County Official Talks About Group Home Problems, Review

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The director of the Franklin County Children Services says it’s “heartbreaking.”

He’s describing a teen who was living in a group home and who is now charged with murder.

The day 16-year-old Jordan Stewart faced murder charges in the stabbing of Jane Juergens was the day that set in motion a re-evaulation of how the group homes work within Franklin County Children Services.

Stewart was a resident of one of the homes. He was under supervision at the time of the crime that he’s accused of committing.

“That's what will be reviewed,” said FCCS director Chip Spinning.

They are reviewing how they place children in group homes, and how things like behavioral health issues, parole violations and care needs to be a factor in whether an unlocked environment is appropriate.

“And we're looking at level of supervision in place, staff training, are the kids needs being met...police reports and all those kinds of things,” he added.

10TV studied police calls to a group home in Whitehall in one year where officers had to visit 704 times, mostly for AWOL calls.

There were also Sheriff’s Office calls to the home in Blendon Township where Stewart lived. They included three assaults and three fights.

“Does it speak to an inability on the part of group homes if these incidents are happening?” asked 10TV’s Kristyn Hartman.

“I think we need to look at the entire system of group homes, look at each individual child in homes and are their care needs being met?” said Spinning.

Spinning says they are holding a summit in December to bring together everyone in juvenile justice, from group home operators to police.

The goal is finding ways to better serve the kids who end up in the system and the communities where they live.