State Launching Investigation Into Child Haven Rules - 8 News NOW

State Launching Investigation Into Child Haven Rules

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LAS VEGAS -- The Nevada State Health Division is launching an investigation after five children managed to leave Child Haven, a county emergency shelter, by escaping through a locked gate and fence.

The siblings are no strangers to Child Protective Services, having been taken from their parents in the past.

Their parents, Jerry Nicholas and Theresa Bimbo, have a history of abuse and neglect charges from allowing their children to living in filthy conditions.

Child Haven workers said the children were never out of their sight as they worked to escape.

Although Clark County's Family Services Department said all protocols were followed, advocates are calling into question a policy that allowed the runaways to leave.

In a highly unusual move, the five siblings managed to escape Child Haven together, roaming the streets for 24 hours.

Child Haven workers said if children try to leave, their protocol is to offer options, talk to the children and restrain younger ones, but in this case, it was impossible.

'If they're angry and combative, then it's going to do more harm to them," Child Haven Director Jolie Courtney said. "It would be combat to try and stop them."

Family Services workers said policies prevent Child Haven from touching teenagers, but they can stop younger children from leaving.

However, workers said if an older sibling is holding a younger one, they cannot pull the child away.

Longtime child advocate Donna Coleman said the rules are outrageous.

"You cannot allow a 7-year-old to walk off that campus," Coleman said. "If that's their policy, they need to change their policy."

Courtney said their policy is designed to help abuse and neglect victims and it might not work for all children they take in.

"We have a different sort of child lately and there's a lot of issues surrounding that," Courtney said. "We have as many crossover detention kids that are coming over here because they have no where to go, but that's not exactly what we were set up for."

Coleman said she wants Clark County commissioners to examine these regulations.

"Right now, Clark County is their supervisor, is their guardian," Coleman said. "They allowed them to leave, and you know that's the same thing as child neglect in my book."

Courtney said, "I guess those questions should be presented to those people, because we were following and complying with the licensing standards and the Nevada advisory codes."

The five children have been returned to Child Haven, where they wait for a full-time foster family.

The Nicholas children have been in Child Haven far longer than what's typical because, according to Child Haven, big families are often difficult to place into foster homes.

According to Family Courts, its primary job is to keep siblings together, but there's not enough foster homes that meet a variety of children's needs in the valley.

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