Child Haven Workers Followed Runaway Children - 8 News NOW

Child Haven Workers Followed Runaway Children

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LAS VEGAS -- More information is being revealed about the circumstances surrounding the daring escape by five underage children from Child Haven.

In response, Clark County commissioners are talking about the policies they say they're open to reviewing.

Commissioners regulate the foster child holding facility, along with the Department of Family Services, which also weighed in about the motivation behind the escape.

On Friday, Commissioner Steve Sisolak said two employees actually followed the children out of the building and down the street for a while.

Sisolak maintains the county will not turn Child Haven into a lockdown facility or treat foster children like inmates.

The Nevada State Health Division has launched an investigation, but no changes are in motion by Clark County. Still, protocol is being reviewed.

The nightmare for the five children publicly began 2009. From feces-covered bathrooms to empty refrigerators, the siblings, who at the time had two older siblings living with them, inhabited total filth.

Their parents were booked on child abuse and neglect charges.

Fast forward to Wednesday, when Sisolak said the children, ranging from age 7 to 14 broke free from Child Haven during a swim day.

"We had two staff members that saw them walk out the door," Sisolak said. "It's not that (they) were unnoticed, they were clearly noticed. I think that the system did work to that extent. They followed them out the building, they followed them down the street, one of the staff members went back, immediately called 911, Metro responded, the other staff member continued to follow them for a while and eventually turned back and came back to the facility."

Before police could arrive, Sisolak said the siblings hitched a ride. They were spotted at a Taco Bell nearly 24 hours later.

"This was an orchestrated effort -- planned effort -- to get out of there and to run and get with an older sister, I guess, older family member, so I don't know how you're going to prevent that," Sisolak said.

Child Haven's overseer and Family Services Director Lisa Ruiz-Lee explained why the children possibly ran.

"In this particular instance, I think that was exactly the motivation that was present," Ruiz-Lee said. "A desire to return to a previous way of life and to a family that they know."

Ruiz-Lee said Child Haven won't cause children additional harm or treat them like criminals.

Longtime child advocate Donna Coleman argued that allowing foster children to leave the county's shelter is irresponsible.

"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."

As for current policies, no changes are being made, but the county is open to ideas.

"I think you'll evaluate it, you'll study it, and determine if someone can come up with an idea of protocol that would improve upon the system for next time," Sisolak said.

8 News NOW has learned that Child Haven has physically restrained teenagers in the past who tried to leave the facility.

But that's not what happened in this case. Meanwhile, at last check, the children remain in Child Haven, primarily because it is hard to find a home to take five siblings.

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