A psychiatric hospital in Chicago is being investigated by federal and state authorities for multiple reports of abuse of children in their care, many of whom are under state custody through the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).
Although the following ProPublica article highlights one particular hospital, investigations by Health Impact News have found that the stories contained within this piece are repeated in psych wards, group homes, and juvenile detention centers all over the country.
Many children who are able to tell their stories have told our reporters of similar horrors to the treatment suffered by the children in this story. Once they are hidden away behind the locked doors of these facilities, in state custody, with little contact with the people who love them, they often become victims of sexual assault, physical abuse, and drugging that they neither consent to nor want.
They become invisible, hidden in the shadows, with their only hope of a voice being the very people with vested financial interests in keeping them silent about the abuse. It is not unlike slavery in many ways.
Children who are eventually returned to their families often come back traumatized. They are haunted, and triggers lie around every corner.
The stories of Samuel Mitchell, Brady Folkens, and the Odonnell twins contain some of the most brutal reports of institutionalized abuse that we have reported. There are many more such stories that happen that go unnoticed by any media.
It seems that every time that we talk to any former foster child that was forced into a psych ward, group home, or juvenile detention center, their stories of widespread sexual and physical abuse are the same. They are the rule, not the exception.
The response is always the same: the children all report that no one listened to them. When any one of them reported abuse by foster parents or in the facilities, they were told that no one would believe them. They are bullied or shamed into silence, left to suffer, while taxpayers pick up the tab to finance institutionalized abuse.
ProPublica reports that Neil Skene, special assistant to DCFS Acting Director Beverly “B.J.” Walker, gave the typical, politically correct response to the reporter and to the public:
“The question for DCFS is whether children are safe there,” Skene said. “Nothing that we are seeing gives us concern for their safety.”
DCFS acting inspector Mary Paniak disagrees with Skene’s assessment:
Paniak wrote that she had “significant concerns for the care and safety of the children” at Lakeshore, according to a copy of the memo obtained by ProPublica Illinois.
She provided a list of actions that DCFS could take.
No mention is made about the most obvious to many of our readers, which is to stop taking children needlessly and to work to keep children with family as much as possible.
That simple step would serve to eliminate much trauma and the “need” for psychiatric services – a need which is based more on the agency’s need for funding than the actual needs of the children.
Nonetheless, there was an important step that Paniak listed that would go far in addressing the problems facing the agency, but DCFS refuses to agree to it. That is: …
Author: Health Impact News, Commentary by Terri LaPoint