2020 is a year when each of us are required to maintain a physical distance from one another due to the national pandemic, but we have never needed to come together to make a difference more… especially for the vulnerable young people who are entrusted to congregate care.
Congregate care is a term that refers to group homes, residential treatment facilities, psychiatric institutions and emergency shelters. Research indicates that children and teens should be placed in the least restrictive, most family-like settings possible.
- Sadly, due to the opioid epidemic, overwhelmed child welfare agencies, and not having enough foster parents for teenagers, 12% of Ohio foster youth overall experienced congregate care in 2019. That percentage is disproportionately higher when it comes to teenagers and transition-age foster youth, as illustrated by the diagram above.
- The impact of COVID-19 has made it even more difficult to maintain a sufficient number of foster homes, especially for teenagers.
The #1 issue that Ohio foster care youth expressed in 2019 was normalcy and safety concerns, especially for young people entrusted to congregate care. Here is a link to some direct quotes from youth. This was a major topic of concern during the January 2020 OHIO YAB statewide meeting as well.
In 2019, Ohio foster care youth and alumni met with the Ohio Department of Medicaid and the Ohio Department of Health to share safety concerns that had been reported to us regarding a certain facility. It is important to note that those concerns have been echoed and evidenced by a series of articles (links below).
We are continuing to gather testimonials from foster care youth and alumni:
- In August 2020, Raven Grice submitted written testimony that includes three proactive recommendations for improvement.
- In May of 2020, during a statewide Virtual Forum, Nikki Chinn shared written testimony that provided specific examples of rights violations of Ohio youth in congregate care.
- Nikki’s video testimony outlines specific recommendations to improve Ohio congregate care for youth, including state oversight and directives to ensure that youth in congregate care receive safety, normalcy, food, medical care, access to Youth Rights Handbook and preparation for adulthood.
Disability Rights Ohio has compiled a summary of Children’s Rights when they live in a residential treatment facility. These include physical safety, respectful care and treatment, safeguarding the resident’s belongings, and access to phone calls and visits.
Bennett Haeberle is an Emmy-winning journalist who serves as the Chief Investigative Reporter with 10TV. Below are links to articles that outline his ongoing investigation regarding Sequel Pomegranate:
- July 11, 2019: Records reveal tales of violence, sexual assaults and escapes at Columbus psychiatric facility for teens
- July 12, 2019: Children Services: Sequel Pomegranate incidents ‘unacceptable,’ but will continue partnership
- July 24, 2019: DeWine orders tour of Columbus psychiatric facility for teens after reports of violence, sexual assaults
- July 26, 2019: State director describes Sequel Pomegranate as “clean, safe”; counters to records
- August 2, 2019: Records: State, county knew of problems at Columbus psychiatric facility for teens
- August 21, 2019: Sequel Pomegranate cited for improper restraints, failing to report sexual assault allegation
- August 22, 2019: Franklin County Children Services note “concerns” in unannounced visit to Sequel Pomegranate
- August 23, 2019: Questions about Sex Abuse at Youth Mental Health Facility Arise During DeWine Presser
- August 26, 2019: CMS threatened to pull Medicare funding from Sequel Pomegranate unless issues fixed
- September 12, 2019: CMS rescinds threat to pull federal funding from Sequel Pomegranate
- November 8, 2019: State threatens to revoke Sequel Pomegranate’s license after staff restrains, hits child
- November 12, 2019: Employee says she was fired after improper restraint of teen at Sequel Pomegranate
- December 12, 2019: Hearing dates set for Sequel Pomegranate as state threatens hospital license; CEO departs
- January 6, 2020: Franklin County Children Services suspends admissions to Sequel Pomegranate after ‘pattern of concerns’
- February 5, 2020: Sequel Pomegranate ordered to stop taking patients
- February 5, 2020: Ohio reaches settlement with Sequel Pomegranate after threatening to revoke license
- February 6, 2020: Agency threatens to pull federal funding from Sequel Pomegranate for failing to prevent patient abuse
- February 18, 2020: Agency rescinds second threat to pull federal funding from Sequel Pomegranate
- March 3, 2020: Advocacy group calls on state to inspect Sequel Pomegranate after pattern of abuse allegations
- April 1, 2020: Coronavirus concerns halt in-person inspections at Sequel Pomegranate
- June 12, 2020: Violent incidents persist at teen psychiatric facility Sequel Pomegranate
- June 22, 2020: State threatens to revoke license of Sequel Pomegranate, citing failure to create safe environment
- Sept. 2, 2020: Children removed from Sequel Pomegranate one month after state threatened to revoke license
- Sept. 18, 2020: State sets hearing to begin process to revoke license of Sequel Pomegranate