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Teen rejoins her mom after 18 months in juvenile system

Friday, December 14, 2001

By Steve Twedt, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

"Hi. I'm home."

With those simple words, Patricia Domain, 18, stepped out of Shuman Juvenile Detention Center yesterday afternoon and into her mother's arms, part of her family's household again for the first time in 18 months.

Sylvia Forshey, right, embraces her daughter, Patricia Domain, 18, yesterday afternoon at Shuman Juvenile Detention Center. Domain was released from custody after having spent 13 months in Danville Center for Adolescent Females, Pennsylvania's maximum-security lockup for teen girls in Montour County. Her older brother, David Domain, was also on hand for the welcome. (Annie O'Neill, Post-Gazette)

Domain has spent the past 13 months in Danville Center for Adolescent Females, Pennsylvania's maximum-security lockup for teen girls, where she'd been sent after running away from or disrupting a half-dozen court-ordered placements. A sheriff's deputy drove her, handcuffed and shackled, from the Montour County facility to Shuman, where she was met by her mother, Sylvia Forshey, and her older brother, David Domain.

If yesterday's reunion ended a troubling chapter for Domain, it also revived questions about how teens like her get pulled into the depths of the juvenile justice system.

Domain was judged delinquent in June 2000 for throwing a VCR at her mother's boyfriend, a misdemeanor simple assault.

Once in the system, she exhibited signs of serious mental problems, hearing voices, imagining a twin brother who didn't exist and attempting to hurt herself. During her stay at Danville, a staff member once found Domain rubbing the end of a pencil against her skin -- she said she was trying to erase herself. But because she ran away and because she defied rules, she was sent to progressively more secure facilities.

Yesterday, Domain emerged from Shuman wearing gray sweats and socks bearing her initials, as required at Danville. She couldn't wait to get a shower and new clothes on, she said. Forshey said she could tell her daughter has changed.


 
 
The series

Link to the introductory series that launched the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's continuing examination of the fate of mentally ill youngsters caught up in the nation's juvenile justice system.

   

 

"I'm not used to her saying, 'Thank you' and 'You're welcome.' It's just a whole different child I see standing there. ... I guess I shouldn't say 'child.' She's a young woman now." But a young woman with troubles still, she added.

"I think Patty still hears the voices, but I think she was scared to tell anybody because then they'd keep her in there longer."

Domain nearly did spend another Christmas locked up. At her hearing Nov. 26, the Danville psychiatrist and her caseworker from the Allegheny County Office of Children, Youth and Families recommended she stay at Danville for two more months.

Her counselor at Danville and her probation officer recommended her release.

That disagreement illustrated the dilemma many in juvenile justice face with youth who have histories of both delinquent acts and mental health problems. Because Pennsylvania and many other states have closed the adolescent units in their state hospitals, troubled teens can get trapped in the corrections system because there's no other place for them.

Before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Kathleen Mulligan agreed to release Domain, she wanted assurances that services would be in place for her.

Bonnie McConnell of the Mental Health Association of Allegheny County is helping to coordinate those services, which include schooling and therapy at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic during the day. Domain, who remains on probation, will undergo a psychiatric assessment and other screens in the next few days.

Sylvia Forshey, left, leaves Shuman Juvenile Detention Center with her daughter, Patricia Domain. (Annie O'Neill, Post-Gazette)

Forshey said she believes her daughter would have been better served at a psychiatric hospital than at a maximum-security lockup, especially after Domain showed her the chafe marks from the handcuffs and marks on her stomach that Domain said occurred when she was physically restrained at Danville.

"When she was at Western Psych, they worked with Patty, not against her. They called me with every recommendation, everything they were doing to her."

On the ride home along Route 28, Domain brightened as Downtown came into view. "Look, Mom, there's Pittsburgh! That's better than good -- that's sweet."

Before the car pulled up to her mom's Troy Hill apartment, Domain already had a list of people she wanted to see and neighborhoods she wanted to explore. But, if coming home bore any strong sentimental feelings for her, she didn't show them.

Finally, her mother asked her why.

"I cried already, Mom," she said. "I don't have any more tears."



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