Wrongful death lawsuit against San Diego group home for foster youth.

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against Circle of Friends, a San Diego County state-licensed group home for children. Amanda Shane’s son, Isaiah died from a drug overdose. He was found unresponsive on the floor of the bathroom at the Circle of Friends facility in Escondido.

“The lawsuit claims the county, social workers, and others failed to adequately place Isaiah Shane with an appropriate caregiver. According to the lawsuit, Shane was in a situation where he was not provided the essential mental-behavioral health and drug treatment services needed to address his known substance abuse and mental health problems,” reports Adam Racusin from 10News.

ISAIAH MICHAEL SHANE, the teen that was found unresponsive at the Circle of Friends group home

A spokesperson for Circle of Friends showed no remorse when he wrote, “Again, our hearts go out to the mother of Isaiah Shane on the loss of her son. The fact is Ms. Shane was contacted by Isaiah days before his passing. He told her he wanted to come home as Circle of Friends, following strict guidelines, was moving him out. Ms. Shane refused to allow her son to come home due to his drug and behavioral problems. After Isaiah’s passing Ms. Shane came to Circle of Friends to collect his belongings. Ms. Shane made a statement. She said, “I know you did everything possible to help him and I can’t thank you enough.” Unfortunately, Ms. Shane is being led down a path by unscrupulous lawyers who are looking to capitalize on the death of Isaiah. It is unlikely she prevails in court.”

Rev. Shane Harris (center), founder of the People’s Association for Justice Advocates, Escondido Police Chief Ed Varso, right, joined Harris to call for the closure of an Escondido foster home. On the far left, in yellow, is Amanda Shane, whose 18-year-old son Isaiah Shane died of an overdose in the foster home.

Unfortunately, the group home has a horrible reputation and is said to have failed many children. In December of 2021, Teri Figueroa reported in the San Diego Tribune that the Escondido police chief joined the call to close the foster home. What the police chief had to say about his experience with the group home is disturbing:

Figueroa reports, “Police Chief Ed Varso said his department has responded to hundreds of calls for service over the last five years at the home run by the nonprofit Circle of Friends, he said that he and his department have reached out to the home’s management, as well as to county and state social services officials, to improve conditions, but the efforts have gone nowhere”.  Chief Ed Varso said, “It’s really is upsetting to see a scenario where you have youth in Escondido who need help, we all recognize that they need help, and they are not getting what they need. We are trying to do everything on our end to keep things peaceful, to keep it to be a safe environment to get them the help they need — and you are not getting anything other than meetings and talk that something may happen, with no action,” he said.

Figueroa reported last year that Rev. Shane Harris wants the county Board of Supervisors to cut its funding to the home and that he asked the state to pull the group’s license. “The Circle of Friends management have proven they cannot provide the safe service to these youth” placed in their homes. You fail to do exactly what you are taking the kids from their parents for which is to protect them,” Harris said.

The county said that they quit placing foster youth at the Circle of Friends, but they left seven children there. Sarah Sweeney, a county spokeswoman said last year that the county doesn’t have licensing and oversight over the facilities and that falls to the state, but that the county did plan to address concerns. In an email, Sweeney said, “The County continues to work with the State to monitor and support the facility to make sure that it is appropriate and safe for youth who are placed there”.

10News broadcasted an investigation that highlighted Shane’s death and included that a staff member had pled guilty in a sexual abuse case.

Other preventable horrific incidents have taken place at the group home that should never exist. A youth was severely burned after another youth “poured hand sanitizer on the chest of another and lit it on fire, causing severe burns”. Another child was hit in the face with a rock during an incident where a youth “smashed out all the front windows, and bit a staff member”. Police say that they have seized drugs, weapons, and ammunition from the group home.

After reading several reports about the Circle of Friends, it sounds as if the youth there are troubled, and they most likely did not enter under the best circumstances, but it also sounds like the foster youth are being further abused in the horrific conditions that they are confined to and that it may be pushing them to act out dangerously.

Minding Hearts is building advocacy and peer support groups in each state. The groups are created to raise awareness, educate, and advocate for those that might not otherwise be heard. We are here for encouragement, education, and support. We are here to support families and develop resources that maintain family integrity. We look forward to your support. If you would rather become active by donating, then visit the donation page.

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