Calif. Youth Home Faces Prostitution Claims

     SACRAMENTO (CN) - Employees at a Sacramento home for abused and neglected youth had sex with the children and let some of them work as prostitutes, a former employee claims in court.
     Tina Canupp filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the Children's Receiving Home of Sacramento. The home and Does 1-25 are the only defendants.
     The home, which provides temporary emergency shelter for up to 98 children on its 6-acres, says on its website that it is "committed to positively impacting the lives of children, youth, and families affected by abuse, neglect, behavioral health issues, and trauma in California."
     The home admits children from age 1 to 18 when they are in crisis, providing food, shelter, clothing, and comprehensive care programs, according to the website.
     Canupp, a former Health and Wellness Manager at the home, claims that she made multiple reports about employees sexually abusing children at the home, but her complaints were ignored and she was eventually fired.
     She claims that a fellow employee told her that one of the counselors "was assisting minor female residents in sneaking out of the facility after hours to 'work.' When plaintiff inquired further into what the CRH employee meant by work, the employee stated, 'prostitute,'" according to the complaint.
     Canupp filed a report with one of the managers, Karen Gregg, who "responded abruptly that the allegation was a lie, brushing off the entire report," the complaint states.
     Then, Canupp says, she learned through an employee that another employee was inappropriately touching one of the girls staying at the home. Again, when she reported this, Gregg failed to investigate, and said that the employee who reported the alleged incident was lying and needed to be fired, the lawsuit states.
     The next month, an employee identified as Ms. C. told Canupp that counselor Theresa Gooch was having inappropriate sexual relations with a child staying at the home. Gregg told Canupp not to interview the child involved because Ms. C was a liar, the complaint states.
     The allegations of sexual abuse against Gooch were subsequently substantiated by the Sacramento Police Department, Canupp says in the 20-page complaint.
     In October 2013, Gooch, who was 25 at the time, pleaded no-contest to having oral sex with a 16-year-old girl at the home and to providing the girl with marijuana. She was sentenced to a year in county jail and five years probation, according to the Sacramento Bee.
     In January this year, the girl and her family filed a civil suit against the home and Gooch. The complaint alleges that Gooch sneaked the girl and another client out of the Children's Receiving Home and into her own home and supplied them with alcohol and marijuana, according to the Bee.
     That complaint states that the victim's sister alerted the Children's Receiving Home to what was going on, but the home's employees did not properly investigate the issue and determined that they could not substantiate the claims, the Bee reported. Canupp's lawsuit alleges that another employee, identified as "E," had an inappropriate relationship with two of the home's youths, one of whom told Canupp that "there was prostitution going on at CRH and she could prove it."
     Canupp says she "immediately took her notes to HR and told HR an investigation needed to be conducted and this matter could not be shoved under the rug as CRH had done so many times in the past."
     But rather than do something about it, management ridiculed Canupp for reporting the suspected sexual abuse, saying that she was a liar and liked to create drama, the complaint states.
     Management continued to retaliate against Canupp until she was fired, she says.
     Canupp seeks punitive damages on 10 counts, including disability discrimination, retaliation, interference with FMLA, and wrongful termination.
     She is represented by Natalia Asbill with Perkins & Associates.
     The Children's Receiving Home did not immediately respond to a request for comment.