RANDOLPH – An incident described as a small riot inside the Randolph Children’s Home on Sunday night has caused an uproar in the community and led the home’s staff members to take a renewed focus on problem prevention.
On Sunday, the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Department was notified there were 12 youths who ran away from the facility, which is operated under the supervision of the state Department of Youth and Family Services. Staff members found the youths hiding in the attic of a vacant building across the street and contacted authorities. Sheriff’s deputies and two state troopers rounded up the youths and brought them back to the facility.
Once they were led inside the building, the youths began shouting and eventually a riot ensued, as some of the youths attacked staff members, law enforcement and other residents. Police used pepper spray to break up the group and a 17-year-old boy was charged and taken into custody.
He was charged with first-degree rioting, second-degree criminal trespassing and disorderly conduct, and four additional youths were removed from the facility.
According to Jim Coder, Randolph Children’s Home chief executive officer, the four removed youths have been sent to a secure detention center in Buffalo because of their roles in the incident.
“We’re thankful no one was seriously hurt, but this is still a serious situation,” Coder said. “We have seventy-something kids here that are all doing well, and when something like this happens, it reflects poorly on them and us as a facility.”
Coder said when there is a problem with a resident, such as violent outbursts, they take action to have them transferred to a secure facility, although it isn’t the first option.
“Obviously we are here to help the children and we have a commitment to them, but we deal with many kids who have no permanent resources, such as a family that cares,” he said. “And when they act out, it is usually the same negativity that got them here in the first place, so we try to focus on that and preventing these types of situations.”
Coder said the facility is not licensed as a secure center, and that is the reason it can not simply put up a large fence or automatically lock the doors. What they can do, he said, is take a few of the actions they have taken in recent months to address the concerns of the community.
The Randolph Children’s Home has installed door buzzers, which notify staff members every time someone passes through it. They have also hired a security guard, Coder said, although he had not yet started his shift when the melee broke out Sunday night.
They have also instituted an opt-in system where anyone in the community can sign up to receive a call anytime a youth leaves the facility without notice.
“They can either sign up to be called 24-7 or up until 10 p.m.,” said Brad Sande, development director at the Children’s Home. “At first, only a few people signed up for the notifications but lately its been picking up.”
Coder said that although each situation and child is different, most problematic situations the staff handles can be attributed to one child taking a negative leadership position among the others. He said that the staff, who he commended for their work, will continue to work to prevent situations from becoming a full-blown incident.
“It seems that recently there have been more incidents than usual, but we are committed to safety and don’t take them lightly,” Coder said. “We are focusing on rooting out that negative leadership among the kids and working to ensure the safety of all the kids, the staff and the community as a whole.”
POSTED: June 3, 2009