Niagara County authorities asking for help finding runaway teens


LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) – For the second time in a week, authorities in Niagara County are asking for the public’s help locating runaway teens from the Wyndham Lawn Home for Children in Lockport.

The Niagara County Sheriff’s Office has posted pictures of the three girls on the office’s website, as an “Attempt to Locate” bulletin. Two of the girls ran away from the home earlier this week.

The Sheriff’s ATL lists Danielle Schlagler, 14, Erika Burr, 16, and Tamiya Penn, 12. Schlagler and Burr were among the teens that ran away earlier in the week.

Some parents are now concerned about who is keeping an eye on their children because it has been tough this past year for runaways at Wyndham Lawn. They have posted more than 60 reports of kids going AWOL, but that includes young residents who have runaway more than once.

Edward Gargala, the Residential Services Director for Wyndham Lawn emphasized, it is because they are not allowed to confine children to the campus against their will, “We are considered a non-secure treatment facility, which are most treatment facilities in New York state.”

That means, according to Gargala, “we cannot legally lock doors, except for a delay–we can have a 15 second delay on certain doors–and we cannot put fences up, because the idea is they are committing to treatment, and working with us.”

Wyndham Lawn is operated by New Directions Youth and Family Services, and Gargala said, their emphasis is on education and meeting their young residents’ emotional needs.

When kids run away, parents often get frustrated with the lack of security, but Gargala said staying within the facility–as required by the courts, and expected by parents–is a behavior that has to be learned.

“I would suggest though, when kids go to secure facilities, when they leave the secure facility, they have to, again, learn not to run away. Whether they do it with us or home–with home supports–it has to be learned.”

The campus director added, parents who have to leave their children in Wyndham Lawn’s care, can get impatient, “It is always important to recognize change takes time, and by the time kids get to us, they have really ingrained a lot of difficult habits in them.”

Gargala said, generally a young resident who runs away at least twice, or more, would be transferred to another facility where security is handled differently. In this latest case, Gargala could not say what the consequences might be because of confidentiality regulations.

If you can help authorities locate the three missing girls and return them to Wyndham Lawn, you are asked to call the Niagara County Sheriff at 438-3393.

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