Mother says state didn’t do enough to protect her son

Posted at 10:12 PM, Aug 05, 2013
and last updated 2013-08-06 12:07:56-04

TAYLORSVILLE -- A  Taylorsville mother says the state didn't do enough to keep her son safe.  Fourteen-year-old Andre Duran was in state custody when he went missing from a youth camp.

Daggett County search and rescue found the teen alive Sunday night after a four-day search through the wilderness.

"We were just jumping up and down, screaming and celebrating," said Duran’s mom, Kelly Harris.

The teen went missing Thursday morning from a campsite near Spirit Lake in the Uintah Mountains.

He was on a hike as part of a youth treatment camp called Journeys Impact Ranch.

"It actually helps them build some life skills, it's recreational therapy and learning what to do in the wilderness, that kind of thing," said Liz Sollis, spokeswoman with the Utah Division of Child and Family Services

"We never in a million years imagined within a week of being in this program that he would be taken out to a wilderness trip let alone being unsupervised for a minute,” said Kelly Harris.

Duran was found about five miles from where he went missing.

There were two staff per eight youth on the camping trip, which is more than usual, according to DCFS officials.

"I think there should have been more staff than that,” Harris said. “Later on we found out that they leave this kids in these solo tents and check on them periodically, supposedly every 45 minutes, but I don't feel that happened."

"One of the steps the program took to keep him from running the youth's shoes in the evening when they're going to bed," Sollis said.

"I think that is quite dangerous, actually,” Harris fired back.  “I mean, the way I think they should do things, put some sort of tracking device on them."

DCFS says the program has safety procedures in place but now investigators are taking a closer look.

"That's something our division of juvenile justice services and office of licensing will be investigating. What happened?  What didn’t happen?  What should've happened and what can be done in the future to prevent it from happening again?" said Sollis.

Kelly Harris claims her son did not run away, that he went to use the bathroom and got lost. Sheriff’s officials said otherwise.  Andre Duran is in good health but his mother hopes the state will make some changes to these programs because both parties they're valuable and can help kids get back on track.
Duran is currently being interviewed at a state facility.  Harris says she’s working on a court order to bring her son home to Taylorsville.