staff would not intervene. He also said El Pueblo wasn't providing adequate medical attention.
About a month later, a third report was made that staff at El Pueblo weren't giving a "high needs" child all the necessary medications he/she required and that the child left the facility with an unexplained burn.
Also during the month of September, a child who was supposed to be under one-on-one supervision was left alone and escaped out a window. It took at least an hour to find the child.
On September 20, a staff member allegedly physically abused a child. "Staff pulled the child's hair, scratched the child, and elbowed and kneed the child's body," according to DHS' order of summary suspension document. Staff is also being accused of punching that child in the mouth around the same time.
A day later, a child with disabilities was reportedly rolling around the ground and staff was told by administrators not to intervene. The order of summary suspension paperwork says that over a time frame of around 25 minutes, the child ended up biting their own arms and legs, resulting in bleeding wounds and pulled off his or her own skin and was chewing and eating it.
DHS says that it has also received several reports that more than one child at El Pueblo had attempted suicide. DHS was also notified that children were showing significant weight loss after leaving El Pueblo and that the children were expressing they were hungry.
DHS sent the following statement to KRDO NewsChannel 13:
"DHS is working with the agencies who have placed children at El Pueblo, as they are moved to other placements as quickly as possible. All children and youth will be moved before CDHS staff leave the facility. While the specific locations are confidential, all children and youth will be moved to licensed facilities (other residential child care facilities, group homes or group centers), certified providers (foster care homes), or with their parent/guardian, if appropriate."
El Pueblo Boys & Girls Ranch located at One El Pueblo Ranch Way in Pueblo, Colo. opened January 1, 1995. It applied for a license continuation around the time of March 17, 2017.
El Pueblo released the following statement on September 28:
"The leadership and staff of El Pueblo… an Adolescent Treatment Community would like to express our deep concern over recent allegations of misconduct regarding treatment of children enrolled in our clinical and education programs. We believe that every child, regardless of age or situation, deserves a safe environment. This is why we are, and have always been, dedicated to the protection and safety of youth in our care. At El Pueblo we provide safety first, followed by focused care to stabilize youth facing behavioral health crises. For over 57 years, we have worked with children struggling with very serious mental, emotional and behavioral problems from very difficult backgrounds and who are often in crisis. We focus on helping youth stabilize their thoughts and emotions, and gain skills in controlling their own behavior, with the goal of helping youth move on to the next phase of care within 90 days — and we have historically had great success in meeting that objective. All youth and their situations are unique, but every child and family that comes through our doors is approached with respect and compassion. We are thankful to the partners, supporters, families and youth in our care, and we will take a diligent approach to the resolution of this matter. We have been proud to serve the city of Pueblo and our outlying communities, and will take a step back to assess the situation and see how we can best serve this community."