Youth Residential Treatment Facility Abuse Lawsuit

Sexual Abuse, Physical Abuse, Emotional & Psychological Abuse

Across the United States, youth residential treatment facilities, communities and camps house vulnerable teenagers and children.

Physical, mental, and sexual abuse is alleged to be common and routinely unreported in these facilities. 

If you or a loved one suffered from abuse at a youth residential treatment facility, community, or camp, contact TorHoerman Law for a free, no-obligation consultation.

All consultations are completely confidential.

Staff at TorHoerman Law have first-hand experience with youth residential treatment facilities and know the difficulties of coping with abuse and attempting to seek justice. 

If you are not comfortable discussing your situation with a member of our staff, you can use our chatbot below to receive a free, instant, online case evaluation to determine whether you qualify for legal action.

The contents of the chatbot are only shared with a small number of staff members at our firm and you can include as much (or as little) information as you choose.

Frequently Asked Questions

Statute of limitations can be complicated for abuse cases.

For sexual abuse, statute of limitations can be waived by a judge.

Some states have no statute of limitations for child abuse cases.

Other states however have a statute of limitations of typically between seven to twenty years after the victim turns 18 years-old.

Contact an attorney for more detailed information about your case.

For-profit companies operate a multitude of youth treatment facilities.

Wilderness camps, boarding schools, psychiatric treatment facilities, behavioral centers, and more are ran by companies.

These companies have bought buildings that used to be hospitals, mental institutions, schools, etc. and converted them to house “troubled” youth.

Sequel Youth and Family Services Abuse Lawsuit
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Sequel Youth and Family Services Abuse Lawsuit

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Table of Contents

About Youth Residential Treatment Facilities

Often funded in-part or almost entirely by state governments or the federal government and run by for-profit corporations, youth residential treatment facilities became commonplace solutions for housing “troubled” teenagers and children across the United States in the 1990s and continue to operate in almost every state to this day.

Youth residential treatment facilities are known by many names:

  • Psychiatric centers,
  • Behavioral treatment centers
  • Boot camps
  • Wilderness programs
  • etc.

The aim of these facilities and programs is to help troubled youth with behavioral and emotional problems through various therapeutic, structured, and disciplinary processes.

The majority of kids held in these facilities are teenagers.

These facilities frequently house youth criminal offenders alongside children and teenagers in the foster care system, a practice that has come under intense scrutiny as conditions in many of the facilities were reported to be dangerous and chaotic.

Rehabilitative methods vary depending on the type and geographic location of the program, but typically include:

  • Individual and group therapy
  • Treatment plans
  • Psychiatric care
  • Regimented day-to-day scheduling and schoolwork

But are these methods truly being implemented successfully?

Are corporations who run these facilities actually offering a safe and constructive place to help children and teenagers improve their lives?

Or are they duplicitously capitalizing on an outdated and fragmented system for profit?

For-Profit Management of Youth Residential Treatment Facilities

The most notable operator of youth residential treatment facilities in the United States is Sequel Youth & Family Services, which reportedly operates up to 80% of these establishments.

Though their marketing and public statements espouse an aura of care and reverence for the well-being and progression of the residents they house, their company has been named in lawsuits that allege rampant physical, sexual, and mental/verbal abuse. Sequel employees have also faced criminal charges for abuse.

A 16 year-old resident named Cornelius Fredricks was killed at a Kalamazoo, Michigan facility run by Sequel.

He was physically restrained by workers putting their full body weight on his torso, leading to a cardiac arrest and his death two days later.

Cornelius’ tragic death has been a watershed moment for the fight against abuse in these facilities.

After Cornelius’ death, Sequel was forced to shut down facilities in 18 states and earmarked for further criminal investigations and civil lawsuits.

Why are Youth Residential Treatment Facilities Privately Operated?

Corporate influence in the housing of “troubled” children and teenagers began in the 1990s, kickstarted by Youth Service International (YSI) and their CEO James Hindman.

Employees at YSI split from the company in the late 90s and founded Sequel Youth & Family Services.

These companies make their money through private equity investments and government funding.

Sequel and similar companies are paid up to $800 a day per child they take into their facilities, raking in millions of dollars of profit every year.

Types of Youth Residential Facilities

Types of facilities may include, but are not limited to:

Juvenile Detention Facilities

Many juvenile detention facilities are privately owned and operated, despite receiving state funding.

Judges & prosecutors have discretion to send convicted juveniles to juvenile detention facilities to serve a sentence for a crime committed.

Residential Facilities

Residential facilities include low, medium, and high security facilities housing "troubled", at-risk, or convicted youth.

Youth are placed in these facilities at the discretion of judges, state-prosecutors, counselors, social workers, parents & guardians.

These facilities may house an array of children ranging from:

  • Convicted criminals
  • Orphans
  • Children removed from home situations
  • Mentally challenged children
  • Children suffering from addiction
  • And more

Rehabilitation Facilities

Many youth rehabilitation centers & mental health centers are privately owned and operated.

Judges, state-prosecutors, counselors, social workers, parents & guardians can send at-risk or troubled youth to these facilities.

Foster Homes

Some foster homes operate within the network of youth residential corporations.

Orphans, at-risk youth, recently released convicted juveniles, or individuals removed from their families may be placed in these homes at the discretion of judges, prosecutors, counselors, social workers, and even parents.

Half-way Houses

Some half-way house facilities, similar to foster homes, operate within the network of these corporation.

These facilities often act as a secondary step towards release from criminal detention.

Detention centers, judges, prosecutors, and other government workers can place youth in these facilities.

Camps & Wilderness Camps

Many camps & wilderness camps operate under the umbrella of youth rehabilitation and residential treatment corporations.

Youth are placed in these facilities at the discretion of judges, state-prosecutors, counselors, social workers, parents & guardians.

These camps are popular with parents & guardians dealing with "troubled" youth.

They are also a popular alternative to youth detention centers for judges and prosecutors sentences youth for crimes.

Examples Youth Residential Treatment Facility Abuse

Through investigative reports and lawsuits filed, more and more information is coming out about various types of abuse occurring in youth residential treatment facilities.

An October 2021 report from the National Disability Rights Network details various egregious issues with the way residential treatment facilities are run.

The report focused heavily on for-profit corporations operating facilities where vulnerable children and teenagers are held.

Recent examples of youth residential treatment facility abuse include:

These reports are only the tip of the iceberg.

Much of the abuse occurring in these facilities goes unreported and children have to bear the burden of abuses and injuries for the rest of their lives.

Common Types of Abuse in Youth Facilities

Common types of abuse reported in youth residential treatment facilities includes:

  • Sexual Abuse
  • Emotional Abuse
  • Physical Abuse, including restraint
  • Psychological Abuse

These are the primary types of abuse reported in youth residential treatment facilities but may not constitute all types of abuse suffered in these facilities.

If you or a loved one suffered any form of abuse, contact an attorney from TorHoerman Law for a free, no-obligation legal consultation or use our chatbot below to receive a free, instant online case evaluation.

All communications with TorHoerman Law are completely confidential.

Physical Abuse at Youth Residential Treatment Facilities

The most common issue reported at youth residential treatment facilities is physical abuse, either at the hands of employees or other residents.

Physical abuse at these facilities often includes:

  • Punching
  • Pushing
  • Tackling
  • Choking
  • Slapping
  • Physical restraints
  • Forms of torture

Many instances of physical abuse go unreported and undocumented by staff, signaling that a large portion of the abuse endured by children is left to them to cope with.

Physical abuse can constitute one or a few actions, but can also include many acts of abuse over time.

Use of Improper Physical Restraints

The use of improper restraints at youth residential treatment facilities is exceedingly common in reports detailing abuse.

Improper restraints have led to numerous injuries and fatalities, including Cornelius Fredricks tragic death.

A Chicago area youth residential treatment facility, Northern Illinois Academy in Des Plaines, was closed because of reported abuse by staff, and improper restraints were highlighted in news reports surrounding the closure.

This facility was also operated by Sequel.

Sexual Abuse at Youth Residential Treatment Facilities

Sexual abuse has also been widely reported in youth residential treatment facilities and is just as unreported and undocumented as physical abuse.

A series of articles published by the San Francisco Chronicle and Imprint shared the stories of former residents at facilities across the country plagued by abusive staff.

Records show that residents “suffered everything from broken bones to sexual assault at the hands of employees."

Reports from the article series also states that “licensing authorities investigated California facilities operated by Sequel at least 120 times for having insufficient and undertrained staff and for inappropriate employee behavior, including staff writing sexually explicit notes to residents, giving them drugs or cigarettes, and taunting and verbally abusing them.”

These reports are only a small glimpse into the terrifying conditions that are common at these types of facilities.

Sexual abuse can constitute one or a few instances of abuse or many acts of sexual abuse over time.

Common forms of sexual abuse include:

  • Touching
  • Sexual assault
  • Physical penetration
  • Penetration with objects
  • Verbal & physical threats & abuse

Emotional & Psychological Abuse at Youth Residential Treatment Facilities

Unfortunately, at emotional & psychological abuse are very common in these types of facilities.

Oftentimes, psychological and emotional abuse are constituted by continued patterns of action, rather than one single instance of abuse.

Common forms of emotional & physiological abuse include:

  • Isolation
  • Fear of physical or sexual abuse
  • Threats
  • Limited interaction with other children, family, or outside parties
  • Hate speech
  • Verbal abuse

Resources for Victims

It can be difficult to reach out for help after experiencing abuse at aforementioned facilities.

Below are a list of resources for victims of abuse:

Prominent youth residential treatment facility companies involved in these networks include:

Sequel Youth and Family Services

Sequel Youth and Family Services is the largest operator of youth residential treatment facilities in the United States.

They operate facilities in over a dozen states and have raked in millions of dollars in profit.

There are numerous accusations of abuse at Sequel facilities across America, both in media investigations and civil lawsuits.

Youth Service International (YSI)

Youth Service International is one of the original for-profit companies involved in the "troubled teen" industry.

Founded in the early 1990s, YSI became a blueprint for other companies.

Physical and sexual abuse have allegedly occurred at YSI facilities.

Judge Rotenberg Educational Center

Judge Rotenberg Educational Center is a Massachusetts school for people with behavioral issues and intellectual disabilities.

The school was founded in 1971 as the Behavioral Research Institute and still in operation today.

Judge Rotenberg Educational Center has come under intense scrutiny for the use of the graduated electronic decelerator (GED), a device placed on patients' bodies that delivers electric shocks through a remote control.

The device was developed by the institute's founder Matthew Israel.

White River Academy

White River Academy is a for-profit boarding school and wilderness program for teenage boys located in Delta, Utah.

White River Academy has been named in lawsuits alleging abuse and improper restraints.

Élan School

Élan School was a for-profit residential behavior modification program and therapeutic boarding school located in Portland, Maine.

Before closing in 2011, the school experienced decades full of media attention and lawsuits alleging rampant abuse and mistreatment of youth residents dating back to the 1970s.

News Coverage and Government Action

Model and TV personality Paris Hilton has been a vocal critic of companies profiting from the “troubled teen” industry.

Hilton was held in four different youth behavioral treatment facilities while she was a teenager.

Recently, Hilton and state lawmakers have been making progress on a congressional bill to ensure certain guaranteed rights and “create new regulations to prevent the abuse of children in facilities for troubled teens.”

Vice News has recently produced content bringing light to this issue.

Their video This Company Profits Off the Most Vulnerable Children in the US highlights the rampant abuse that has occurred at Sequel facilities across the U.S.

Congress has introduced a number of bills to combat this issue, including H.R. 485 - Stronger Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.

Despite increasing news coverage and government action against these facilities, reports of abuse still flood bureaucratic institutions overseeing these operations.

Lawsuits Filed for Youth Residential Treatment Facility Abuse

Many lawsuits have been filed alleging abuse at youth residential treatment facilities, detention centers, camps, etc.

Examples of lawsuits filed for youth residential treatment facility abuse include:

As awareness of abuse in youth facilities across the country increases, more lawsuits are likely.

Plaintiffs in Youth Residential Treatment Facility Abuse Lawsuits

Plaintiffs in these sorts of lawsuits include:

  • Victims of abuse
  • Estates of victims
  • Family representatives of victims
  • Former employees

Defendants in Youth Residential Treatment Facility Abuse Lawsuits

Defendants in these sorts of lawsuits are those committing abuse, allowing abuse to happen, or ignoring reports of abuse.

Defendants can include, but are not limited to:

  • Individual employees
  • Groups of employees
  • Facility management
  • Companies operating facilities
  • State or federal governments
  • External firms funding the establishments

Filing a Youth Residential Treatment Facility Abuse Lawsuit

You may qualify for legal action against those responsible if you or a loved one suffered from abuse at youth residential treatment facilities, communities, camps, boarding schools, etc.

Attorneys at TorHoerman Law have first-hand experience with these sorts of facilities and can help you gain justice and compensation.

We work on a contingency fee basis meaning we do not charge for legal services unless you are compensated.

All communications are completely confidential, including any consultations.

We are here for you and we thoroughly understand the level of abuse teens and children have endured while under the supervision of employees at these facilities.

We will do everything in our power to make sure your voice is heard and that you are rightfully compensated for your injuries and damages.

Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss how you can move forward.

Besson, Eric, et al. “’a Lot of Trauma’: Families, Clients Describe Turmoil at Arkansas Youth Psychiatric Center.Arkansas Online, 15 Aug. 2021, https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2021/aug/15/lot-trauma-families-clients-describe-turmoil-arkan/.

Brown, Jennifer. “Colorado Shuts down Youth Center in Watkins after Allegations of Drugs, Fights and Improper Restraints of Kids.” 9news Denver, 18 June 2021, https://www.9news.com/article/news/investigations/ridge-view-youth-services-center-shut-down/73-4a9b9e90-7b8d-4827-86b3-4dd50e5a6333.

Desperation without Dignity.” National Disability Rights Network, 14 Oct. 2021, https://www.ndrn.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/NDRN_Desperation_without_Dignity_October_2021.pdf.

Grossmith, Pat. “More than 200 More Join Lawsuit Alleging Abuse as Children While Living in State-Run Detention Center: Manchester Ink Link.Manchester Ink Link, 4 Mar. 2021, https://manchesterinklink.com/more-than-200-more-join-lawsuit-alleging-abused-as-children-while-living-in-state-run-detention-center/.

Hunt, Madison, et al. “California Uses out-of-State Youth Facilities Marred by Rampant Abuse.” The Imprint, 11 Dec. 2020, https://imprintnews.org/child-welfare-2/california-ends-out-of-state-placements/50095.

Katzban, Nicholas. “Supervisor at Hackensack Child Center Accused of Sexual Abuse.North Jersey Media Group, NorthJersey.com, 29 June 2021, https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/bergen/hackensack/2021/06/28/hackensack-nj-child-center-supervisor-accused-sexual-abuse/7789388002/.

Miller, Jessica. “Embattled Company to Close a Second Utah Treatment Center for Troubled Teens.” The Salt Lake Tribune, 15 July 2019, https://www.sltrib.com/news/2019/07/15/embattled-company-close/.

Miller, Jessica. “Utah Regulators Say a Girl Died after a Youth Treatment Center Didn’t Give ‘Necessary Medical Care’.” The Salt Lake Tribune, 14 Feb. 2022, https://www.sltrib.com/news/2022/02/14/utah-regulators-say-girl/.

New Lawsuit Aims to Address Harms Inflicted at Closed Youth Treatment Center.” ACLU of Nebraska, 19 Oct. 2021, https://www.aclunebraska.org/en/press-releases/new-lawsuit-aims-address-harms-inflicted-closed-youth-treatment-center.

Powers, Emily, et al. “Kansas Death in Custody Spurs Call for Youth Justice Reform.The Crime Report, 10 Feb. 2022, https://thecrimereport.org/2022/02/09/kansas-death-in-custody-fuels-anger-over-youth-detention/.

Rainey, Callie. “Attorney for Cornelius Fredericks Files Civil Lawsuit against Youth Facility Where He Died.” WWMT, WWMT, 22 June 2020, https://wwmt.com/news/local/civil-rights-lawsuit-filed-in-pursuit-of-justice-for-cornelius-frederick.

Romine, Taylor. “16-Year-Old Boy Goes into Cardiac Arrest and Dies after Staff at Residential Facility Restrain Him, Lawsuit Says.” CNN, Cable News Network, 8 Oct. 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/23/us/16-year-old-restraint-death-michigan-trnd/index.html.

Sandhu-Longoria, Amritpal Kaur, et al. “Punching, Predators, Neglect. Traumatized NC Children Suffer inside Dismal Psychiatric Centers.” NC Kids Seeking Mental Health Treatment Traumatized in Psychiatric Centers, The Fayetteville Observer, 24 Nov. 2021, https://www.fayobserver.com/in-depth/news/2021/11/08/investigation-uncovers-treatment-failures-inside-mental-health-facilities-for-youth/8581506002/.

Smith, Rosanna. “Lawsuit Claims Teen Abused, Neglected at Tuskegee Youth Psychiatric Facility.” Https://Www.wsfa.com, 26 Jan. 2022, https://www.wsfa.com/2022/01/27/lawsuit-claims-teen-abused-neglected-tuskegee-youth-psychiatric-facility/.

State Pulling All Students in Its Care from Northern Illinois Academy Following Reports of Abuse.WCIA.com, WCIA.com, 18 May 2021, https://www.wcia.com/news/state-pulling-all-students-from-northern-illinois-academy-following-reports-of-abuse/.

Timms, Mariah. “Federal Lawsuit Claims Understaffing, Sexual Abuse at East Tennessee Juvenile Treatment Center.The Tennessean, Nashville Tennessean, 27 July 2020, https://www.tennessean.com/story/news/crime/2020/07/27/lawsuit-claims-unsafe-conditions-east-tennessee-juvenile-center/5495549002/.

 

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