After the death of 7-year-old Ja’Ceon Terry, the foster care facility where he lived was exposed for numerous allegations of abusing minors, according to a special report from NBC News. The facility and its sister campus had racked up complaints for several years before this tragic accident.
Terry was sent to Brooklawn, a foster care facility in Louisville, Kentucky for kids with behavioral needs, the report says. He was a ward of the state and his parents lost parental rights to him in August 2021. The report says July 17, he was being held in a chokehold by two employees causing him to vomit. The Jefferson County Coroner’s Office found Terry died of positional asphyxia and ruled his manner of death as a homicide. Brooklawn remains in operation as the police investigate the death. The two employees were fired.
“I just don’t see how they’re still open. I just need closure and justice for what happened. The people who did this need to be charged,” said the boy’s mother, Dominique Terry, to NBC News. Last month, Ja’Ceon’s estate filed a wrongful death suit against the facility.
Unfortunately, it took his death to shine a line on the years of abuse allegations filed against the foster facilities, owned by nonprofit Uspiritus. One former employee reported children being pinned against the wall, screaming in pain. Another recalled children being waterboarded, dragged across the floor and threatened to be hit with a book, per an affidavit.
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From 2018 to 2021, Uspiritus received almost $43 million in payments from the Kentucky Cabinet of Health and Family Services, according to state records obtained by NBC News.
The state agency conducted at least 35 internal investigations into complaints filed against employees of the Brooklawn and Bellewood facilities from 2014 to 2022, according to nearly 200 pages of records NBC News obtained from the agency. The agency did not respond to a question about how the complaints compared with those about other facilities.
The complaints, while not confirmed, included reports that children had been slammed to the floor or pushed down by staffers, that a child had a broken leg and that an employee held a child down using a knee in the back. Others included reports of verbal and sexual abuse.
In one unconfirmed report, an investigator writes to the state agency about being concerned “because of a pattern at Uspiritus of broken bones” during restraints. It is unclear whether police were called for a separate investigation into any of the complaints.
The way in which this innocent boy lost his life is only a piece of this disturbing picture.
Black children overwhelmingly represent the foster care population, making up 20 percent of those entering care while only making up 14 percent of the entire child population, per AECF. Children often leave abusive homes to come to foster care. However, if they enter a facility like that described of Brooklawn, they’re only set up to experience more trauma.