Mom: Autistic son abused at facility

August 13, 2010 3:23:39 AM PDT
An investigation is underway into possible abuse of a 10-year-old boy. His mother says it happened in the facility that was supposed to care for her severely autistic son. Michelle Spencer looks forward to her nightly calls from her son. They're usually not very long, and they always end with a tear in her eye.

"It's really hard," she said.

Since June 29, the severely autistic boy has been at Texana Center's rural Richmond facility, a state-contracted residential home for children with disabilities.

For the single mother who also has a 5-year-old, she said it was the hardest decision she's ever had to make. And now she thinks it was the wrong one.

"It's your worst nightmare," Spencer said.

During her visit with her son last weekend, she discovered more than 20 bruises all over his upper body.

"It makes me sick to my stomach; I'm disgusted," Spencer said.

She reported it to Texana and to the police. The state's Adult Protective Services is investigating, and that's all she knows.

"I have no answers. I don't know if this was a incident, many incidents. I don't really even know the incident at this point," Spencer said.

"Our agency is investigating. We will be following up with the facility and with this child," Adult Protective Services Spokeswoman Gwen Carter said.

And that's pretty much all Carter can tell us.

Though the abuse involves a child, Adult Protective Services is the lead agency because of where it happened -- a residential facility. And Carter says pending investigations aren't public record.

Texana will tell us only the process they follow when there are claims of abuse:

-They report it
-Remove the accused staff
-Take action based on results of the investigation

"I think since it's a 10-year-old and the mother has the right to know, they should give her all the information they have," attorney Jason Gibson said.

Meanwhile, Spencer feels like she's stuck.

"There's very few places that are available for kids with autism, and if there are, there's waiting lists that can be up to years," she said.

So for now, with the alleged abuser gone, her son will stay at Texana, but she's nervous.

"I'm concerned right now for my child," Spencer said.

According to state records that were readily available, Texana has had a pretty clean inspection/violation record since 2008. There weren't any health violations, and there's been only one life safety code.

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Below is the full statement issued to Eyewitness News by Texana:

"If Texana Center receives a complaint of abuse, we immediately report this to Adult Protective Services (APS) who will conduct a full investigation of the alleged incident.

"Texana removes the staff involved from Direct Care immediately.

"APS investigates - this can take 2 weeks or more.

"Texana takes action based on the results from the investigation."


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