VANCOUVER — Citing safety concerns, Washington state is in the process of removing all children and teenagers placed in New Vision Programs group homes like the one formerly proposed in Seaview.

New Vision is fighting the relocations with a lawsuit filed last week in Thurston County. It is arguing that the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), which oversees foster care, hasn’t told the company what it is doing wrong.

Randy Hart, deputy assistant secretary for the state Children’s Administration, said the state can place foster children wherever it wishes. And because DSHS “has not at this time suspended, revoked, modified or not renewed your license. … There is no legal basis to appeal this decision. This decision is discretionary on the part of my agency, and is not an appealable licensing action.”

In April, the Pacific County Board of Commissioners voted 3-0 to deny a request from the company to allow it to covert the former Lion’s Paw Bed and Breakfast into a foster home for up to five teenage boys. Commissioners found the proposed use did not fit with the property’s community commercial zoning. The building — which once served as a small hospital — has now been listed for resale.

New Vision’s business model relies on charging the state to house and supervise young people who have been “kicked out of foster care” because of persistent misbehavior. It operates two homes in the Vancouver area, two near Olympia, and two in Clackamas County, Ore.

Without revoking New Vision’s license, DSHS is in effect putting the company out of operation by withdrawing all Washington children from its five locations, including at least two who were in Clackamas.

The Columbian and Olympian newspapers both waded into the issue last Friday.

“We have removed nine children, and served notice that we plan to remove six more,” DSHS spokesman Thomas Shapley told the Columbian.

Shapley provided documents alleging “a number of serious incidents and safety concerns — all of them in 2012. The allegations include everything from an assault and suicide attempt to staff members who reportedly left their houses unsupervised and had not passed state-required background checks before supervising foster children.

“The decision to no longer place children at the facility was based solely on the safety of children,” Shapley’s assistant, Chris Case, said Friday. “We need to make sure that children under our supervision are safe. Based on the additional complaints and information from our comprehensive review, we are concerned about the safety of these children and are in the process of moving them to other placements.”

New Vision staff, including Program Director Trent Hall, who testified at Pacific County zoning hearings, say they feel the rug has been unfairly pulled from under them.

“There was a lot of communication and collaboration to make things better,” New Vision Executive Director Andre Karam said. “And then they came in and took the kids.”

Staffers told the Columbian that the kids were upset about the sudden change. “Three of my boys were crying, one was barricaded in bed because he didn’t want to get stolen away in the middle of the night,” a house manager said.

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