Across the country, state officials send at-risk youth to psychiatric residential treatment facilities. These facilities are often operated by for-profit companies that get paid to house and rehabilitate these children. This business model is often referred to as the “troubled teen industry.” However, there are many doubts as to the safety of the kids the state sends to these facilities.
Here at Tommy James Law, we are also concerned. One of our recent cases involves a young man who experienced abuse at one of these facilities. Now that company is under fire, and activists are demanding that the state take action. Should Alabama shut down Sequel Youth and Family Services? We take a closer look at the problem.
What Is Sequel Youth and Family Services?
In 1999, Jay Ripley and Adam Shapiro started a company to run an Iowa youth facility called Clarinda Academy. Eventually, the company took over another facility followed by another. Soon the company was managing facilities across 20 states, four of which are right here in Alabama.
Sequel Youth & Family Services is actually driven by private equity firms and investors. It makes a profit by providing care for troubled youth. The government will pay the company anywhere between $275 and $800 a day to care for a single child. This allows the company to bring in $200 million in annual revenue and $30 million in profit (NBC). However, the residential and therapeutic services this company provides may be hurting teens instead of helping them.
The Problem With Sequel Facilities
In 2018, Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) placed a 14-year-old boy in the Three Springs youth facility in Courtland, Alabama. Over the course of 10 months, that boy experienced neglect, abuse and torment. During one 10-day stretch, facility staff reportedly assaulted the boy four times. Afterward, the boy retreated to the bathroom with a long-sleeved shirt. He attempted to commit suicide by tying the shirt to a showerhead.
Unfortunately, this young man’s story is only one case out of many. In 2017, a Sequel employee was indicted on accusations of having sexual contact with residents. Residents from the same facility were also arrested for the death of a construction worker. Ohio officials revoked the license of a Sequel facility after several reports of violent assault.
Why Has Alabama Failed to Shut Sequel Down?
There are numerous reports of abuse, neglect and worse happening at Sequel facilities across the country. Yet, Alabama officials have done little to stop the company. Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program even created a 69-page report outlining the failures of Sequel’s Courtland facility. But DHR has yet to suspend the placement of children in Sequel facilities.
A spokesperson for DHR claims, “Most if not all deficiencies had been addressed and/or corrected,” when the agency’s inspectors arrived.
Will State Officials Ever Address This Abuse and Neglect?
For now, the troubled teen industry continues to be a problem in Alabama and the rest of the United States. However, the victims of child abuse at these facilities do have legal options. They may file lawsuits in civil court against their abusers and the companies that enabled them. These suits will not only help them pursue justice, but they also help bring awareness to this issue.