August, 18 2018

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New Home for Troubled Teens Opens in New Jersey

Some Village on the Green residents, fighting to keep a youth group home from expanding on Pennington Road, are dismayed to learn another home for troubled teens has moved into their neighborhood.

New Jersey Mentor, a for-profit community health provider, has leased a house on Rockleigh Drive and opened a transitional home for five girls between the ages of 12 and 18.

Troubled Teens as Neighbors

Officials at New Jersey Mentor would not divulge details of the type of troubled teens living in the home. But the organization's Web site says the group serves "individuals with severe behavioral, physical or developmental disabilities."

Other Troubled Youth Close by

For neighbors living in the affluent development off Route 31, the prospect of another group home in their midst is daunting. They have hired a lawyer to prevent the nonprofit LifeTies from expanding its youth housing on Pennington Road from 12 to 27 teens and young adults.

"Within three blocks we'll have 32 kids who don't have parents or families," Sally Moses said. "And they're all adolescents who are at a very vulnerable age. That's a lot of troubled teens for one area."

Now Troubled Neighbors

At a recent open house, more than a dozen neighbors accepted New Jersey Mentor's invitation to discuss plans for the home. The press was barred from attending, but many residents were willing to speak as they left the meeting.

"Our nice neighborhood isn't very nice anymore," fumed one woman as she stormed out of the house.

Many neighbors were concerned the troubled teens, placed in the home by the state, would not be adequately supervised. While Mentor officials promised to keep the house's occupants under "intense supervision," they noted the teens would not be locked in.

"All they could tell us was that they're extremely troubled kids," Moses said. "They have to be supervised at all times. They say the kids will never be left alone but I don't know how they can say that with the staff they have."

Supervision at the Group Home

The home will be staffed with two adults awake overnight and at least three adults on duty during daytime hours, according to New Jersey Mentor spokeswoman Sarah Magazine.

A spokesman for the state Department of Children and Families, which oversees the Mentor home and others like it, said the staff ratio meets state standards.

"It doesn't get any higher than that," said spokesman Andy Williams. "That's considered intense supervision."

Williams said Mentor recently obtained a license to operate the home in Ewing, and that the group holds licenses in good standing in other parts of the state.

Residents, nonetheless, are wary.

"It's a little scary to me, a little frightening," said neighbor Greg Wolinski. "It's not a family moving in. It's a group home. It's different."

In response to questions from the press, New Jersey Mentor is sued a statement saying that, in general, the children in the home would be awaiting more permanent placements. While living there, they will attend Ewing High School, according to the statement.

"The staff in this home have been carefully selected and provided with comprehensive training to provide the children we care for with nurturing, guidance and support," the statement read.

State laws allow group homes to operate in municipalities without special permits. Ewing officials, who said they were not informed the New Jersey Mentor was planning to move in, said there is nothing they can do to prevent it.

Other Opposition

Meanwhile, residents are doing all they can to prevent LifeTies from receiving the zoning variance it needs to build a facility to house up to 15 young adults. The new facility, called Mary's Place, would provide apartments for young adults ages 18 to 21 who have "aged out" of teen shelters but need somewhere to live while establishing their independence. To be eligible for housing, the young adults must be in college or have a full-time job.

The zoning board is expected to hear the application next month.

At least one neighbor living near the New Jersey Mentor house supports the project.

"I think its a good idea," said Sue Steber. "I think anything we can do for the kids is wonderful. I'm a parent and I know kids make mistakes and take wrong turns and they need a chance to get on a better path. If this will help them lead better, productive lives, why not?

Related Articles:
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10 Signs of a Troubled Teen 12/15/07
Florida Trooper Uses Chess to Help Troubled Teens 12/14/07
Montana Report Prompts Director to Resign 12/14/07
Pilot Program in New York to Help Troubled Teens 12/13/07
Montana Judge Unseals Swan Valley Report 12/13/07
Teen in Illinois Sent to Boot Camp 12/13/07
North Carolina Resident Suing Whisper Ridge 12/11/07
Former Montana Boot Camp Director Exposed for Abuse in Maryland 12/12/07
Getting to Know Attachment Disorder 12/10/07

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