State Ignored Evidence Vs. Group Home Before Resident’s Death

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JOLIET, Ill. (CBS) –- A multimillion-dollar operation under state contract was supposed to be taking care of people with special needs. Instead, its employees are accused of fatally beating two residents and several incidents of abuse.

CBS 2’s Dave Savini investigates why action was not taken sooner to protect those who could not protect themselves.

Forty-two-year-old Paul McCann suffered a brutal beating in January. The man called a gentle giant, who functioned at the level of a 6-year-old, was punched, kicked, and struck with a frying pan inside his group home for reportedly taking a cookie. 

“I cannot believe that this terrible, terrible thing happened to Paul,” his mother, Lois McCann, says.

She took care of her son for as long as she could in her Joliet home. Then she put her trust in Graywood Foundation, a state-licensed group home in downstate Charleston. Two staff members from the facility have been charged in the brutal beating that led to his death. 

Kathy Slovick, Paul McCann’s sister, says she will never forget seeing his body covered in bruises.

“He was treated not like a human being,” she said. “He was treated like a punching bag.”

McCann was not the only victim at Graywood Foundation. State records obtained by CBS 2, which date back to 2003, reveal 33 cases of Graywood staff abusing residents. Those cases included sexual abuse, physical battery and alleged coercion of residents to attack each other.

Even worse, in 2008, a resident named Dustin Higgins was murdered by staff.  That death prompted an internal memo from the Illinois Department of Human Services Inspector General. The memo warned that Graywood residents were at risk amid an increase of serious allegations of abuse and neglect.

Lois McCann wants to know how the facility was allowed to continue operating with all of these findings.

“All those cases were founded, substantiated, and yet my son is dead because (DHS) did nothing about it,” she said.

State records also reveal regulators knew Graywood’s substantiated abuse rate was double the state average, yet DHS failed to close it down.

“The Department of Human Services failed,” Lois McCann said. 

Attorney Shawn Collins, who represents McCann, says state officials failed to listen to their own inspectors while continuing to fund Graywood’s operation with millions of tax dollars.

“You wonder — what is the state doing?” said Collins.  “It has literally created this place, allowed it to exist, licensed it, financed it, investigated it, knows it’s run atrociously and abusively and yet doesn’t shut it down.”

In a statement, DHS says the agency has now revoked Graywood’s multimillion-dollar state contract and is in the process of shutting down the operation. 

Graywood’s owner, Augustine Oruwari, did not return calls to CBS 2.

Now a state lawmaker is calling for a criminal investigation into Graywood.  He also is now working on legislation to protect folks who live in these types of facilities.

If Lois McCann finds any solace, it’s in this thought: “I know Paul is now in God’s kingdom. He’s happy now and he won’t be hurt anymore.”

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  • C. Clark

    I hope that Mr. Savini’s report puts a spotlight on this outrage, in order to ensure protection for the disabled who can’t speak for themselves. Where was the agency whose responsibility it was to monitor this facility while this was happening? There had to be earlier indicators of this egregious problem. Heartbreaking report, please update the viewers as you become aware of more information.

  • Dawn Schmied

    I am disgusted beyond words. As a special education teacher, and the wife of a man who works at a residential facility, this is a tragedy that should have NEVER happened. My heart goes out to Paul’s family, and the other families and residents.

  • tom sharp

    Where is our superstar Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, when we need her? Oh! That’s right, any crimes linked to politically connected businesses like Graywood can be ignored!

    • LOTD

      EXCELLENT post!!! Whoever covered this up needs to be found, investigated and shot!!! What an absolute disgrace!!

  • Kathleen

    This speaks in volumes, as to the character of so many who work with the disabled & handicapped. I think it should be Mandatory that ALL states be required to meet certain criteria, & employees be investigated & tested themselves for any history of sexual misconduct, anger, emotional or mental problems.
    It’s my opinion that only a person who has something wrong with their own mind, would do such a thing to defenseless people! All these employees should be held accountable, whether they played a part in it, or kept quiet about it. They are all just as guilty!

  • C. Cuevas

    This is what happens when all people care about is money!!! Seems to me like the state did not care. Yet if it is an issue that is important to them Wo and behold they definitely would have done something about it right away. Who are some the people working for the state and do they have a heart? Unfortunately the innocent suffer at the cost of the inhumane. What is this country coming to? Whatever happened to protecting everyone’s human rights? The only hope and faith we have and will ever have is God who is a just God.

  • B. Banks

    Google the owner’s name. Of course, he’s Nigerian. People from this country that are living in the U.S, and that work in the health care industry, be it nurses, any type of therapists, or nurse’s aids just don’t care about their patients, much less their well being. I know because I have seen it first hand. These people are so money hungry it’s ridiculous. All they care is about the money. Wouldn’t be surprised if some of the workers are from this country.

  • Irene O'Neill

    This was a heartbreaking story and an outrage that it was ever allowed to happen. Two beautiful human beings lost their lives at the hands of their supposed “caregivers,” while ample evidence of wrongdoing was already reported. Dave Savini has been a friend and champion of the disability community for years, and I will rest easier tonight knowing that he has helped this family to expose this. Paul’s sister Kathy has been an eloquent spokesperson as a reporter herself, and a peaceloving, beautiful person. I hope that together, they will help see to it that this never happens to another resident of Graywood or any other facility. Thank you.

  • Robert Wagner

    I hate to be the one to say this. but this is to be expected in most adult group homes.
    At one time in my life I have been the occupant of 3 group homes, and all they are..are warehouses for people with no where to go…Nursing homes are similar but you expect this sort of thing at a group home. Its sad to see, but it happens more often than you think…I would rather die than go back to one..

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  • Mike

    The bottom line is that this is what the state gets when they can’t fund human services. Workers are required to go through a background check, a human services worker registry, 80-hours of classroom training as well as 40-hours of on the job training. Blame anyone you want, but it’s that state’s fault for cutting funding or not paying their bills. Look in a mirror folks, that’s who you can blame. I work for the area’s largest organization; we run homes and day programs throughout the suburbs. We start our Direct Support staff at $9.00 per hour, and that was increased by .25 cents this year. We live in a state that doesn’t care about its disabled citizens. I can only work in this field because my wife makes good money, so I can give back by working with these wonderful people. I have families who pay extra money each month so we can pay the people who work in their children’s homes a living wage. If you are the parent of someone with a developmental disability, move out of this state, or except that you do not have the support of the state, or lawmakers.

    • TK

      Mike is right, Illinois is at the bottom of the list when it comes to funding for the developmentally disabled. I work for an agency that operates several group homes, and we have had no abuse findings because we do have staff that care; but the wage is minimal at $9.50/hr and many positions part time without benefits. This is a very sad situation in IL with the Department of Human Services facing budget cuts for programing that is already the lowest in the nation.

  • Southside

    If these people are convicted, they deserve the needle. If they don’t who does?

    • Mjd

      It is one of the great untold conspiracies of our time, the “de-institutionalization movement” that emphasizes “big has to be bad”. Well what do you think will happen when you put under-paid direct care workers making less making less income than a hamburger flipper, and given less supervision. This movement is launched under the true concern of integration by the consumers, their families, and professionals of this career field, but governments have embraced the movement as cost savings measures, allowing for the further pillaging of sqwaller funds in human services to redirect those dollars to their fat cat funds and reelection promo spending. There is no profit vote in the human service field, and every year more and more requirements are put on the god in the career field while more and more cuts are taken. These efforts of”reform and protection”are made to hide the real answer, living wages for the innumerable good people that are chased from the insanity of serving this career field on Daily bases. And yes, Illinois, that bastian state of Democratic politics and humanism pledges is dead last in funding services for or most vulnerable populations

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  • RichK

    There are two sides to every story, and having worked at facilities like this I doubt all the facts have yet to come out. What you won’t read in the paper or see in the media is the fact that this agency in particular gets the worst of the worst residents in terms of having a history of violence and takes individuals that a lot of the other agencies have refused or won’t take. Several times we’ve had to call the ambulance for staff members who were hospitalized after they were attacked with knives, glass, bats, or anything else residents can get a hold of when they are having their “behaviors”. That is what happens to staff when they try to enforce rules or break up fights. Working with disabled individuals with a history of violence is a dangerous job and if you haven’t done it, you don’t have any idea of the things you will see. These group homes are like mini detention centers and you are taught several ways to protect yourself and restrain individuals but sometimes in the heat of the moment, these tactics can be forgotten. If the media has gathered all facts from all parties and has printed an unbiased article with the truth, than these individuals have mental problems of their own and should be punished. However, knowing how media today is such a joke, I very much doubt the validity of this story.

    • betty

      Dear RichK I have worked in these homes and have a child with the same issues. Never have I seen staff abuse a resident in the heat of the moment. Staff are trained to deal with the situation as professionals no matter what their pay is. They took the job knowingly. Please do not justify what these two men did as the heat of the moment. No behavior deserves being beaten to death. They knew what they were doing. This was not a slap or yelling in the heat of the moment. What they did took thought and planning. I truly hope you do not work in any facility today or run one. Your thought process is one of justification and excuses.

  • Anthony

    Larger facilities are licensed by IDPH and there is a system in place for civil money penalties if abuse/neglect or other infractions take place.

    Group homes are licensed by DHS and under a much different set of regulations and expectations. Providers were happy to get out from under the extensive regulations large faciliities where multiple abuse/neglect allegations would have been investigated much more throughly and quickly.

    I have followed the Graywood situation for several years now and am disappointed it has taken so long for these tragedies to be dealt with. Who watches the watchers?

    Excellent Job Dave Savini (as usual)

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