Boys home suspends operations

Frank Demby Jr., 46, of Lawrence, can trace a definitive moment in his life back to the early 1970s.

As an 11-year-old, he had gotten into some trouble because of peer pressure, he said. Instead of being placed in an institution for juveniles, his mother and a judge decided he would be better-suited for the group home Achievement Place for Boys Inc., which would allow him to still attend school in Lawrence.

“A lot of people don’t even have the family settings. It really gives you something to think about as a child,” Demby said.

The program is a merit-based, family-style setting, known as the teaching-family model. Kansas University researchers Dean Fixsen and Montrose Wolf and teaching-parents Elery “Lonnie” and Elaine Phillips in 1967 developed the program, which is now popular because of the Girls and Boys Town campus in Omaha, Neb.

After completing a vocational program and serving in the National Guard, Demby is now a father of six children and has worked for the city of Lawrence since 1983, mostly at Oak Hill Cemetery.

And now, he’s concerned about other boys from broken homes not getting the same opportunities he did. Achievement Place board members have temporarily suspended operations. The last resident successfully completed the program in December.

The eight-bed home for troubled teenagers is at 1320 Haskell Ave. Board members have cited the change in the state’s Medicaid-funding plan that restricted group-home stays to 140 days. Legislators and state agencies have been working on the issue while residents in group homes have either been steered to foster homes or other state facilities.

Achievement Place board members say they are waiting to see what happens with funding at the state level.

“We are also discussing partnerships with some very substantial organizations in U.S. that would partner with us,” said board member Dave Kingsley, of Lawrence.

State agencies enforced the 140-day limit last year after a federal ruling determined Kansas was out of compliance with its Medicaid plan.

“There has been a change. There’s been a lack of appreciation for that type of program because of costs,” said Nancy Crawford, president of Achievement Place’s board of directors. “So we have to retool a little bit and decide how we are going to be able to pay for the type of treatment that we provide.”

Crawford said several types of service providers in the state will meet later this week with leaders at the Kansas Social and Rehabilitation Services office to discuss what may happen at the state level and how it may affect them.

Representatives at the Kansas Juvenile Justice Authority and at SRS did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday.

“Our goal is to reopen the program under the teaching-family model, and that will entail treating kids and having them live there for more than 140 days,” Crawford said.

The board also is seeking private revenue sources, she said.

Bobick and Roxana Sarraf, the Lawrence couple employed by Achievement Place who most recently lived at the home as program directors and teaching parents, stayed on as employees until the last resident left the home last month, Kingsley said.

Suspending operations was a gradual process as the number of residents whittled down from six last spring to one in December. The last resident completed the program and plans to enter college, Kingsley said.

“That gives you an idea of how well that program works,” he said.

The board still owns the property and the house. Board members are working on expanding the board membership and developing a fund-development program during the next several months before possibly reopening.