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Missing children has officials wondering about shelter's policies

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Updated: 6/14/2013 9:35 am
LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) -- How could five kids just walk out of an emergency shelter for children? That's a question on a lot of minds. A group of brothers and sisters went missing earlier this week after taking off from ‘Child Haven.’

County officials say what happened was unfortunate, but policy stopped them from stopping the kids from walking away.

While the children were found safe, that hasn't ended the questions about policy at the shelter and whether it needs to be changed.

“It's embarrassing that our Juvenile Justice Service, our Child Welfare service, would allow five kids to walk out the door,” said Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins.

Collins is outraged by five children walking out of ‘Child Haven’, an emergency shelter for abused and neglected children. The five children ranged in age from 7 to 14. Confidentiality requirements prevent the shelter from saying why the kids were there.

But officials say staff followed proper procedure when the five wanted to leave.

“We did all we could and they followed the children and they offered them options and said can we talk to you, and we can get someone to talk to you about what's bothering you at the time, and again had the little ones been alone they would have been able to grab them and secure them,” said Child Haven Director Jolie Courtney.

Courtney stresses child haven is not a detention facility. According to policy, she says staff could not have actually stopped all the children from leaving.

But the departure of the children and teens, all siblings, is drawing scrutiny from the group like Children's Advocacy Alliance.

Chairman Thom Riley says an internal investigation should be done right away, and what happened should never happen again. County commissioner Collins says discipline may even be in order.

“And the policy needs to be changed and publicly wise maybe somebody is covering their a** with a policy that says kids can walk out of there. I don't believe that,” Collins said.

Meanwhile Family Court Judge Robert Teuton of the Eighth Judicial Court says courts are working hard to make the system run more efficiently for family cases. He says what happened at ‘Child Haven’ is highly unusual.

“This is not so much a reflection on child haven but a reflection on our community, is the willingness to step forward with the funding necessary to prevent things like this from occurring,” Teuton said.

Commissioner Collins wants to bring up the issue at the next commission meeting.

News 3 also learned today the parents of the five children who walked away from child haven have a prior conviction of child abuse.

Police released two-year old booking photos of Jerry Nicholas and Teresa Bimbo. Both carry records that include misdemeanor child neglect convictions.

In 2011 police said the children's home was filthy and there was little food in the kitchen.




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