Counselor faces charges after missing for hours with autistic child


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AURORA, Colorado (KDVR) – A counselor who works with children with developmental disabilities faces charges of child abuse and neglect after missing for several hours with a child in her care this summer.

Robyn Rodi had only been working for a few weeks at an agency that helps people with intellectual disabilities when she failed to drop off a 5-year-old boy at a planned event, hours after picking him up from his home in his car.

The child, Ryland Stevenson, is autistic.

“I didn’t really realize it was such a big incident because I felt like I hadn’t done anything wrong, so I apologize,” Rodi told a police detective, according to a report from the Aurora Police Department obtained by the problem. Solvers.

Rodi faces a misdemeanor charge of child abuse (neglect without injury) and a misdemeanor charge of neglect of a person at risk. According to a state court information official, she has yet to plead the case.

Rodi’s attorney declined on his behalf to speak to problem solvers about the incident.

“Despite his words and did not seem consistent”

Rodi worked as a seasonal program advisor for GoldStar Learning Options, one of more than 600 program-approved service agencies that provide developmental support services in Colorado. It is inspected and inspected by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and currently has no deficiencies, according to the Department of Health website.

According to the police report, Rodi told authorities the boy became “very shy and did not want to get out of the vehicle” when he arrived at the planned event at a park in Lakewood. “She tried to calm him down by going for a drive to no specific location,” the report said.

But camp officials told authorities, according to the police report, they were having difficulty determining the counselor’s whereabouts over the phone and that she was not where she said she was when she was. they tried to find her in person using GPS.

According to the Aurora Police investigation, GoldStar Learning Options official Monica Hoffman told police Rodi “got his words mixed up and didn’t sound coherent” when the two finally spoke.

However, Rodi later told police “that she had not drunk alcohol or drugs”.

According to the police report, “she admitted that she was taking the prescribed mediation (sic) but did not indicate what the drug was or what time she took it”.

An investigator said Rodi admitted she had been with the little boy for an extended period of time but “didn’t think it was relevant because she was (his) therapist.”

An unauthorized driver transported the child

“She should never be able to work with children or be around children again,” said Chantelle Stevenson, Ryland’s mother, who first learned of the situation when she saw a text message from GoldStar officials. Learning Options while at work.

“I’ve probably wasted about 30 years of my life getting this text from them saying, ‘We don’t know where he is,'” she told Problem Solvers. “Of course I immediately started calling her. She didn’t answer. I called her 9 or 10 times. And then, probably the 11th or 12th time, Ryland answered, which was really. weird. He said he was scared.

When the boy finally returned home unharmed, one of Rodi’s male neighbors – a federal police officer who works for a Colorado VA medical center – was driving the vehicle.

The driver, who was not licensed to transport a child for Goldstar Learning Options, told an investigator he met Rodi to deliver him an iPad she needed. He offered to drive the car when he noticed that the child’s behavior was “getting worse”.

According to the police report, the man, who is not charged, told a detective, “I was like, would you like some help with me driving; you sit in the back with him and that’s what we did.

Stevenson told Problem Solvers and police that she “observed many cans and bottles of alcohol inside the vehicle and smelled the smell of alcoholic beverages emanating from the vehicle,” but the driver denied that anyone in the car had consumed alcohol.

Ryland “stopped going to camp that day. There’s no going back, ”Stevenson said. “I would never bring him back there.”

Stevenson said she would like the supplier to be held accountable for hiring the advisor.

“Unfortunately, we don’t know all the answers to the questions we have at this point,” said Ross Ziev, an attorney representing the family. “It is important to make sure that these camps are well controlled and that their staff are well trained.

Company: “Zero tolerance policy on security”

“This is the first time this has happened to us,” said William Porter, spokesperson for GoldStar Learning Options. “We have been around for 10 years and we are a leader in our field. “

Porter said the provider verification process for direct care providers is more rigorous than what is required by the government.

According to the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Funding, state-approved program-approved service providers, like Goldstar Learning Options, must follow government guidelines when hiring direct care staff. , as for the post held by Rodi.

These guidelines require staff to be at least 18 years old, “have the ability to communicate effectively, complete required forms and reports, and follow verbal and written instructions,” said Marc Williams, spokesperson for the department, in a statement. E-mail.

The person must also “have the capacity to provide services in accordance with a service plan. Have completed minimal training based on state training guidelines. Have the ability to perform the required tasks and have the interpersonal skills necessary to interact effectively with people with developmental disabilities, ”he said.

“We don’t think the state’s requirements are sufficient,” said Porter, who said their employees must pass additional background checks and meet other extended requirements to be hired.

“My own brother and my child use the services of GoldStar Learning Options. I’m not hiring someone that I wouldn’t trust with my own brother or child, ”said Katie Svihlik-Burpo, CEO of GoldStar Learning Options, in an email.

“I am very proud that our team did not deviate from protocol and also adhered to all reporting requirements from protection agencies for the population we serve. We have an obligation and an ethical responsibility to report any incident to do our part without exception, ”she said.

Porter, spokesperson for GoldStar Learning Options, said Rodi’s qualifications exceeded the job requirements, but when she fell short of expectations, they fired her and contacted the protective services of the ‘childhood.

“At the end of the day, at the end of the day, we have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to security,” he said.

No Colorado license required for certain behavioral employees

“It pains my heart because this population is vulnerable,” said Alison Betz, president of the Colorado Association of Behavior Analysis, a group that has fought unsuccessfully for the state to regulate and license behavior analysts. applied – trained people who often work closely with people with intellectual disabilities.

While these individuals can seek certifications and oversight from private organizations such as the Behavior Analysis Certification Board, there are no state licensing requirements for these types of employees in Colorado.

“The state doesn’t supervise it at all,” Betz said. “So the requirements and qualifications of those who work with this population really fall into the hands of the organization and the payers, the insurance companies, which can vary from payor to payor.

“If you are not certified, there is no regulation or oversight,” Betz said.

She encouraged parents to ask questions of service providers, in order to fully understand the qualifications of the staff.

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