Group Home Under Investigation - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

03/07/05

Group Home Under Investigation

Gabriel's House Gabriel's House

A weekend outing has turned into investigation after a three-year-old girl was found wandering around Forsyth Park alone. The child lived at a group home in Hinesville known as Gabriel's House. It's a nonprofit facility which takes in siblings from abused homes.

On Saturday they took the children on a field trip to Savannah, but when it was time to leave, they somehow forgot about Kira Davis and left her behind.

Gabriel's House just opened up last October. They say losing a child in inexcusable, but they are desperately hoping this incident does not tarnish their reputation.

This has been one tough Monday for Lynn Waters, the director of Gabriel's House. She showed us Kira's empty bed, her little clothes still hanging in her closet with her favorite teddy bear. "She's a beautiful child, happy, a lot of fun."

On Saturday, seven employees from Gabriel's House took 37 children on a field trip. They started at Chuck E. Cheese and eventually came to Forsyth Park. That's where, as Waters put it, communication broke down and employees left the three-year-old wandering the park.

Ebru Caglayan was at the park on Saturday and saw Kira. "The little girl was running around the park and she almost ran off the street," she told us.

As other park goers looked for Kira's parents, Kira spent time with Ebru and her family. "I offered her something to drink and she drank it so fast," Ebru told us. "I felt bad, she was 100 percent dehydrated."

How does such a thing happen? When we asked Waters, she told us, "I don't know. I'm appalled."

The worst part is that employees at Gabriel's House didn't realize Kira was even missing until Hinesville police knocked on their door hours later.

"We have taken the necessary measures and the person responsible has been fired," Waters said.

Even after this terrible mistake, people at Gabriel's House say they are responsible for their children and want another chance to prove it.  "Our intent here is to provide safe, nurturing environment for anyone who comes here," said Waters.

But they might not have that chance. The Department of Human Resources is handling the investigation, and until that's complete, all 40 children will have to stay with DFACS. Gabriel's House is also facing the possibility of having its license taken away.

Reported by: Hena Daniels, hdaniels@wtoc.com

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