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Damning new details in drowning of teen in group home's care

State investigators find neglect, other problems
Posted at 7:54 AM, Sep 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-07 07:54:58-04

A newly-released report by state regulators paints a damning picture of what happened in the moments before a 13-year-old died during a group home trip to Edgewater Beach in July.

Shaud Howell was placed in Quality Care Residential Homes by Cuyahoga County's Division of Children and Family Services just days before he drowned.

In its Summary Findings of Noncompliance, investigators with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services say a worker from the group home dropped Howell and two other teens off at Edgewater Beach around 7 p.m., just as lifeguards were leaving for the day.  Investigators say swimming at the beach had been prohibited throughout the day because of hazardous conditions.  Yet, the state found the group home worker dropped the teens off "and then left the park for approximately 2 - 2.5 hours."  Further, investigators say interviews revealed that Howell was "known not to have swimming skills."

Desmond Johnson, Administrator of Quality Care Residential Homes, told 5 On Your Side Investigators in July that the worker took the teens on an unauthorized trip to the beach and broke policy by not getting permission first.  But in its report, ODJFS wrote, "Interviews with residents and staff revealed that staff have taken residents to Edgewater Beach to swim on numerous occasions, even though these trips were not part of the agency's posted activity schedule and permission was not obtained from the Director prior to the activity. " 

Investigators also say interviews revealed, "children have been taken to Edgewater Beach to swim on other occasions and staff did not monitor and supervise throughout the activity."

Johnson said the worker who took the teens to the beach was fired days after Howell's body was pulled from Lake Erie.  

RELATEDGroup home worker fired after 13-year-old drowned at Edgewater

Investigators also found she drove the residents as part of her job duties despite the fact her driver's license had been suspended since 2015.

The group home was also cited for allowing children to swim without the supervision of someone who completed training in lifesaving or water safety.

A spokesman for ODJFS says the group home has until later this month to submit its plans to correct the issues. 

5 On Your Side Investigators reached out to Desmond Johnson for comment on the findings, but so far has not received a response.