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Group Home Troubles: License Revoked

PENN FOREST TOWNSHIP — The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services wants to shut down a group home in Carbon County after rapes, beatings, and more than...
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PENN FOREST TOWNSHIP -- The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services wants to shut down a group home in Carbon County after rapes, beatings, and more than 80 police calls in just three years.

For more than a decade, people in Carbon County complained that teens from the group home disrupted classes and threatened students in Jim Thorpe Area schools.

But it's what reportedly went on inside the group home in Albrightsville that could force it to shut down.

The group home along Route 903 in Albrightsville looks like an office building from the outside, but cell phone video taken April 2 by a teen living in the home has people who live near the place cringing.

Mike Kastro lives a half mile away from the facility run by Child First Services of Philadelphia.

"These kids walk around the neighborhood all the time," he said.

Kastro was surprised at what recently happened there.

According to the Department of Human Services, two teenage boys sexually assaulted a third boy on two occasions.

Then on April 2, five other teens living there beat the two who are accused of the sex crimes.

"Where are the people who are supposed to be in charge while all this is happening?" asked Tolan Kunkle.

The DHS report issued last week found a group home staffer was in the office and could not hear the fight.

As a result of the report, the DHS revoked the license of Child First to operate the home.

Child First takes teens from troubled homes in and around Philadelphia and places them in Albrightsville, sometimes as an alternative to jail.

We talked with business and home owners near the Child First facility, people who say their property has been vandalized, broken into, and that they've been harassed. But they didn't want to share their stories on camera; they said they were afraid to talk.

A Newswatch 16 investigation found state police were called to the home more than 80 times in the past three years for complaints including harassment, assault, and runaways -- even a reported sexual assault that took place last November.

State records also show about half the teens placed there have been diagnosed with a mental illnesses.

Parents say the teens at the group home go to school in the Jim Thorpe area District and disrupt classes.

"When my daughter was going to school with them, she said they were constantly getting in fights," said Kastro.

"You don't want to even send your kids. People wonder why they keep their kids at home and you want to home school them because they have to deal with all this," Kunkle added.

Right now, there are teens still living in the group home and  attending Jim Thorpe Area schools.

We called Child First in Philadelphia to see if the nonprofit plans to appeal the state's effort to shut down the group home in Albrightsville. The agency has about a week left to do so. Child First has not returned our call.

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