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Since 1894, Kurn Hattin Homes for Children has served children ages 5 to 15 from throughout the Northeast, providing a safe, caring, and fun environment where they can excel academically and grow as individuals. Since 2015, I have served as Kurn Hattin’s executive director. The recent allegations by alumni of historical abuse have been devastating to us. Our hearts are breaking at the thought that any child who sought refuge at Kurn Hattin ended up a victim.

Many of the allegations concern conduct that took place many decades ago. In the late 1980s, Kurn Hattin administrators promptly reported a perpetrator of abuse, who was then convicted and sent to prison. With respect to older claims, these allegations were first raised this summer. No matter how long ago, survivors deserve our support and to be heard. If any child suffered, I am profoundly sorry, and we will do all we can to ensure it never happens again.

Unfortunately, following these alumni’s courageous efforts to come forward, Kurn Hattin has become the target of attacks based on falsehoods and misinformation. It is time we set the record straight.

So here are the facts:

• We have repeatedly attempted to work with the claimants’ lawyers. We have commissioned an independent investigation to investigate fully all of the allegations that have been made, and we are committed to uncovering the truth.

• Regarding more recent allegations of child-on-child abuse, we have consistently reported allegations to Vermont’s Department for Children and Families (DCF). Several of the most serious allegations, repeatedly published in the media, were determined to be unsupported by DCF investigations and were dismissed. Yet, these facts were not reported.

• Over the past five years, we have made significant changes to our procedures to better meet the needs of children, provide improved supervision and care, and ensure quality staffing, including: new training curricula for staff regarding abuse, trauma, sexual reactivity, and self-harm; changing counselor and nursing schedules to provide more coverage and care for children during times of their greatest need; and providing increased training for all staff in trauma-informed care and restorative practices. We are constantly trying to improve, and we will continue to do so.

• Numerous news stories have falsely reported that our Residential Treatment Program license from DCF was taken away. This is not true. On our own initiative, we began the process several years ago to end our license because we do not provide “treatment” to children.

• We have never tried to cover up any allegations brought to our attention, but when we report allegations to the State, we do not expect our children and their stories to be handed over to the press. If DCF, in apparent violation of the law, refuses to keep confidential the names of children or their families, it undermines a system designed to protect children and mandatory reporters in the prevention of abuse.

Child abuse is inexcusable. All of us who devote ourselves to the children at Kurn Hattin want to acknowledge and commend the courage of our alumni who have come forward. We stand with them and are listening. We want to know what happened, when it happened, how it happened, and why it happened. Facts matter. Those in government and the media should show the same commitment to facts and to the children whose interests they are bound to protect. We are seeking the facts and sharing them so we can continue to serve children who need us, and we are committed to ensuring that what happened to those children never happens again.

Stephen Harrison is executive director of Kurn Hattin Homes for Children in Westminster, www.kurnhattin.org. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.


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