BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A 12-year-old boy has been arrested after allegedly sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl while she was housed at a group home for children that falls under Louisiana's foster care system.
"I'm angry, upset," said the mother of the girl. "I'm trying not to cry," she added.
The woman, who we are not identifying to protect the identity of her daughter, says her two daughters were put into Louisiana's foster care system about four months ago due to her own mental health issues.
Her 7-year-old daughter was recently placed at Parker House, a licensed co-ed therapeutic behavioral group home for children ages 3 to 13. The facility is run by Volunteers of America (VOA), and according to their website, can house up to eight children at a time. The website also says the foster children in their care "have been diagnosed with a severe behavioral disorder or a mental illness." A spokesperson for that group said their services are under contract with Louisiana's Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).
The young girl's mother says that her daughter was assaulted the night of Saturday, April 8. "The little boy walked in the room while she was asleep," she said. Now, she wants to know how this could happen. "Where was the staff when this went on," she asked. "The staff didn't realize the little boy was missing while my daughter was asleep? That could have happened to anybody."
Confidentiality laws are so strict that DCFS says it cannot comment on or even acknowledge a possible abuse investigation involving a child in their care. "DCFS contracts directly with Volunteers of America to provide therapeutic foster care services in single-family foster homes," the statement said. "VOA's Parker House is a Therapeutic Group Home which is a residential facility that is licensed by Louisiana Department of Health. It is certified, credentialed, and contracted for treatment services with the Healthy Louisiana health plans."
A custody hearing was held Thursday, April 20 to determine whether the child should be returned to the care of her mother. At this point, DCFS and the mother's attorney say they cannot comment further due to confidentiality laws.
Director of communications for DCFS wanted to clarify the nature of the relationship between Parker House and Volunteers of America with DCFS. Her statement reads:
"We take any allegations of abuse and neglect against children extremely seriously. In general, DCFS investigates cases that are reported to us that involve a parent or caretaker and meet the definition of abuse and neglect. Per Louisiana law, information about reports, if they exist, are confidential and cannot be shared," said Catherine Heitman, DCFS press secretary.
The Baton Rouge Police Department confirms that a boy, age 12, who was not identified because he is a minor, was arrested for sexual battery of a 7-year-old girl at the address of the group home. The boy was booked into a juvenile detention center.
"We are cooperating with the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services. Because of the confidentiality we maintain for our residents, there is nothing more we can say at this time," said Allison Traxler, vice president and chief development officer for Volunteers of America, in a statement.
The victim's mother has hired an attorney to look into the case. Her attorney, J.P. Gorham, sent this statement: