© 2024 Louisville Public Media

Public Files:
89.3 WFPL · 90.5 WUOL-FM · 91.9 WFPK

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact info@lpm.org or call 502-814-6500
89.3 WFPL News | 90.5 WUOL Classical 91.9 WFPK Music | KyCIR Investigations
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Stream: News Music Classical

Foster placements resume at Ky. facility where a 7-year-old died

The marquee of Brooklawn on a grassy knoll.
Jess Clark
The Brooklawn facility off Goldsmith Lane in Louisville.

The Kentucky Department for Community Based Services resumed placing foster children at Bellewood and Brooklawn last week, after a ten-month pause following the death of a 7-year-old at the child welfare facility.

In a statement, DCBS spokesperson Brice Mitchell said the agency “has noted actions taken” by Bellewood and Brooklawn, also known as Uspiritus-Brooklawn, and notified the organization on May 16 that it will resume services “at some of the levels of care beginning on or near May 19.”

That notification came one day beforeBellewood and Brooklawn CEO Abby Drane announced that she would retire at the end of the year.

The department did not say whether Drane’s retirement was a condition of resuming foster placements.

“Following Ja’Ceon’s death, Uspiritus conducted an internal investigation. This led to dismissal of staff; retraining of staff and increased supervision,” Mitchell wrote.

According to the DCBS statement, the department will resume placements in three levels of care, including therapeutic foster care, independent living placements and residential treatment.

Placements will not resume for Bellewood and Brooklawn’s psychiatric residential treatment facilities (PRTF) — units that provide more intensive care for children with severe mental and behavioral issues. Ja’Ceon Terry was being treated in a Brooklawn PRTF when he was killed last July. The coroner ruled the seven-year-old foster child’s death a homicide due to “positional asphyxia.”

Terry’s foster family is suing the organization, and says the child was killed by two staff members who placed him in an improper restraint.

The state revoked three of Bellewood and Brooklawn’s PRTF licenses in December, following an investigation into Terry’s death. The investigation found inadequate staffing and improper use of seclusion and restraint — techniques used to subdue children when they are a danger to themselves or others.

“These areas of non-compliance ultimately led to the death of a child,” a notice of revocation stated.

Leaders and spokespeople for Bellewood and Brooklawn did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the state’s decision to resume placements.

The organization is teetering on the edge of financial collapse due to the state’s ten-month pause in new foster placements.

Meanwhile, DCBS has been struggling to find enough placements for older foster children and high-needs foster children across the state. One DCBS staff member told lawmakers in February the issue was so dire that some foster children were sleeping in social workers’ offices.

Below is the full statement from DBCS:

Following the death in July 2022 of 7-year-old Ja’Ceon Terry at a state licensed facility in Louisville, Uspiritus, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services stopped placing children at any Uspiritus facility holding any level of license. The cabinet’s Department for Community Based Services and Office of the Inspector General launched thorough investigations. In December, the Inspector General revoked three Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities (PRTFs) licenses held by Uspiritus after deficient practices were found. Uspiritus has administratively appealed the revocation of the three licenses.

Following Ja’Ceon’s death, Uspiritus conducted an internal investigation. This led to dismissal of staff; retraining of staff and increased supervision.

The cabinet has noted actions taken by Uspiritus Brooklawn Campus and notified Uspiritus on May 16 that it will resume services at some of the levels of care beginning on or near May 19. The state will resume referrals for therapeutic foster care, residential treatment and independent living placements. The cabinet has set forth requirements that the campus must comply with in order for this to remain in effect. The state is not placing children in Uspiritus PRTFs.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services is committed to the safety and well-being of Kentuckians and takes significant steps to prevent harm to individuals and families. The cabinet takes appropriate action when harm has occurred to any individual in its custody.

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

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

Can we count on your support?

Louisville Public Media depends on donations from members – generous people like you – for the majority of our funding. You can help make the next story possible with a donation of $10 or $20. We'll put your gift to work providing news and music for our diverse community.