Originally created 02/21/01

Group home hits market



AIKEN - The troubled boys home shut down by sheriff's deputies last year is up for sale.

Winner's Circle Group Home plans no attempt to relicense the facility, which operated in a home near New Ellenton. The Aiken County Sheriff's Office used its legal authority to halt operations and take custody of the residents Sept. 20 after allegations surfaced of sex between boys and counselors.

"Had they tried to put even a lower-level management facility there, given their history and their record in the community, it would have been a tough struggle for them, I imagine," said Jerry Adams, spokesman for the South Carolina Department of Social Services, the state agency that regulates such homes.

Ramsay Youth Services of South Carolina, which owned the facility, is reportedly turning its attention to opening a home in neighboring Lexington County, Mr. Adams said.

"But it will probably be for a different level of care," he said.

Ramsay purchased the Aiken County home in 1999 and opened in February of that year, offering rehabilitation programs for high-risk boys with behavioral or psychiatric disorders, drug problems and developmental difficulties.

Soon, though, employees were making frequent 911 calls for fights and runaways. More recently, deputies arrested two female counselors - one in the statutory rape of a 15-year-old and the other for allegedly beating a resident.

On Sept. 4, one of the boys was charged with sexually assaulting a fellow resident, and a male counselor was charged a few weeks later with repeatedly raping a 14-year-old resident.

The home's owners had discussed regrouping and trying to reopen, but they decided against it, said Dr. Susan Corriher with Ramsay Youth Services.

Sheriff's Lt. Michael Frank said his agency is not disappointed with the decision.

"We answered calls there and returned to answer more calls," he said. "Not having to respond to Winner's Circle on a regular basis will allow the uniform division to perhaps operate more efficiently because we have that many fewer calls to respond to."

The home is located on a 21.6-acre lot on Bell Clapper Court in a somewhat rural area off Chime Bell Road.

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 648-1395.