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Concern over supervision after 2 teens leave group homes

SEATTLE — For five days Kari Kahler sat by the phone waiting for news about her missing daughter.

MALIIKAANDRUS“It’s every parent’s worst nightmare because she is so naïve. She doesn’t have the cognitive level of a 14-year-old street-smart kid. She will go with someone and think they’re a safe person when they may or may not be,” Kahler said.

That’s exactly what police said happened. One week ago, the 14-year-old wandered away from the Phoenix House, a group home for developmentally disabled children in Everett.  Late Friday night, police found her on Aurora Avenue in Seattle and arrested a man they said sexually assaulted her.

On Sunday in Bonney Lake, 17-year-old Maliika Andrus walked away from her group foster home. She is still missing.

“It’s a home where there are alarms, but she managed to disable the alarm. She needs medication and has issues in maturity and mental health,” Pierce County sheriff’s detective Ed Troyer said.

Mary Ciancio is an advocate for the developmentally disabled and said that group home supervision has long been a concern.

“I think it’s a pretty big problem. We get calls about it somewhat often about people that have been wandering away from their home and what to do. I do think it happens a lot and some of it is short staffing and some of it undertrained staff,” Ciancio said.

Kahler decided to take her daughter back to their family home in Vancouver, Wash.

The Department of Social and Health Services would not comment on these cases. DSHS does license all group homes and foster homes in the state of Washington. Supervision varies from home to home, but typically developmentally disabled children will have what’s called an “Individual Supervision Plan.” Because of privacy laws, we do not know what those entailed for these two teens.

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