• Report: #1067980
Complaint Review:

Abraxas Academy

  • Submitted: Thu, July 18, 2013
  • Updated: Thu, July 18, 2013

  • Reported By: swattsberg — Lancaster Pennsylvania
Abraxas Academy
1000 Academy Dr Morgantown, Pennsylvania USA

Abraxas Academy, The Geo Group, Cornell, New Morgan Facility, Self-proclaimed "Treatment" Center http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=289813 Covering up problems is not the solution to ending them. Morgantown Pennsylvania

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Abraxas Youth and Family Services

Mr. Jon Swatsburg

Divisional Vice-President

2840 Liberty Ave. Ste. 300

Pittsburgh PA 15222


Dear Mr. Swatsburg,

 I am writing with regard to the Morgantown, PA location site of Abraxas Academy.    This necessary action results following several futile attempts on my part to direct my concerns to the appropriate supervisory staff there.   I feel both obligated and compelled as an employee of the facility to report potentially detrimental discrepancies witnessed. Specific discrepancies in this case pertain to continual non-compliance of not only the policies initially indicated by GEO Group Inc. upon hire, but those associated with Pennsylvania state law as well. 

My intention is neither to exploit nor degrade Abraxas Academy as a whole.  Further, I am not seeking any sort of recognition or distinct regard.  Rather, my sole purpose in reporting these matters lies in the welfare, health and safety of the individuals served within the facility, as well as the staff employed there.   I consider this a last resort effort to express the concerns of myself, as well as several fellow employees as It would appear that the “Chain of command “concept of conflict resolution and reporting issues within the facility is nonexistent.  There are no such opportunities for employees who are considered of lower rank and/or seniority to effectively communicate issues to supervisory staff with hopes of resolve.  

Of most pressing matters, those that pertain to the health and safety of juveniles housed within the facility are of utmost significance.  More frequently I am overhearing from juveniles that there has been lewd and lascivious inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature occurring between staff and residents.  It is expected that the juveniles will make false claims at times, or exaggerate and embellish instances where no such conduct has taken place.  There was of a course a recent case however, in which an unnamed Case manager was suspected not only of sexual misconduct with a resident, but alcohol abuse as well. Ultimately it was found that she was indeed guilty of both offenses, and consequently terminated.  In addition to the above named case, there are several suspicions of both alcohol and or drug abuse on premises, as well as sexual misconduct with juveniles. Perhaps, as with the above case; individuals should be routinely tested for drug and alcohol abuse while on duty.  Below are the laws and policies established in the state of Pa concerning both sexual misconduct, as well as substance abuse.

Institutional Sexual Assault (18 Pa. C.S. § 3124.2)
(a) GENERAL RULE. – except as provided in sections 3121 (relating to Rape), 3122.1 (relating to Statutory Sexual Assault), 3123 (relating to Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse), 3124.1 (relating to Sexual Assault) and 3125 (relating to Aggravated Indecent Assault), a person who is an employee or agent of the Department of Corrections or a county correctional authority, youth development center, youth forestry camp, State or county juvenile detention facility, other licensed residential facility serving children and youth, or mental health or mental retardation facility or institution commits a felony of the third degree when that person engages in sexual intercourse, deviate sexual intercourse or indecent contact with an inmate, detainee, patient or resident.

Per Pennsylvania State dept. of Labor and Industry code 505.25 Substance Abuse in the Workplace:

 c. Inappropriate use of alcohol or other controlled substances by any employee while on duty or in any Commonwealth workplace is prohibited.  Such conduct shall subject the employee to appropriate discipline, up to and including termination.  Employees, who are taking a controlled substance, as prescribed by a medical provider, are not in violation of this section.


    d. Employees are prohibited from reporting to work or remaining at work in an unfit condition as a result of alcohol or other drugs.  Such conduct may subject the employee to appropriate discipline, up to and including termination.  Employees who are taking legally prescribed medications that limit or impair their ability to safely perform their duties are to notify their supervisor.  Employees will not be permitted to perform those duties if it would compromise life/safety.

 An additional concern of the juveniles residing within the facility pertains to unsanitary conditions.  Although the Morgantown location does maintain a high standard of cleanliness and hygiene; there is a particular issue concerning resident bedding. On a consistent basis, it has been observed that juveniles who have just arrived, have been placed in rooms that contain mattresses that have not been properly cleaned or disposed of following urine contamination from a previous resident suffering with uncontrolled bed wetting. Though the linens are always changed; staff refuses to clean mattresses for several weeks, and in extreme cases, months. 

 PA regulations 3800-105 (p82) States: 

 Inmate Bedding and Linens

105 3800.105 – Bedding, linens, towels; washcloths and clothing shall be laundered at least weekly.


Bed linens, washcloths, and towels must be changed and laundered immediately following any contact with blood,

Urine, feces, or other unclean substances.

Primary Benefit:

Ensures that sanitary conditions are maintained.

Although it is unclear whether the following incident was reported and/or documented is unknown. The manner, in which the incident was handled however, is of concerning nature either way. It was found that a juvenile was infected with Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (common name, MRSA). The unnamed juvenile was detained in the detention unit of the facility while infected and remained in that general population unit for approximately 4 weeks at which point the individual was transferred to the treatment unit of the facility. It was then, that the juvenile transmitted MRSA to several other juveniles within that unit.  Aside from the potential risk of transmission to fellow juveniles as well as applicable staff; Pennsylvania State regulations 3800-106 states:

Reportable incidents include:

(3)  An injury, trauma or illness of a child requiring inpatient treatment at a hospital.

   (4)  A serious injury or trauma of a child requiring outpatient treatment at a hospital, not to include minor injuries such as sprains or cuts.

9)  An outbreak of a serious communicable disease as defined in 28 Pa. Code §  27.2 (relating to specific identified reportable diseases, infections and conditions).

 Additionally, staff was not informed by those who were initially aware of the infected juvenile further increasing the risk of jeopardizing the health of all exposed to the individual.

 The above named violations pertinent to the care of individuals served have been repeatedly brought to the attention of supervisory staff, with no action taken to correct the violations.

 With regard to staffing, particularly that of supervisory/upper management staffing, unequivocal cronyism is evident among the individuals promoted to such positions. There are exceptions made for individuals by the director, for those with whom the director has personal, social, recreational, and/or other associations with outside of the facility. Exceptions have included expediting the interview process premature to obtaining proper clearance, hiring based on personal/romantic relationships, as well as overlooking criminal records indicating offenses that would prohibit an individual from employment in a juvenile residential facility per Pennsylvania State Law.  

 PA State regulations 3680.24 Chapter 55 states:

 The legal entity shall ensure that the staff qualifications established by applicable service-specific chapters promulgated by the Department are strictly adhered to by the agency.

 Grounds for denying employment

(3)  In no case shall an administrator hire an applicant

        If the applicant's criminal history record information

        Indicates the applicant has committed a felony

        Offense under the act of April 14, 1972 (P.L.233, No.64),

        Known as the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic

        Act, committed within the five-year period immediately

        Preceding verification under this section.


(c)  Grounds for denying employment.

 Section 2702 (relating to aggravated assault).

 It is the claim of Abraxas officials that employee satisfaction is of high priority.  It was also reported by Meghan Flynn per the Abraxas newsletter released during the spring of 2009 that “Abraxas realizes the importance of ensuring that its employees, customers, and referral services are satisfied”.  Additionally, it was found during a retention initiative that began during the summer of 2008, that “new employee results were compared to staff with five years of experience which revealed that tenured employees had a greater level of satisfaction.  Perhaps the results of survey were based on the fact that the “tenured employees” are typically among those that have personal affiliations with those in upper-level management positions.  Affiliations may include: childhood friends, individuals who previously held positions together in other companies, and most commonly in Morgantown, individuals who were schoolmates, and or football teammates; many of whom, currently hold coaching positions together. 

Although there is no policy prohibiting cronyism according to Abraxas regulations; it is most certainly present within the facility and evident to employees; particularly those who may be considered “new hires”.  Clearly, cronyism goes against Meritocracy, that philosophy, which credits those deserving of the positions of which they are appointed. This example set forth instills little confidence in those employees who consider themselves morally responsible within the workplace.  

 Further, those claiming to advocate the task of recruiting and retention among potential and current employees of the facility fail to realize the success of that task is unlikely. This, given the lack of pull factors, and significant push factors imposed by those in positions responsible for ensuring employee satisfaction.  It is with realistic understanding that the field of juvenile corrections is one of an almost 50% turnover rate due to the nature of the field. That percentage likely increases however, with little respect and regard for the well-being of those starting out in the field. It is particularly unfortunate for those individuals with qualifying education and or experience, who are overshadowed by those given preferential treatment due to social status.

  The final issue that I would like to bring your attention is that of mandating policies and procedures respectively. This is one of considerable controversy within the facility; having a substantial impact on the attitudes of those employees whom the policy regularly affects.  At the risk of being perceived as a disgruntled employee, I am able to suggest with confident conviction that the supposed enforced policies concerning mandating practices are violated on a daily basis.  The Volunteer & Mandated staffing Policy as titled in the Program Operations section of the Abraxas Academy Policies & Procedures Manual, states the following procedures:

 (3) “The supervisor (s) on shift will ask all available staff in the building, as well as off duty ‘on-call’ staff to volunteer to cover a shortage in the event that there is a call-off, suicide watch, emergency, or any event whereby the best interests of the client are served or effective operations of the facility necessitate the additional coverage”.

 (4) No staff member may volunteer to cover a shift, if they have already worked 16 straight hours.

 Staff will be mandated based on the following criteria:

(b) After 16 hours of work, whether mandated or voluntary, staff must have 8 hours before their next shift.

(c) Once mandated, staff may not be mandated again until all other employees (in reverse order based on date of service) have been mandated.

(d) All hourly direct care staff members in the building are eligible to be mandated including staff working on their day off. Hourly educational staff (specifically team leaders and intervention specialists) is eligible to be mandated but should only be used as a last resort when all other staff in the building has been exhausted.

(e) Supervisors will give as much advanced notice as possible when mandating a staff member

With reference to the above procedures and policies set forth, and in mimicking the above order, I would like to indicate the manner in which each is violated by both enforcing staff, as well as staff responsible for complying with them

 With reference to (3) – Supervisors never utilize the list of off duty “on-call” staff for mandating nor are those individuals even contacted.

 With reference to (4) – The director will overlook this procedure and allow specific individuals to work more than the permissible sixteen hour shifts. This is a direct violation of both Abraxas policy as well as Pennsylvania state law.

 With reference to (b) – as with (4), individuals do not necessarily take 8 hours in between such shifts.  This occurs both voluntary and involuntarily. According to Pennsylvania State labor and Industry Act 102, Employees either required or voluntarily working more than 12 consecutive hours may have up to 10 hours off duty time, unless waived by that individual.

 With reference to (c) – Depending on the week, individuals may be asked to stay, and consequentially mandated on a daily basis.  Mandating is almost 100% of the time due to Chronic Short Staffing.  Additionally, the order of the list is irrelevant as the same individuals refuse mandating regularly, with no corrective action. Finally, in many cases the reason for calling off is not a suitable one.  I.e.: “no gas in car” The Pennsylvania Dept. of Labor and industry categorizes appropriate cause for mandating as:

 unforeseeable national or state emergencies; highly unusual or extraordinary event affecting the need for health care services; and unexpected absences discovered at or before the commencement of a scheduled shift which could not be prudently planned for by a health care facility and which could significantly affect patient safety) where the employer provides”

 Furthermore, Act 102 also classifies states:

 On call time may not be utilized as a substitute for mandatory overtime or as a means of circumventing this law. Vacancies resulting from chronic short staffing do not constitute an unforeseeable emergent circumstance allowing the use of mandatory overtime.

  With reference to (d) - Hourly educational staff, as well as Team Leaders, Operations Leaders and Intervention Specialists, are never mandated, and never asked to stay. In lieu of utilizing “last resort” staff, individuals who are regularly mandated, are again mandated, with corrective action imposed upon refusal.  Staff are then informed that if they wish to be exempt from mandtory overtime, they must procure two extra shifts of their choosing throught the work week.  This implies that to be exempt from corrective action, including termintation, staff must work a minimum of 56 hours a week. 

 Finally, with reference to (d) – Staff are not typically given more than 30 minutes’ notice before being mandated.  There have been several instances in which individuals were mandated while en route to clock out.  If at that time, the mandating is refused, corrective action follows.  Although I may not speak from personal experience; this clearly impedes on an individual’s ability to make arrangements for childcare, and or care for the elderly or ill.

  It is understandable that emergencies occur, and that staff was indeed notified upon hire, that there would be occasional staff mandating required in the event of an emergency. The reality however, has become that the facility is chronically short staffed with 24 current vacancies, and the employees are given absolutely NO incentives to continue to overcompensate for employees whose performance is less than satisfactory.  What is more, individuals who are asked to cover shifts of those of a higher pay grade are not compensated at the rate of that individual’s position; nor are they offered the time and half rate as the individual with the higher pay rate is.  Staffs who consistently call out are now exempt from the previously enforced points system, given that they call two or more hours prior to their scheduled shift.  This has resulted in an increase of call outs, averaging three to four per shift.  Those who consistently honor their shift responsibilities, are inevitably mandated, and consequently have corrective action imposed upon refusal. Finally, with reference to shift coverage, The Morgantown location was previously able to rely on the South Mountain location’s staff to come in and cover shifts as a last resort. Those staff members from South Mountain however, are no longer willing to offer such support, as they too feel that the request is chronically abused or the facility is obviously unsafe due to the lack of staff. 

 I have chosen not to reveal my identity, as I fear there may be a backlash from upper-management, given that I am not one of the staff members who are considered “exempt” from corrective action.  I have no personal affiliation with the director of the facility, and am unsure if retaliation could occur.  There seems to be a consistent theme of covering up incidents and sweeping those incidents that do not benefit the interest of those in positions of authority under the rug so to speak.  Upon the anticipation of a site visit from those such as yourself, or from the state; there is a sense of urgency, and incredible effort expended to temporarily conceal any discrepancies, and a favorable façade is put into place.

I appreciate your taking the time to consider my concerns. Regardless of whether I decide to stay with the company or not, it is important that I report these incidents while I am able to witness them, to the proper individuals. As mentioned, my attempts have failed, and those directly appointed as my supervisors seem to continually struggle to communicate any concerns that are relayed to them.  It appears evident that turnover rate is clearly an issue.  As mentioned before it is expected in such a field, but could increase substantially upon giving credit and incentive where due, encouraging employees to voice concerns and show an effort to find resolve proactively, and treat individuals in an equal manner, and with respect.  Those who value integrity and character, and entered this field with a true passion to help, will give back to the company considerably.  It seems valuable in the long run to take care of the reliable staff that is available, and build a team; rather than disregard concerns and tolerate the revolving door.

If the conditions here continue as such, I will have no choice but to fulfill my moral obligation, and contact both the Department of Public Welfare, as well as the Department of Labor and Industry. 

Respectfully, and with best regards…


 "At critical times the authorities always claim they have no authority."—Anonymous


This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 07/18/2013 06:48 AM and is a permanent record located here: http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/abraxas-academy/morgantown-pennsylvania-19543/abraxas-academy-the-geo-group-cornell-new-morgan-facility-self-proclaimed-treatment-1067980. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year.

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