According to NBC News, Sequel Youth Facility faces accusations of abusing the children in the facility. The alleged conditions put the state’s most vulnerable children in additional harm. Sequel reports itself as a leader nationally in providing support and specialized care for at-risk youth. However, children have been sexually and physically abused by staff members at their facilities.
Sequel, secured hundreds of millions of dollars from government funding and additional tens of millions from private equity firms to expand their facility locations. Despite records showing government inspections highlighting violations at Sequel locations, Sequel deployed a marketing strategy that convinced state officials to continue sending children to their facilities.
Cristy Johnson, an investigator supervisor for the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, was at one of the Alabama facilities when she uncovered disturbing potential evidence of the abuse. Johnson highlighted there was a room with feces on the floor, stuck around the window and inside the door frame that disturbed her. When Johnson spoke to the children, they described physical abuse and being denied medical care.
NBC News reported that the advocacy organization documented their findings and interviewed about 100 children from Sequel’s facilities, some as young as 12-years-old. Their reports included proof of the bad conditions - missing floor tiles, broken doors, thin mattresses on top of concrete, and blood smeared on walls.
Sequel’s compliance director, Marianne Birmingham, said the company works with the state to improve the Alabama facility conditions. Birmingham claims that most of the allegations from children, advocates, and staff are unsubstantiated and highlighted the company has a zero-tolerance policy for abuse.
Accusations across various Sequel facilities in Alabama highlighted by NBC News:
NBC News wrote that the problems at Sequel facilities do not end in Alabama, allegations of mistreatment at an Iowa location, Woodward Academy. Allegedly there were inappropriate restraints without jurisdiction, missing sink handles, showers without hot water, chairs with the arms ripped off, nail exposure on couches, and moldy food. The facility remains open, and Sequel disputes the findings of the investigators.
At a Tennessee location, Kingston Academy, inspectors found mold, overflowing toilets, and children's mattresses on the floor. This facility closed after Tennessee suspended admission and Medicaid terminated their contract.
Attorney contributor Brian Kent, an experienced sexual abuse lawyer, has represented numerous victims sexually abused in a medical facility and their families in civil lawsuits. Below, we asked Brian to share insight on the legal rights of victims sexually abused at a facility to help determine their legal rights and whether they have a claim against the medical facility.
Brian responded, “Unfortunately sexual assaults occur often at medical facilities. Sometimes sexual predators place themselves in positions of power at these facilities and use both their trust and authority to exploit the victims. This exploitation has been seen across the country, as various medical staff members have been charged for sexually abusing patients. However, medical institutions have a legal obligation to their patients. Medical facilities and medical staff have a legal duty to protect the patients in their care and provide a safe environment throughout their stay. All medical institutions must protect their patients from predators, including their staff."
“The victim of abuse and their family should acquire the services of an experienced sexual abuse lawyer to explore all their legal options. First, victims and their families should ask if the medical facility did its best to prevent the abuse from occurring. Some sexual abuse cases only occur because the facility or medical staff were negligent. For example, a medical facility could be considered negligent if there were prior sexual misconduct complaints filed against current workers, but the workers were permitted to continue working. Another negligence example is if the facility lacks security in the facility to hold all their staff accountable. Additionally, if a medical facility becomes aware of sexual misconduct occurring on their premises and does not increase security as a preventative method, then the assault could be deemed foreseeable. In cases of foreseeable crimes, the medical facility could be found negligent. Victims should know they may have grounds for a civil lawsuit and receive compensation for damages."