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Commentary Author: Staff Editor Last Updated: Sep 7, 2017 - 10:06:33 PM

A Group Home for Kids, Dangerously Undone

By Staff Editor
Apr 2, 2015 - 9:34:42 AM

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( - On the morning of June 6, 2013, more than a dozen officers in bulletproof vests made their way into FamiliesFirst, one of California's largest residential facilities for emotionally damaged kids.

They were no strangers to the place, having repeatedly returned runaways, coaxed suicidal teens off rooftops, and even answered calls about drug use and children having sex with adults. In a single week in the spring, Davis police responded to 74 calls. The week before the raid, though, there had been a report of a different order: An 11-year-old girl at the home claimed that boys from the facility had raped her. Two boys had been arrested. After months of unraveling, the home had come undone.

In the months leading up to the raid, neither the police nor the state had prevented the disaster at FamiliesFirst, ProPublica's Joaquin Sapien finds in this investigation published today. But its implosion has helped spur California to rethink how it cares for its most troubled children, a question that has confounded not just the state but the country.

Read Sapien's chilling report, published in partnership with The California Sunday Magazine, here: .


  • Emmy winner Carrie Ching's video on FamilesFirst, "Level 14: Sule's Story": Sule Anibaba worked as a counselor at the Davis home for five years, emerging both damaged and ashamed.
  • Q&A with Sapien and Ching: Turning sensitive material into an illustrated film.

  • For advertising/promo rates, call Mike McCurdy at: 877-634-9180, or email [email protected]

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