Child Haven struggles with capacity

A continued surge in the number of abused and neglected children at Clark County’s emergency shelter pushed it over capacity while state approval to raise its maximum population was pending.

On July 15, Child Haven received approval from Nevada’s child care licensing unit to increase its capacity to 70 from 56, according to Mary Woods, spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.

However, county officials were under the impression the shelter had received that approval in June.

Latisha Brown, state child care licensing manager, said earlier this month that Child Haven was “still in the process of coming into compliance with various items in order to get that approval.”

“You just can’t increase the capacity for a shelter,” she said. “Just like with any other shelter, fire and health have to inspect.” That ensures that a capacity increase won’t risk the health and safety of those at the shelter, she added.

After Child Haven’s population began to rise, Family Services in April submitted paperwork for a capacity increase to the state. Forty-seven children were staying at the shelter Monday. That number hit 83 in mid-April.

At the time, county officials said the increase was due to foster families going on vacation and needing a place to leave their foster children. An increase in child abuse reporting and investigations, and the need for foster parents also were cited as contributing factors.

On July 11, the number of children at Child Haven was 59, slightly pushing past its capacity of 56. At the time, Clark County spokesman Dan Kulin said state child care licensing had expanded Child Haven’s capacity to 70 on June 27.

But on July 16, Woods said state child care licensing did not approve the shelter’s capacity increase in June.

Clark county officials provided that information because they “believed it to be true” based on the information they had received from the state, according to Kristi Jourdan, Family Services spokeswoman.

“On June 24, the state said it would give us approval to increase to 70 pending (Southern Nevada Health District) approval,” she said in an email last week. “We received health district approval on June 27 and opened that same day thinking we were following what the state had told us.”

Child Haven was inspected on June 27 and was cleared, said health district spokeswoman Jennifer Sizemore. There were minor corrections needed because rooms had been remodeled, but the issues didn’t rise to the level of being a health threat, she said. Family Services was given until Sept. 27 to make those corrections.

On June 11, Child Haven was inspected by the Las Vegas Fire Department on behalf of the State Fire Marshal’s division, and no deficiencies were found, said Peter Mulvihill, state fire marshal.

Regardless of when the capacity increase was granted, Family Services doesn’t have the ability to turn children away, Jourdan said.

The average length of stay at Child Haven is usually about two days, but that increased to about six days in March and April. On July 11, Kulin said the average length of stay was 12 days. The increase in the average length of stay is the result of the prolonged stays of several children, Kulin said.

Family Services offers foster parents monthly training focused on caring for children with special needs and behavioral issues, Kulin said. The agency also works closely with the state to ensure that Child Haven’s license complies with state regulations.

“Child Haven is an emergency shelter care and the answers to capacity are not always simple because the state and county are striving to ensure safety, care and shelter for children who are being removed from their families and homes,” Woods said.

Family Services continues to serve more children because of the increase in reporting and investigations, Kulin said.

In May, the agency received 2,035 child abuse and neglect referrals and conducted 1,054 child protective services’ investigations, according to a statistical overview posted on Family Services’ website. There were 66 substantiated child protective services’ investigations.

Children are removed from their homes when circumstances threaten their safety and well-being, Kulin said.

Family Services also continues to need quality foster homes, he said. The department has about 1,200 licensed foster homes and more than 3,000 children in the foster care system.

Melinda Munson, a Clark County foster mother, attended the Legislative Committee on Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice meeting Friday to ask the committee to support the adoption of a foster parents’ bill of rights, which would give more protection to foster parents and the children in their home. She believes that would also lead more foster parents to renew their licenses.

“I see so many foster parents quitting because of harassment and things they don’t have control over,” she said. “(Child Protective Services) has a big job. It’s overwhelming, but I see so many things that are detrimental. It’s discouraging.”

Contact Yesenia Amaro at yamaro@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0440. Follow @YeseniaAmaro on Twitter.