7-year-old’s death at a Kentucky youth facility exposes years of alleged abuses

By greatbritton

A Kentucky entity responsible for caring for children who have been removed from their homes because of abuse and neglect has a history of abuse allegations, reports show.

Uspiritus, the parent organization behind Brooklawn and Bellewood, is facing a criminal investigation after a 7-year-old suffocated after being held by care workers in a chokehold. Still, a recent investigation by NBC News also found that the therapeutic foster care facilities have been the subjects of 35 internal probes by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services for the past eight years.Michelle and

Misty Andrews, the couple who raised Ja’Ceon Terry after his parents lost their parental rights, have filed a wrongful death and negligence complaint against Uspiritus. Ja’Ceon became a ward of the state in August 2021, and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services made an agreement with Uspiritus for foster care placement services and residential psychiatric treatment.

Court documents show he suffered multiple injuries and suffocated in the position until he was unconscious. The boy remained unresponsive until he was transported to Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, where he was pronounced dead. The Jefferson County Coroner’s Office ruled Ja’Ceon’s death a homicide by positional asphyxia.

“His death was no freak accident and absolutely preventable,” said attorneys for Ja’Ceon’s estate in a statement to Atlanta Black Star, “Uspiritus and the employees involved should be held accountable for this senseless and tragic loss. This type of incident should never be allowed to happen again.”

Uspiritus fired the two workers involved in the incident. Police and state law enforcement agencies are investigating what happened and the Cabinet of Health and Family Services has suspended new placements at the Brooklawn facility where Ja’Ceon was allegedly abused.

The news outlet reported, that 32 children were still under the facility’s care as of Oct. 20. However, Brooklawn and Bellewood have been at the center of abuse allegations before Ja’Ceon’s death. Of the 200 pages of records obtained from the state agency, an investigator wrote that they were concerned “because of a pattern at Uspiritus of broken bones” during restraints.

Although many of the claims were unconfirmed, because of a lack of witness or video evidence. There have been also reports that children had been slammed to the ground or pushed down by workers. In one instance one child a broken leg and a staffer restrained a child using a knee in the back in another NBC News reported.

Two former workers have come forward claiming to witness other employees pinning children against walls, waterboarding children with a cooler, dragging a “naked juvenile on the floor” and threated to “hit a child with a book.”

“These kids had experienced so much trauma already, so if you’re putting a child against a wall to teach them a lesson, that’s abuse,” Rebekah Frank said, who was hired as a youth care worker at Brooklawn in 2018.

Nicole Richardson filed a suit in 2020 alleging she was fired in January 2019 for reporting abuse. Richardson claims she heard another employee tell “residents to go ahead and call the child protective services, saying to the residents, they are not going to believe you and will not do anything to me.”

“We take very seriously any allegations made by a child in our care or by an employee of our organization,” Uspiritus told NBC News in a statement. “To protect our children and employees, we thoroughly review every allegation and take timely and appropriate actions — to include termination of employees — if necessary. We self-report allegations to Child Protective Services and guardians that have been brought to our attention. Self-reporting includes a child or staff member calling or electronically reporting to the Department for Community Based Services (DCBS) and their relevant guardian, including DCBS, when appropriate.”

The Andrews are now seeking damages from Uspiritus on behalf of Ja’Ceon’s estate. The 7-year-old has two siblings currently in foster care. The children had been removed from their mother’s care because of substance abuse.

The suit claims that the company and its employees are responsible for the boy’s death alleging Uspiritus neglected to hire employees who were “competent and fit to perform their duties,” and two of those employees “posed an unreasonable risk to the health and safety of its patient residents.”

Attorneys for Ja’Ceon’s estate, Paul K. Croley and B.J. Foley are hoping the suit “brings those responsible for” the boy’s “tragic and inexcusable death” to “justice.”

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