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In an ongoing lawsuit in San Diego’s Escondido area, San Diego County is being sued by the family of a foster teen who died under the care of a nonprofit temporary rehabilitation facility. The death occurred after a drug overdose at the facility, and drug abuse is something the County knew about when initially removing the teen from his family’s care.
“My son had just turned 18 and he had a long life ahead of him, a big beautiful heart, he loved music, typical 18-year-old, athletic, he could make you laugh in point-three seconds,” said Amanda Shane after the death of her son, Isaiah. She has filed a $1 million wrongful death suit against San Diego County, claiming that there was a failure to provide basic care in safety in the supervised environment, Circle of Friends.
Isaiah died in May while in the county’s custody. He was supposed to be getting treatment for addiction and behavioral issues. According to Amanda Shane, he did not receive the services promised. As reported by 10 News, instead he was found in the home’s bathroom and died at the hospital of an overdose.
However, Isaiah has previously been in the hospital for his issues with addiction. According to Shane, he was removed from her custody when she refused to take him out of the hospital, which claimed to need the bed for COVID-19 patients. She was arrested for child abandonment claiming, “Do what you have to do to me. My son needs help. Whatever you’ve got to do to get the attention for my son, I don’t care.” She also says that she’s tried every recovery option at her disposal within the county.
According to KPBS, the People’s Association of Justice Advocates president Shane Harris claims Circle of Friends has a history of complaints and the county must take responsibility. He continued, “You’re telling me now with all of the complaints and the police chief and all of this involvement with law enforcement… you’re telling me that it’s that hard for the county to muster up some courage and actually close the group home down?” Harris’s aide added to this, explaining there will be another lawsuit if the home is not shut down.
Shane wants her son to be remembered, not for how he died but for the change his death created for kids like him. “That’s going to be a beautiful legacy to be remembered by when these changes have taken place and all the lawmakers do what they’re supposed to.”
As reported by NBC 7 San Diego, a spokesperson for Escondido Police Chief Ed Varso claims the group home cannot continue to run as it has, that if there’s a lack of improvement it will need to be shut down. Since 2016 there have been 344 calls from the home to the police, causing Harris to question the protection the county offers to kids like Isaiah Shane. The county acknowledges the issues, but blames them on the struggle to find staff who would be able to provide necessary care to the teens.
State Senator Brian Jones has requested that the State Senate Committee on Human Services would investigate Assembly Bill 403. This is in response to the investigations taking place, with the intention of figuring out what the bill is doing for clients, caregivers, and the community at large.
Circle of Friends has not yet responded to requests for comment, and the county claims that it will cease referring kids to Circle of Friends for the time being. However, the county declines to make further comments because of the pending litigation.