The Abuse of the Developmentally Disabled by New York's State Employees

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    Mar 16, 2011 4:46 PM GMT
    This is horrifying and absolutely sickening. I don't see why other union members aren't completely up and arms about some of the people that are being protected. You would think it is ENTIRELY in their own interests to police their own.
    The New York Times, after a year-long probe, reports that residents of New York's group homes for the developmentally disabled -- some of society's most vulnerable citizens -- routinely fall victim to physical and sexual abuse.

    The abusers?

    According to the newspaper, those responsible for the residents' well-being -- the state employees who staff the homes.
    In 2009 alone, the Times reported, there were 13,000 allegations of abuse in state-operated and licensed homes -- with fewer than 5 percent referred, as required by law, to the police.

    Blame the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, for sure.

    But blame also the Civil Services Employees Association, the powerful union that regularly sabotages efforts to discipline even the worst offenders.

    And proudly so.

    "That's our job," boasted CSEA honcho Ross Hanna, "even when we know the person is guilty."

    And the union does that job well.

    Firings for cause are rare, no matter how egregious the offense.
    Instead, suspensions, fines or lost vacation time are the norm -- and abusive employees are simply shifted to different group homes, where they routinely abuse other patients.

    Megan McArdle has more, in part defending the unions - placing more blame on the rules in place and administrators:
    A friend whose son has autism sent me this absolutely horrific tale of abuse and neglect by New York State workers who are supposed to care for the cognitively disabled. These are unionized workers who are, like most of New York's civil service, very hard to fire. Naturally, the union fought as hard for them as it could. And so rather than fire them, many of their supervisors simply transferred them to other homes, even though offenses included punching their charges, throwing them against the wall, and sexually abusing them. The man who was caught standing between the legs of his disabled charge with his pants down and her diaper off describes himself as just waiting until he can collect his state pension.

    I say "naturally" the union defended them, and that could sound perjorative. But in fact, I don't think that the union believes it's okay to sexually abuse the vulnerable people you care for. I imagine the union leadership is appalled by many-to-all of these cases, and if the union members could vote, they would probably vote to expel the sort of people who routinely abuse and neglect their charges. But as I blogged last week in the context of the teachers' unions, the unions don't have any choice. The way things are set up now, unions effectively have a legal duty to represent their members as zealously as possible.

    Is there a fix for this? Well, in this case, there's at least a partial fix, which is that the administrators who run things can do the hard work of firing people who commit these sorts of vile crimes. The union doesn't have a choice, but the supervisors do. They don't have to pass the bad apples along; they can do the hard work of building a case, and firing these guys.

    But it's hard to find good people to work with developmentally disabled adults, and the disabled themselves have little voice. It's all too easy for agencies to turn a blind eye rather than getting into a nasty fight that will be embarrassing for everyone.
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    Mar 16, 2011 11:22 PM GMT
    I read the Times piece and it is truly horrifying.

    I do think that Meagan McArdle is on the right track. You can't blame the unions, who are legally bound to protect their members, for the fact that administrators and supervisors aren't doing their due diligence to build a case and get rid of these guys/gals.

    What I do NOT understand is why these matters aren't reported to the police. If someone is convicted of committing such a crime, they will not be able to work in these jobs anymore. That's what offends me.