Some upset over CYFD, Tierra Blanca Ranch settlement

Posted at: 02/21/2014 4:35 PM
Updated at: 11/11/2015 3:13 PM
By: Erica Zucco, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Not everyone is happy about a settlement the Children Youth and Families Department and the Tierra Blanca Ranch reached Friday.

The settlement gives CYFD more oversight of the ranch for at least the next year, but some say that’s not enough.

Last October, a KOB Eyewitness 4 On Your Side investigation dug up dozens of abuse allegation against the ranch, including kids being shackled and beaten.  Accusers wanted to see the ranch closed down, but under the settlement, it will stay open, with the state having a lot more say in how things are run.

Cheryl Morgan’s grandson was one of the first to come forward saying he’d been physically and emotionally abused at Tierra Blanca Ranch, run by Scott Chandler. When learned the ranch won’t be closing anytime soon, she was devastated.

“I was sick. I was infuriated -- I just can't believe that, that this is going on. That they're allowed to operate for another year,” Morgan said.

An agreement filed today puts new conditions on the ranch for at least the next year. CYFD will have access to minors and their files at any time, with no warning. Also, the ranch can no longer use mechanical restraints like shackles. Several past TBR students said they were used often.

“We were placed in handcuffs and shackles and orange suits for three months straight.  The entire time, we were camping, we weren't in a house.  We  were literally in handcuffs wearing orange jumpsuits and had to camp in a tent.  We were there for nine months and I took seven showers.  I wasn't allowed to talk to my friends, I was allowed to talk to my family, I got one phone call my entire stay there, former ranch student Connor Grifoul said in an October 2013 interview.

The agreement also requires the ranch to immediately report when someone gets hurt, dies or goes missing. Cheryl Morgan admits it’s a step toward protection for new kids at the ranch, but says it’s no comfort to the families who believe their kids were tortured at the ranch.

“I would like to see them shut down. I would like to see the investigation completed first. I want to see them regulated, if they are going to continue,” Morgan said.

The settlement doesn’t mention or clear the ranch of abuse allegations. The Governor and CYFD say they’re happy the ranch will now have basic oversight, but they’re disappointed lawmakers didn’t pass a bill about it this session. While the settlement is only good for a year, CYFD believes laws will change shortly, getting them permanent oversight of places like Tierra Blanca.