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Advocates demand Alabama protect children in Sequel facilities across the state

Press Contacts: Nancy Anderson, nanderso@adap.ua.edu; Cara Golden, cara.golden@splcenter.org; Camilla Jenkins, cjenkins@childrensrights.org

(July 6, 2020 – Montgomery, Ala.) – Today children’s rights advocates sent a letter of concern urging leaders in Alabama to take sweeping and immediate action to protect foster youth placed in facilities operated by Sequel Youth and Family Services across the state. Four for-profit Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities (PRTFs) – Sequel Owens Cross Roads, Sequel Montgomery, Sequel Tuskegee and Sequel Courtland and the state agencies responsible for them – are at the center of these demands.

Last month a Sequel facility in Michigan, Lakeside Academy, lost its contract with the state after the death of 16-year-old Cornelius Frederick, who went into cardiac arrest after being restrained by staff because he had thrown a sandwich.

On Monday, a letter and 50-page monitor report was by the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Children’s Rights to the Alabama Departments of Human Resources, Mental Health, and Public Health, and the Alabama Medicaid Agency. The report describes the egregious, harmful and illegal conditions and treatment children face in Sequel facilities, detailed how Alabama is failing to properly protect youth in its care, and outlined immediate actions Alabama officials must take to protect foster youth in the state.

“Nationally, Sequel Youth and Family Services demonstrates a pattern and practice of engaging in practices that harm children in its care. This is no different in Alabama,” said Nancy Anderson, Associate Director at Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program. “Youth in these facilities are subjected to unsafe and illegal conditions on a daily basis. Yet, Alabama officials continue to place children in these facilities without proper oversight. The state cannot wait for another child to die at the hands of staff at a Sequel facility. Alabama must take immediate action to close Sequel facilities and fulfill its obligation to protect children.”

Children placed by the State in Sequel facilities live in chaotic and violent conditions, including physical and verbal abuse, filthy facilities, inadequate supervision, inadequate medical care, and illegal seclusions and restraints. At Sequel Courtland, one child reported that staff threw a boy down on the floor and pulled his arms around his neck, cutting off his ability to breathe. At Sequel Owens Cross Roads, one girl reported she was lying by herself on her bed when a male staff member yanked her up off the bed, threw her onto the ground and laid on top of her back. Another girl was ordered by staff to sleep in the hallway. When she refused, she was forcibly dragged out of her room, thrown on the floor and then up against a wall, suffering injuries to her head. Children placed in seclusion at Sequel Tuskegee for hours and even days, in violation of the law, are not allowed to leave the seclusion room to go to the restroom — youth reported staff told them to just “piss in the corner” and “mop it up later.”

The advocacy groups demand Alabama officials take immediate corrective action to protect children housed in Sequel facilities, including suspending admission to all Sequel facilities, relocating youth currently placed at Sequel facilities, and revoking operation licenses for Sequel facilities in the state.

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About Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program: The Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program is Alabama’s federally funded protection and advocacy agency whose mission is to protect and promote the safety, rights, and welfare of persons with disabilities.  For more information, visit www.ADAP.ua.edu.

About Southern Poverty Law Center:  The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Alabama with offices in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Washington, D.C., is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. For more information, visit www.splcenter.org.

About Children’s Rights: Every day, children are harmed in America’s broken child welfare, juvenile justice, education, and healthcare systems. Through relentless strategic advocacy and legal action, we hold governments accountable for keeping kids safe and healthy. Children’s Rights, a national non-profit organization, has made a lasting impact for hundreds of thousands of vulnerable children. For more information, please visit www.childrensrights.org.