E-mail of August 18, 1998 from Cathy Sutton, the parent of Michelle Sutton who was killed at Summit Quest, a punitive youth camp in UtahOn Thursday, August 13th there was an article in the San Francisco Chronicle entitled, "State Gets 'F' on Public Policy Issues," written by Congressman George Miller. I feel this was an article well written. I also feel that Congressman Miller is genuinely for the best interest of children, the elderly, the imprisoned and the frail.
On this same day there was an article in our local paper stating that Attorney General Dan Lungren has agreed to join the investigation into the death of Nick Contreraz at Arizona Boys Ranch. When asked by a local reporter how I felt about this I gave it some thought. I feel the state of California needs to get involved in the investigation of this California youth. I feel the state of California is partly accountable for the death of Nick. After all, "they picked the at-risk program" that placed Nick in harms way.
For those of you who may not know, my daughter Michelle died on May 9th, 1990 while in the Summit Quest program, Utah. Michelle died of dehydration on the 7th day into the program while being accused of faking her flu like symptoms that began the day she arrived. While it has been said to me many times that I picked the program for my daughter and that she came from a dysfunctional family, I know that the program Michelle and I picked (the one SOLD to us) and the program my daughter received, were two totally different programs. We did not know the Summit Quest program was punitive. Can the state of California claim the same? They knew!! Who's dysfunctional now?
Another article was brought to my attention by the mother of a court adjudicated child named Dee Dee Takeuchi who died under the care of Vision Quest, Arizona. The article "Business AZ usual" appeared in August 6-12 issue of the Phoenix New Times, written by Chris Farnsworth. I feel this is a must read article for anyone interested in the politics surrounding this important issue.
When our daughter died in 1990, we wrote to the Governor of Arizona, Rose Mofford, asking for her help in the investigation of the death of our daughter. I understand that Former Governor Rose Mofford now sits on the Arizona Boys Ranch advisory board. I find it a conflict of the best interest of the children in the care of this industry when those who govern the industry are allowed to sit on the advisory board for the program. It smells like "risk management" to me. I still feel there needs to be an outside governing body watching over this industry and this governing body should in no way be affiliated with the program.
I have some concerns with the passing of the Thompson Bill. I understand that it would allow our children to be sent out-of-state. I still feel we need to bring our children and our money home to the state of California. I also feel that a program or group home should not be allowed to operate with a provisional license. The Summit Quest program was allowed to operate with a provisional license. My daughter Michelle died on a provisional license. The state of Utah gave the program 90 days in which to prove themselves. It is my feeling that you are either prepared or you do not take children into your care.
These are my thoughts and feelings while I will agree with Congressman Miller who said, "California taxpayers must demand a higher level of accountability from their elected leaders." Let us join together to do just that.
Michelle Sutton Memorial Fund, Inc.
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