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CEO of troubled Kentucky child welfare organization announces retirement

The marquee of Brooklawn on a grassy knoll.
Jess Clark
Brooklawn has been serving children since the 1850s. It merged with Bellewood in 2012, but now faces financial turmoil after the death of Ja'Ceon Terry.

The CEO of Seven Counties Services and Bellewood and Brooklawn Abby Drane plans to retire at the end of the year.

The CEO of Seven Counties Services and its beleaguered child welfare arm Bellewood and Brooklawn has announced her retirement.

In a press release, CEO Abby Drane said she plans to depart at the end of the year.

“I have spent the last 31 years being part of the important work in behavioral health, and I’m ready to enjoy some time for myself, my family, and my faith community,” Drane said.

Drane’s departure comes as Bellewood and Brooklawn is on the verge of financial collapse. The state stopped placing foster children at the facility that houses youth with mental and behavioral health challenges after 7-year-old Ja’Ceon Terry was killed at the Brooklawn campus last July.

Terry’s foster family said the boy was killed when two Brooklawn employees placed him in a restraint. The Jefferson County Coroner ruled Terry’s death a homicide and said he died by “positional asphyxia,” meaning his body was forced into a position that cut off air flow.

In previous statements, Drane called Terry’s death a “tragedy that should not have happened on our watch,” but also disagreed with the state’s decision to revoke some of Bellewood and Brooklawn’s licenses and to stop new foster placements.

In addition to leading Bellewood and Brooklawn, Drane is also the CEO of Seven Counties Services, one of the largest mental and behavioral health providers in the state. She will retire from both positions.

“Over the remaining months, I will work with the leadership team to ensure that the transfer of institutional knowledge and connection with community leaders are seamless. Additionally, we will continue the strategic planning process, including programs and facilities. Our board is committed to finding someone who will lead both Seven Counties Services/Bellewood & Brooklawn into the future,” Drane wrote in her retirement announcement.

Reached for comment, Bellewood and Brooklawn board member Lee Baltzell said she had “no concerns” about finding a replacement.

“Abby will be leaving with a normal transition where we will have ample time to conduct a thorough search. We are confident we will be able to find an appropriate replacement to help lead us into the future,” she wrote in an email to LPM News.

Drane’s last day will be Dec. 31, 2023.

Support for this story was provided in part by the Jewish Heritage Fund.

News Youth Reportingfoster youth
Jess Clark is LPMs Education and Learning Reporter. Email Jess at jclark@lpm.org.

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