When it comes to AdvoServ, the issue is not limited to cost: Policies at AdvoServ have also been questioned.
More than a year ago, the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families stopped placing children at AdvoServ because of AdvoServ's use of restraints.
"We do not use or support the use of mechanical restraints (which may include things like handcuffs, shackles, bed straps/tie downs, etc.)," said Andrea Wojcik, spokeswoman for DSCYF. "Some interventions such as restraint and seclusion may have the unintended consequences of triggering traumatic memories for children, or retraumatizing them. Because it has been our information that AdvoServ continues to use these methods, we stopped referring children to them."
Wojcik said DSCYF verbally informed AdvoServ about its decision. If AdvoServ adopts an acceptable restraint policy, she said, DSCYF may change its position.
Although dozens of students remain in full-time residential programs, including three Cape students, an annual Delaware Department of Education report released in February shows AdvoServ's restraint policy was discussed during fiscal year 2012. A couple of members of a team responsible for placing students in residential facilities toured AdvoServ and discussed "reduction in focus on punitive and invasive behavior strategies."
The report also stated AdvoServ was reevaluated in April 2011 as a nonpublic school eligible to serve students with disabilities. AdvoServ's approval runs through June 2014.
Cape Henlopen school board member Sandi Minard toured the AdvoServ facility in April. She said she asked about AdvoServ's restraint policy and was told restraints were used in the past but are not used as much now.
"They said typically they don't use them on the Delaware kids," she said. "They kept indicating that they used restraints in the past, and when they did use them, it was just for 15 minutes."
Robert J. Bacon Jr., chief operating officer for AdvoServ, did not respond to a question about AdvoServ's restraint policy.