By Daniel LeDuc
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 20, 2008; Page B04
A teenager sent by District officials to a Pennsylvania treatment center is suing the city after she was attacked and raped by a center employee.
The girl was attacked in 2005 when she was 16 and committed to an Oreland, Pa., facility operated by KidsPeace, which has centers throughout the country for youths with behavioral problems. Her lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, names the District and KidsPeace as defendants, claiming that they failed to protect her, and seeks $10 million.
The District sends many troubled teenagers out of state for treatment, though child advocates have said it is difficult to determine how many because various city agencies oversee the youths and their efforts are not coordinated.
Adequate care and supervision of those youths has long been a concern of advocates who say the farther they are from the District, the harder it is for them to be properly monitored.
"It's difficult for judges and case workers here to know what's going on," said Jennifer Lev, an attorney for University Legal Services, which monitors youth with developmental needs but is not involved in the lawsuit.
According to the suit, which was filed this month and first reported by the D.C. Examiner, the girl had been committed by the D.C. Department of Child and Family Services to KidsPeace for behavioral and mental health treatment.
On Aug. 10, 2005, a KidsPeace employee sexually assaulted her, the lawsuit said.
The Washington Post typically does not identify sexual assault victims.
Jerry McChristian, then 34, pleaded guilty to institutional sexual assault and corruption of a minor. In November 2006, he was sentenced to one to two years in Lehigh County Prison in Pennsylvania.
"We discovered it. We immediately reported it to the authorities," said KidsPeace spokesman Mark Stubis. "It goes against everything we stand for."
He said McChristian, who had passed background checks, had been working for the organization for three weeks at the time of the attack. McChristian was fired after the assault.
Interim D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles did not return a call seeking comment yesterday on the lawsuit.
The District has had concerns about KidsPeace recently. Last year, it inspected the Oreland facility after Pennsylvania child welfare authorities reported a pattern of serious injuries there resulting from restraints used on some youths.
D.C. Child and Family Services reported in September 2007 that none of the children in its custody at the facility had been injured. Last fall, however, Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee ordered that the school system not send any of its troubled students to KidsPeace.
Stubis said the facility uses the "minimal amount of restraint possible. . . .
Injuries do occur -- they are rare."
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Teen Sent for Treatment Sues City After Being Raped - washingtonpost.com