DYRS firing puts agency mission at risk

The Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) abruptly fired health services administrator Dr. Andrea Weisman last week, leaving a gap in expertise in an area central to its mission, sources at the troubled agency said Thursday.

DYRS officials would not discuss the firing because it is a personnel matter. A DYRS spokesperson said on Thursday that Dr. Samia Altaf has been selected to provide oversight of all health care service programs until a permanent replacement is appointed.

The firing came on the heels of the recent firing of DYRS‘ human resources manager, Carol Godley, as questions hovered around the hiring of a superintendent to oversee the city’s $46 million youth-detention facility, New Beginnings Youth Development Center.

And it came just a week before another D.C. homicide occurred involving multiple youths in the custody of DYRS.

Hired during the high-profile era of so-called reform overseen by former DYRS director Vincent N. Schiraldi, Dr. Weisman oversaw human services for troubled youth such as trauma recovery, substance abuse and mental illness at New Beginnings, which houses just 60 of DYRS‘ more than 1,100 committed youth.

Failure to address such conditions in troubled youth risks contributing to an alarming pattern of youth escapes from custody, violence against DYRS employees and violence involving youth entrusted to the agency’s care, sources at the agency said.

Dr. Weisman’s firing signals a loss of expertise in an area the agency can ill-afford to neglect, according to well-placed sources at DYRS.

Reached via email on Thursday, Dr. Weisman declined to comment.

During the recent confirmation hearings for DYRS Director Neil Stanley, Council member Jim Graham and others also voiced concerns about the size and capacity of New Beginnings, DYRS‘ pattern of releasing youth into communities without proper supervision, and its reliance on out-of-state placement of youth who benefit most from residential treatment closer to home.

Those concerns, in addition to human services for troubled youth, remain a top priority for Mr. Graham, according to a staff member, who said the councilman is out of the country and unavailable for comment.

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