January 11, 1978: Investigators’ Conclusions
The final report from the St. Petersburg, Florida Task Force was completed on January 11, 1978.
At this time there were 235 clients enrolled in the Straight, Inc. program and an additional 50 clients had graduated. Unfortunately, there was no mention of how many people were enrolled in the program that left prior to completion.
The overall conclusion according to this report was that Straight, Inc. was providing a much needed service in this community but there were some areas of serious concern within the program.
The task force concluded that “from the sample available, it would appear that many of the graduates are maintaining a drug-free life.” The sample available consisted of self-reports from 20 graduates of Straight, Inc.
The concerns addressed in this report were as follows:
Program was administered very poorly
Next, the task force determined that the program was very poorly administered, both by the Executive Director (which was Jim Hartz at the time) and the Board of Directors serving at the time of the investigation:
- The task force found no evidence of written policy and rules governing the action of staff in handling various aspects of the program, such as strip and search, and restraining (when to use it, who should use it, and how to use it.)
- Personnel practices were not in compliance with the Florida Rules for Drug Abuse Programs regulations.
- The program could not supply the task force with any written personnel policies.
- Personnel files did not provide basic information as to date of employment, basis for employment (letters of recommendation and/or statement of qualifications), record of in-service training, pay data, record of grievances, reports of evaluations of employees, termination documentation including exit interviews. There also was no evidence of any formalized in-service training program.
- It appeared that the Advisory Board was not being effectively utilized. The task force was not supplied with any written minutes of Advisory Board meetings. Several persons interviewed stated that requests for consultation were made but never carried out.
- A review of the Board of Directors’ minutes of Board meetings indicates that Robert’s Rules of Order are not being followed as required by the by-laws of Straight, Inc.
Supervision and training of treatment staff was inadequate
The task force also noted that the supervision of the treatment staff by the Executive Director (Jim Hartz) was inadequate. The program was conducted 12 hours per day, seven days per week. As a result of the extended hours, the Executive Director, who was the only professional on the staff, was absent during many of the treatment hours. During his absence, supervision rested with a Staff Supervisor (Helen Petermann) who was not professionally trained. When the Executive Director was absent from the program, there was no other professional leadership available within the physical confines of the plant. During the time the task force was actually in the facility and the program was in full operation, Mr. Hartz was absent from the building more than present.
Based on the evidence available to the task force, in-service training of the paraprofessional staff was totally inadequate. The only formal training noted was a “Listening Course” by the Juvenile Welfare Board, staff meetings, and on-the-job-training for several new Junior Staff Members. Evidence of a planned staff development program was not available.
Staff Supervisor was unqualified, verbally and physically abusive, crude and vulgar
The majority of the complaints focused on the Staff Supervisor, Mrs. Helen Petermann. Complaints alleged that she was not qualified, that she was both verbally and physically abusive toward some of the clients, that she was crude and vulgar, and did not appear to have the temperament necessary to discharge her responsibilities. There were allegations that Mrs. Petermann slapped clients, kicked clients, pulled clients’ hair, and used abusive language. As Staff Supervisor, she also bears the responsibility for the forced cutting of clients’ hair, forcing clients to run excessively, and the use of straitjackets.
State regulations require that a written consent for treatment by the program be obtained from any person, or his/her guardian. Straight had not complied with this requirement. Included in those same regulations is a requirement that no person who voluntarily submits to treatment may be retained in an approved program against his/her will. Evidence indicated that the Straight, Inc. was not in compliance with this regulation either. Interviews with 48 clients revealed that only 13 entered of their own free will, and the remainder were placed there by the courts or their parents.
There appeared to be inadequate food and a lack of concern for client safety
There appeared to be a lack of concern for client safety, both in the foster homes and in the transportation of clients to and from the program. It was reported that at times excessive numbers of newcomers would be assigned to a home designed for and affording facilities for much less. It was also noted that cars bringing clients to the program in the morning would contain up to eight youngsters plus the driver.
Finally, the task force felt that the food supplied to the clients was totally inadequate. Sandwiches, sometimes without any form of dressing, are furnished for lunch and dinner. Several of those interviewed maintained that they did not always get a breakfast at the foster homes. The program did not have adequate facilities to prepare meals. In one case, it was stated that bologna for sandwiches was “green.”
The next blog post: Task force’s recommendations and decision about Straight, Inc.’s license to operate.