State of RI Continues Relationship With Group Home Where Sex Trafficking Was Alleged

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The state of Rhode Island continues to do business with a group home where an employee was accused of sex trafficking. 

The group home was also accused by Jennifer Griffith, the state’s child advocate, of stonewalling her investigation into the matter, failing to keep any reliable records, and providing the children in their care with no treatment.

Griffith was at family court last year when she overheard a defendant tell a judge that her pimp worked at the group home. The judge arranged for Griffith to discuss the matter with the youngster, who told her that he worked at the Blackstone Valley Youth and Family Collaborative. 

The employee has since been arrested, but the group home remains in operation. 

“It didn’t seem like there was much being done there,” said Griffith. “Their records were basically notes in a notebook that accounted to nothing.”

The people being housed in that group home were being given almost no oversight and none of the treatment they would need to function as adults when they “age out” of the program, Griffith said. 

There are currently 9 residents living there. All have sued for different placements. The home is not allowed to accept new residents due to a court order. But it remains open, despite the very serious allegations. 

The state is spending roughly $260 per day, per person. That’s almost $1 million per year. 

But Trista Picolla, the state’s Director of the Department of Children, Youth, and Families refused to say why the group home remains open. Instead, she said that DCYF was giving the group home the ability to “engage in a corrective action plan.”

Legislators on the House Oversight Committee, Republicans and Democrats alike, were downright angry at Thursday night’s hearing.

Representative Jason Knight grilled Picolla on the issue. 

“It sounds like you’re basically saying that we’re going to give them a second chance,” said Knight.

“That’s what I’m saying”, said Picolla. 

Legislators on the bipartisan committee were alarmed, outraged, and horrified. 

“What more would Blackstone Valley have to do for the state to terminate the relationship,” Representative Blake Filippi asked. 

There was no solid answer forthcoming from the Gina Raimondo administration.

Representative Patricia Serpa, who chairs the committee pointed out that there is no sense of urgency.

“It just seems like we’re always being reactive not proactive. Where is the sense of urgency here,” said Serpa. “It basically sounds like they were running a criminal enterprise there.”

One state representative got emotional over the issue. 

“I am sitting here and I’m trying not to jump out of my skin,” said Representative Anastasia Williams. 

“They have been getting a million dollars from the taxpayers of this state every year. And they have been pimping our kids. And you’re going to tell me we are giving them a chance to come back from that,” said Williams.

“What is the fear? Who is getting the hookup here that we have to keep doing business with these people.”

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Russell Moore
Russell J. Moore is the publisher and founder of rirelevant.com. He’s been writing about Rhode Island since 2005. You should definitely follow him on twitter @russmoore713. If you want to send him email, you can send it to russmoore713@gmail.com
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