Five Oaks Residential Treatment Center in New Ulm is shutting down following years of controversy and complaints from neighbors.
Texas Sen. Lois Kolkhorst announced last week that owners and operators of the juvenile group home have surrendered their license after a lengthy investigation by state officials and the Health and Human Services Commission. Five Oaks will cease operations after every child is transferred to other caregivers, Kolkhorst said in a statement.
“As the Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, I am dedicated to improving our CPS and foster care system and seeing that it does not fail either our children or our communities. That's why today I have filed SB 781 which will vastly improve how residential treatments centers such as Five Oaks are created, licensed, and operated,” Kolkhorst said.
In a letter to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Kolkhorst pointed out that the facility “has had a long history of life and safety deficiencies, including a child’s death in 2010. Earlier this year, a nearby home was destroyed by fire in an act of arson by a child residing at Five Oaks.”
Calls to the juvenile home at 7674 Pechacek Road in New Ulm were not answered Tuesday.
While the matter was discussed by Austin County commissioners after the arson incident last year, they expressed that the home is regulated by the state and they did not have the authority to shut it down. Kolkhorst promptly held a town hall meeting to gather feedback from more than 200 local residents and took prompt action.
“Because unaccompanied children routinely leave the Five Oaks property, there is a great danger to public safety for both the children and surrounding residents,” Kolkhorst said in her letter to the governor. “In addition to the frequent runaways and arson, this investor-owned facility was sued for $2.2 million for alleged overtime violations by the U.S. Labor Department for improperly deducting sleep time from the wages of 68 employees who were asked to work incredibly long shifts.”
According to state reports, Five Oaks has been cited for 59 licensure deficiencies in the past two years.
“I fear more tragedies will occur at Five Oaks unless this facility is closed,” Kolkhorst said.