Woodbury Reports Archives

strugglingteens.com 

The Internet's leading source of information on emotional growth schools & programs


Archives Contents

Archives Home
Contents by Year
      1989 - Present
Contents by Topic
      Industry News
      Schools & Visits
      Opinions & Essays

Archives Search

The easiest way to find information is by using our search function. Just type in the words you would like to search for and you'll get a list of articles related to your topic.

Site Index

Home
Schools & Programs
Online Discussion
Resources
Newsletter
Online Store
Contact Us

News & Views - Feb, 1996 Issue #38 

WHAT HAPPENED AT SKYLAND RANCH ?
By: Dave Pitkin Founder Skyland Ranch
Gold Bar, WA
360-793-2611 

The Skyland Story is one of POWER and an agency run amok. It begins in the early 1990's when we began to have boys, placed by their parents, into our facility which at that time was a clean and sober environment for people of all ages who were trying to live a program of sobriety. 

We believed that, because we were not taking any government money, we did not have to deal with any licensing agency. In fact, an obscure ruling by the United States Attorney General about the impact of the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC) drew us into the web. It was ruled that for purposes of the ICPC, "parents" were "agencies" under the code. Before there can be approval for placement under the ICPC the receiving "agency" must be a licensed facility. 

Once this became clear, we began the licensing procedure which included a rezone of the land. 

In the years to follow, DSHS would review our progress and tell us when we were doing it wrong. They would not tell us how to do it right however. We continued to try to reinvent the wheel up until July 21, 1994. At that time we had a meeting with DSHS and they told us what their concerns were. Mostly they had to do with the function of our Program Supervisor. We entered into a letter agreement, prepared for our signatures by DSHS, dated July 22, 1995 which stated that if we accomplished certain tasks by February 4, 1995, a general license would be issued. 

We began to work to bring ourselves into compliance with the agreement of July 22nd as quickly as we could. During September of 1994 the building was inspected and there were only a few, minor criticisms. On November 2nd and 3rd of 1994, just three months into the six month agreement we were inspected by 5 people from DSHS, and it was a hatchet job. On the second day, the Director of Substance Abuse, DSHS Region 3, Dick Jones, was also on the facility. 

Mr. Jones asked us to become a short term "treatment center for adolescents". It was stated that we had little to do to bring ourselves into compliance and that he would "grandfather" Christine, my wife, and my college hours so that we could be licensed as Chemical Dependency Counselors without the practicum. He said, "we will fill you up and you will make more money". I declined, stating my belief that short term treatment is not generally effective for young addicts and alcoholics. I told him that if I were in it for the money I would be practicing law in San Diego. Mr. Jones agreed that the program at Skyland Ranch was unique to the state of Washington. HE ALSO EXPRESSED CONCERN THAT WE DID NOT REFER RESIDENTS WHO SUFFERED A RELAPSE TO SOME STATE AGENCY, rather than deal with it ourselves. 

Seven days later we received a 27 page notice that our provisional license was being revoked. We were served at 4:10 PM on November 10, 1994, the Thursday before Veteran's Day, and were told that we had to have the residents off the ranch by midnight on Sunday. In the 50 working minutes left I had filed a hand written appeal in Olympia by FAX. 

DSHS moved for a summary suspension on the spurious grounds that our residents were in danger. A hearing was held in 10 days. A letter was received from parents of each of the 11 residents indicating that the parents had been to the ranch, had observed the conditions there, had observed the improvement in their sons due to their stay at the ranch and asked that the facility not be closed. The motion for summary suspension was denied. DSHS was fit to be tied. 

They moved again for summary suspension of different grounds two weeks later and that motion was also denied. 

At the time of the first motion for summary suspension the DSHS licensor assigned to us informed us that he had been directed NOT TO ASSIST US IN ANY WAY WITH OUR EFFORTS TO ABIDE BY THE AGREEMENT OF JULY 22, 1994

Pending a trial of the matter, we hired a consultant who had dealt with governmental agencies in the past and continued our efforts to abide by the agreement. At the time of trial we offered proof, point by point, demonstrating that the deficiencies alleged to exist on November 2, 1994, were not true or had been corrected. 

THE TRIAL JUDGE FOUND THAT WE HAD REACHED A STATE OF FULL COMPLIANCE WITH THE WASHINGTON ADMINISTRATIVE CODE BY THE TARGET DATE OF FEBRUARY 4, 1994 AND ORDERED DSHS TO GRANT OUR GENERAL LICENSE. 

DSHS appealed that ruling, and interesting enough under Washington Administrative Law the appellant tribunal is DSHS itself. THE ISSUE ON APPEAL WAS SIMPLY WHETHER OR NOT THE AGENCY WAS BOUND BY ITS AGREEMENT OF JULY 22, 1994. DSHS had until June 30, 1995 to file its appeal. It asked for an extension of time until August 22, 1995. We heard nothing for many months. By this time we had been operating for 9 months without a visit from DSHS. 

On a Wednesday in September we were notified that we were going to be inspected the following day. I said fine but you should be advised that we are in the middle of a remodel of the facility including the installation of wall to wall carpet and painting throughout. Seven people from Olympia descended upon us over the next two days. 

A report was filed which included comments about dirt on the floors, (observed since we had rolled up the carpets and hadn't cleaned the floors prior to their arrival) rolls of carpet in the hallways which might prove a hazard since these were fire escape routes, covers off electrical outlets (removed in order to paid the walls), tires which we use to make horse training courses, (alleged to be "potential habitant for rodents") AND THAT THE LIVING ROOM RUG HAD A STAIN ON IT

NOWHERE IN THE REPORT DID IT MENTION THAT ALL OF THE RESIDENT'S PERSONAL EFFECTS WERE PILED IN THE LIVING ROOM BECAUSE WE WERE REMODELING THE ENTIRE BUILDING, or that the stained living room rug was in the process of being replaced. 

On the 21st of December, 1995 we were notified that the reviewing DSHS employee had overturned the Law Judge's ruling and that we were being closed down. The ruling states simply that DSHS WAS NOT BOUND BY ITS AGREEMENT WITH US AND THAT THEY HAD THE POWER TO SHUT US DOWN in November of 1994. 

NOTHING IN THE ACTION OF DSHS IN CLOSING SKYLAND RANCH RELATES TO CONDITIONS WHICH ARE PRESENT NOW. IT IS NOT ALLEGED THAT WE ARE NOT NOW IN COMPLIANCE nor that our staffing is not adequate. 

The parents of all of our residents were served with a 22 page document containing allegations of conditions which were ALLEGED to exist in November of 1994, not with standing the fact that most of these were disproved at the trial by competent evidence. 

During the last two weeks we were inspected by a worker from the Child Protection Service who had never been on the ranch before. After his inspection he came to me and said, "this facility is clearly adequate, why are they closing you down"? I said, "OK Boys Ranch." He nodded his head, turned and left. 

The OK Boys Ranch was a facility in Olympia, funded by the state, where boys were placed by the state and monitored by DSHS. It was "Lord of the Flies" with allegations of physical and sexual abuse, known to DSHS, rampant. 32 boys from that facility sued the State of Washington and DSHS and collected a judgment in excess of 13 million dollars. In the past two months the Director, Assistant Director and Program Supervisor were indicted on 308 counts of Felony Child Neglect. The Attorney General made a public announcement that she would prosecute the individual DSHS licensor if she could. 

In a recent conversation with Scott Majors, the Assistant Attorney General assigned to this case, I expressed dismay that DSHS would seek to close down an agency which had done all that they had asked us to do. He said, "If you think the Department ever had any intention, other than to shut you down all along you are mistaken". I am reminded of a mentality which is that one kills that which one does not understand. 

That is the story. What about the future? We will continue to offer the quality program which we have in the past with two major exceptions. We will focus our attention on life skills so that the transitional adult can have a better chance living independently and we will not serve any residents under the age of 18, which takes us out of the umbrella of this unbelievable agency. 

Copyright 1996, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

Site and content copyright 1996 by Woodbury Reports Inc. All rights reserved.