Providence Phoenix: Nicholas Alahverdian – The leader in DCYF reform

The Providence Phoenix’s “Phillipe and Jorge” section featured Nicholas Alahverdian in a column published on June 26, 2013:

Copyright © 2013 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group

By PHILLIPE AND JORGE  |  June 26, 2013

In November of 2002, the Providence Journal’s Bob Kerr wrote about a 15-year-old, Nicholas Alahverdian, who at the time was living at a group home in Rhode Island. Nicholas had been “forced to live his life in bits and pieces, never knowing how long he will be living or going to school in the same place,” Kerr wrote.

Nick was in “night-to-night placement” under the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF), Kerr explained. “It is often little more than a couch to sleep on for the night, followed by a day of wondering where the next couch will be.” In night-to-night placement, Nick would be threatened; assaulted; have his clothing and sneakers stolen; and then, after waking up early in the morning, go to the DCYF building to wait and see where he would be going the following night.

nicholas alahverdian, alahverdian, harvard, library
Nicholas Alahverdian

But Nicholas Alahverdian was smart, very smart. He devoured newspapers and books and kept notes on what was going on in his life. He also told Kerr at the time that he was in “a war with people who are trying to destroy kids’ lives.”

Somehow, Nick survived and eventually attended classes at Harvard University. Fast forward to 2011 when Kerr talked to Nick again. By then, at age 23, Nick told Kerr how the Family Court in RI sent him out of state to facilities “that featured barbed wire, lockdowns, and limited access to the outside world — all at a cost of $330 a day to the state he came from,” Kerr wrote.

Nick believed that he was being sent out of state, to Manatee Palms, a facility in Florida (where he says he was assaulted almost every day and which has twice been closed by the State of Florida since because of “hurtful behavior” by staff) and Boys Town in Nebraska to shut him up. As a teen, he had worked as a page and aide at the state house and he knew how things worked.

Nick has helped craft legislation to end the horrors that are visited on youth in the state of RI and held news conferences to discuss this. He has sued the state of Rhode Island, primarily to change the way other children who find themselves in similar situations are being treated.

But the horrors for children in state care continue. Earlier this month, a former employee at Harmony Hill School in Glocester told WJAR-Channel 10 that staff at the school broke the arm of her 13-year-old son while restraining him on June 1. She also said that investigations into abuse are thwarted by the school’s administration. The boy was placed at the school after he repeatedly ran away from group homes.

Nicholas Alahverdian, 2011, Harvard
Nicholas Alahverdian with friends

And on June 21, WPRI Channel 12 reported that “a 2 ½-year-old girl pronounced dead after being found unresponsive inside a Cranston home was in DCYF custody… According to the Department of Children, Youth and Families, the girl and her 4-year-old brother had been living with a foster mother in her Imperial Ave. home for about a month.”

Your superior correspondents suggest that you and the “powers that be” in the state of Rhode Island should listen to what Nicholas Alahverdian has to say. We can and should do a better job because there is plenty of horror out there.