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Sexual touching investigated as youth went out of control on roof at state detention facility

State revoked private company's care license
Posted at 6:36 PM, Jul 18, 2018

JEFFERSON COUNTY – The state suspended the license of a private company operating a youth detention facility Monday after staff lost control of teen girls, according to state records reviewed by the Contact7 investigators.

Rite of Passage, Inc. operated the Betty K. Marler Youth Service Center at West Hampden Ave. and South Wadsworth Blvd. until the state determined the youth detained there were no longer safe.

The decision came after the youth refused to return to their units after time outside on July 7 and instead climbed on top of the roof of a vacant building, a state report says.

“Youth were threatening to assault anyone who approached them. One youth ran towards the roof’s edge and threatened to jump off and land on her head because she did not want to live anymore,” a state report on the matter reads.

At one point the state says residents removed their shirts and were sexually fondling each other and kissing.

Staff at the Betty K. Marler facility asked staff from the neighboring Mount View center to come and help them.

At some point Mount View staff could not reach Marler staff.

The report also says two youth were left alone on a bench outside. They were later found and were kissing, biting each other’s necks and sexually touching each other inside of their pants, the report says.

“Several residents had hickeys on and around their necks,” the report says.

After the youth were made to return to their units, the chaos continued.

Three youth broke a ceiling light and cut themselves with its glass.

The injuries were severe enough that they had to be taken to the emergency room and given stitches, the report says.

“[Colorado Department of Human Services] attempted to work with the contractor, which held a license to operate Marler as a secure residential treatment center, to correct identified issues,” Director of the Office of Children, Youth and Families Minna Castillo Cohen said. “Ultimately, CDHS determined that the program was no longer a safe environment for the girls it served.”

The state Department of Human Services issues a statement to Contact7 Investigates that said the decision to suspend the license of the facility was based on the incident that happened July 7.

“Those incidents endangered the safety of the youth in the facility’s care. Concurrently, the facility has been under a performance improvement plan with CDHS, which was in place at the time the facility’s license was summarily suspended,” Castillo Cohen wrote in the statement. “Given CDHS’s concern that the contractor was not actively addressing the risks associated with the care of the children and youth placed in the facility, and the risk to public health, safety, and welfare that resulted, CDHS suspended the license held by Rite of Passage to operate the Marler facility.”

Rite of Passage did not return a call for comment Wednesday.

The private company operates the Robert E. DeNier Youth Services Center, Ridge View Youth Services Center and Sage Youth Services Center, Department of Human Services spokeswoman Nourie Boraie said late Wednesday afternoon.

Parent not surprised

Melissa Marscellus says she is saddened to read the report about the facility where her daughter was sent after violating youth probation on a theft conviction.

“I’m not really surprised by any of it,” she said. “I’ve been bringing these things to anyone’s attention who will listen and no one has been listening. I’m glad someone is finally being held accountable.”

Marscellus said she has called the state’s child abuse hotline, spoken with supervisors at the facility and called supervisors at the Department of Human Services. She said she doesn’t believe her concerns have been addressed.

“We wanted our daughter to end up someplace safe and be off the streets,” she said.

Marscellus said she complained in one case after her daughter showed her bite marks up and down her arms.

Her daughter and the other youth at the all-girls facility have been moved elsewhere in the state. The state declined to say where.