Violence In Foster Care Housing

By KBJR Manager

June 14, 2011 Updated Jun 14, 2011 at 7:14 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - A recent string of violent incidents in Adult Foster Care homes in the Duluth area have some government leaders concerned. St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg says the entire system of placement and oversight needs to be examined.

Barbara Reyelts has details.

On March 21st authorities were called to a fire and assault in an adult foster care home in West Duluth. Police reports indicate that resident Samson Waddell had started a series of fires in the house and assaulted his caregivers. He violently confronted police who came to stop him and was shot in the stomach by police when he failed to stop his attack.

Authorities would later learn that Waddell had a history of violent incidents.

* In 2005 he beat his caregivers and a fellow resident with a piece of furniture at an adult foster care home on East 6th Street in Duluth. That attack left three people hospitalized.

* In 2004 Waddell had been charged with terroristic threats in Hennepin County and carrying a weapon without a permit.

* And before that he reportedly threatened his Twin Cities family with a loaded gun while kicking in the front door.

Then there is Robert Berendt. Last June, at the Stepping Stones for Living Group Home in Duluth,

The 20 year old resident hit a female caregiver over the head, held her hostage and attempted to sexually assault her while threatening her with a gun. While the weapon eventually proved to be a replica gun authorities say it looked very realistic.

"If it was a law enforcement officer and we had seen that from a distance we would have assumed right off the bat that that was real as well".

In 2008 Berendt was arrested in Fridley, Minnesota for threatening people with a loaded rifle.

In another case, in January, 2009 court records show Jamie Wooten stabbed a female staff member in the face with a pair of scissors at her adult foster care home in Duluth. The victim suffered several stab wounds, some of which were described as very deep. Wooten had many prior charges for prostitution, theft and trespassing.

And these are just the people we know about. St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg is afraid there are many more people in group homes in the Northland with histories of violence about which nothing is known.

"You have health insurance issues as far as Freedom of Information - sharing, I should say, medical records, like with HIPPA rules. And so our concern is, first of all, are the staff being notified about this?"

Commissioner Dahlberg says the county needs to address these serious safety gaps, calling it a three fold issue?:

"Resident safety, staff safety and the safety of those living in the neighborhoods in which there are group homes. When the residents are placed from out of county, the social worker from that county is responsible for giving us the information. And we think there's a disconnect there."

A disconnect that Commissioner Dahlberg wants the St. Louis County board to do something about.

He's asking the board to step in and work with state lawmakers and Human Services officials to make sure residents, caregivers and neighbors living close to adult foster care homes are safe in the future.

In Duluth, Barbara Reyelts, the Northland's NewsCenter.