It’s a place to go for children who need a safe and nurturing place to go. Davis Stuart plays an important part in West Virginia’s care system, providing its residents with structure, education, and safety.
However, for several months in 2018, rumors started swirling about some of the teens on campus and whether or not they belonged there, sparking an investigation by the Department of Health and Human Resources.
A large number of residents were reportedly away from supervision. No injuries were sustained by residents, but Executive Director at Davis Stuart, Stephanie Williams explained some staff members were hurt and some property was damaged as a result of resident behavior.
“We were never fully closed, we just weren’t allowed for a small period of time to not accept new residents,” said Williams.
The campus accepts and treats troubled youth with placements from DHHR. Davis Stuart is equipped to treat residents with a level 2 rating given by Medicaid, with Medicaid’s rating system going to level 4.
However, some residents placed there have deeper issues than meet the eye. Those issues sometimes aren’t found out about until residents are already on campus.
During the investigation, Davis Stuart adopted a different way of thinking, “once a Davis Stuart child, always a Davis Stuart Child”. Williams desribed this way of thinking, once a resident was accepted, it was Davis Stuart’s responsibility to help that child find hope and a future.
“Several, I would say almost all of the residents we receive, we are certainly not their first placement. Sometimes its their third, fifth, even seventh placement. We didn’t want to give up on them and pass them around, as been done to them before,” Williams said.
However, as employers like Brittany Masters discovered, sometimes high ideals are hard to achieve.
“At the end of the day you have to look and say “Am I capable of that?” And unfortunately there are levels of care that we are not capable of providing because we’ve just never been set up that way,” Masters said.
Davis Stuart worked with the requests of the DHHR to begin accepting new residents on a limited basis during the investigation.
As of February 21, 2019 the suspension was fully lifted and the campus is operating normally.
“We were able to refelct, re-route, and revamp our program. One of the ways we were able to do so was through a program called PBIS,” Masters said.
Masters exlained PBIS or Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports is a facility wide program new to Davis Stuart.
“PBIS is a way to really incentivize positive behavior for our residents,” said Masters.
It works like a point system rewarding residents for positive behavior. At the end of the week if 80% of the positivity goal is met, that resident can earn anything from going out to eat with other residents or having 3 extra hours with family. The system also studies the behavioral patterns of an individual to help them grow.
“So what you’re doing, you are giving them the incentive to do their very best throughout the day, but you’re also looking and trying to dig in deeper to see what the root cause is, so that you don’t just have a punishment to match a behavior you’re looking and
finding what’s going on,” Masters said.
Davis Stuart is still learning how to manage and maintain the PBIS system, but they say it’s here to stay.
As for the future of the institution, the people working there say they plan to stick to the motto and vision that served them for nearly 100 years: to give troubled teens a safe and loving place to live.