Mother Claims Mentally Challenged Son Was Abused at Center - NBC New York

Mother Claims Mentally Challenged Son Was Abused at Center



    Mother Claims Mentally Challenged Son Was Abused at Center
    Daniel Rivera, 24

    One New Jersey mother is heartbroken over ugly bruises on her developmentally challenged son -- and angry over the official explanation.

    Aileen Rivera of Wayne, NJ says she discovered her son badly beaten last week at the North Jersey Development Center where he lives in Totowa.

    "To my surprise when I saw my son his eyes were purple and black, shut closed," said Rivera. "He couldn't even open them, that's how closed they were and he says, 'Look Mommy what they did to me' -- I couldn't believe what I was seeing."

    Her son, Daniel Rivera, 24, says a staffer at the state run NJDC beat him June 3rd, according to his mother and a mental health official. 

    "They restrained my son,"  said Rivera.  "And then one of the staff members just decided to not follow protocol and attacked my son  ...just kept punching him and punching him and punching him."

    But when she asked managers at the facility how he was injured they said he fell during an altercation over breakfast that morning.

    "How can they say my son fell?," said the distraught mother. "It's clear that he was beaten. You don't get those kind of injuries by falling down."

    Officials have suspended the staffer and launched two investigations into the incident at the 188-acre facility, Rivera's home for the past year.

    Rivera was injured about 8 a.m. last Thursday in a dining area just after breakfast had finished, according to the New Jersey Department of Human Services, which is leading the investigation into the incident.            

    "Staff members had said that he had fallen, but the individual involved says a staff member had committed an abuse," said Pam Ronan, DHS's spokeswoman. "He reported an alleged incident of abuse. There was a staff member named in the allegation who was immediately suspended with pay, pending the outcome of the investigation."‪  

    Ronan said there were witnesses to the incident, but declined to say how many.  She said two investigations are underway -- conducted by DHS' detectives and by an incident response unit within the facility, which first opened in 1928.‬‪

    It's now home to about 395 residents and run by about 1,100 full and part time staffers, said Ronan.‬‪

    So far this year the facility has reported two substantiated cases of abuse, but these could be verbal, not physical, said Ronan.‬‪  

    The facility's website says it provides "a contemporary community environment where every citizen is afforded the highest quality of life."‬‪

    Rivera says she knows her son can be a handful and that the staff at the state run facility is usually very good at dealing with him when he gets aggressive. But this, she says, is too much.

    "I just hope that the truth comes out and that staff members that were there that saw that they speak out," she pleaded. "I know they're probably concerned that they'll lose their jobs, but it's my son today, tomorrow it could be their son their child, their loved one, that they please speak out."