Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Ignores Signs of Repeated Sexual Abuse by Medical Staff Against Patients
Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health organization is under investigation for ignoring decades of sexual abuse on their patients by medical staff. Allegations of sexual abuse, highlighted by The Inquirer, have surfaced recently, but the abuse dates back to the late 90s.
Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health specializes in treating children with mental disorders, intellectual disabilities, and trauma for over a century, making these findings particularly unsettling. Devereux has over 15 residential centers, serving around 5,000 children yearly across nine different states.
Over the past 25 years, at least 41 children as young as 12 and with IQs as low as 50 have been raped or sexually assaulted by Devereux staff members, reported The Inquirer through their investigation. Reportedly, 10 of these assaults happened at the three Devereux campuses in Pennsylvania, while the others were at facilities in Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, New York, and Texas.
Allegations from patients against the medical staff are numerous; below are some allegations from patients who shared their experiences during the Inquirer’s investigation. The following are reports from previous Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health patients from the various facilities:
- Edward, a shy 16-year-old boy, diagnosed with autism and developmental delays, went to the Devereux Brandywine campus and reported being sexually abused in 2018. Edward said that Robert Flood, a male staffer, repeatedly sexually assaulted him on campus for months. However, he did not speak up until Flood began abusing his 14-year-old “little brother,” too. Flood easily assaulted Edward and the 14-year-old in a walk-in closet because the room’s layout made it impossible to see the closet from the hallway where the staff was supposed to do their checks.
- Three girls at a Devereux campus in Arizona were sexually abused in their bedrooms and a facility laundry room by a male staffer between October 2018 and March 2019. After Devereux leaders said, they increased their safety and reduce risks by implementing safeguards to prevent abuse and hold staff accountable.
- In December, a Devereux staffer at a Texas facility was charged with allegedly charged with sexually abusing four children. Of the four, was a 16-year-old girl who he threatened to have beaten up if she told anyone; as well as a 12-year-old girl he allegedly repeatedly molested.
- In 1997, a 13-year-old girl began to cry when she was walking to the nurse’s office with a staff member, and she heard the voice of a 30-year-old staff member on the radio that she said had molested her.
- On May 17, 2012, a 15-year-old girl was orally raped through her first-floor window by male staffed Jimmy Singleterry. He later entered the girl’s room and raped her again.
- C’Kenya Tanksley in 2014 was at Devereux in Malvern, where she created a bond with a 43-year-old staff member, Everol Brackett. He would get her gifts and exchange love letters. When the staff found out, she was reprimanded because her actions could get him in trouble, and she needed to apologize. A month later, when Tanksley was home, he asked for naked photographs of her. The next time she went home, he had her meet him in Southwest Philadelphia, where he took her shopping. Then he drove her to an alley, sexually assaulted her in his car, and dropped her off at a bus station to find a way home.
- In 2010, a girl at the Devereux Malvern campus confessed she had a crush on a 26-year-old staffer. He was told to stay away from the girl. However, months later, the girl reported that he kissed and molested her.
- In 2019, Zahara Greer reported that a 29-year-old male DSP, Direct Support Professional Shailen Simmons, assaulted her in her bedroom for months. Following each assault, he allegedly forced her to eat an orange to cover up the scent of what he did.
- In 2000, a 14-year-old at Devereux Malvern was allegedly molested by a male staffer who would leave used condoms on her window sill. She says she told staff who it was, but they never made a report.
- In 2017, 15-year-old Hannah Rivera, forced into prostitution by her mother’s friend, checked herself into the Devereux campus in Viera. A 24-year-old staffer, Michael Cadore, took an interest in her making her uncomfortable. First, he allegedly patted her on her bottom. She reported him to the campus director, but Cador said nothing happened. On another occasion, he allegedly forcibly kissed her and molested her. Then one night, she said he pulled her into the music room on campus and raped her. When she reported this incident to the nurse, Cadore was brought into the campus director’s office. They supposedly told Rivera she must be having a flashback of her previous sexual abuse.
- In 2001, a 16-year-old girl was allegedly raped by a male staffer. The 35-year-old pulled her into a staff room and raped her. Although she was half-asleep and heavily medicated, she took his cell phone and ran outside to call 911. Less than two weeks later, a 42-year-old male staffer, Steven Kelty, allegedly brought her to the same staff room and raped her. She did not report the second assault.
After numerous alleged reports surfaced, various Devereux staff members came forward about the safety measures and accountability for staff members at Devereux locations. The following are responses are from entry-level staff members to the CEO during the Inquirer’s investigation, as well as findings from reporters:
- Eric Heinbach, a staff member at Devereux Brandywine from 2017 to 2019, said that staff would bring sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, and a beach chair, and instead of doing their nightly checks, they would get paid to sleep.
- A reporter found that the person reported that following assaults, Devereux would identify risk factors that led to the abuse and potential solutions, such as training or employment screenings, but would abandon said initiatives for years.
- Devereux leaders said that since late 2019, they had taken aggressive steps to prevent sexual abuse. They claim to have implemented the following to lower risks: reduced opportunities for staff to be alone with children, trained employees to detect grooming and potential abuse, use a new psychological test to screen applications, increased pay to attract more qualified staffers, and added a video technology to monitor the employees better.
- However, Devereux’s top executives, vehemently denied that any campus had supervision or staffing issues. Leah Yaw, the Senior vice president and chief strategy officer claimed fewer children were assaulted by staff at Devereux than at similar facilities without any statistical support from data.
- Gwendolyn Skinner, the vice president of operations for Devereux and executive director of the Georgia campus, stated in front of a jury she was unaware of new training for staff on sexual reactivity. She also stated she saw no training video about supervision laps. Additionally, former Devereux DSPs testified they had never seen this video and did not receive said training.
- Yaw also said that cameras were added to areas like laundry rooms and porches, in addition to new technology, to allow supervisors to ensure staff is on task at all hours.
- A former Chester County prosecutor, Chad Maloney who brought numerous abuse cases against Devereux staff, said to the reporter at The Inquirer, “Too often, when a child is physically or sexually abused at Devereux, the individual responsible for the abuse is prosecuted, and the story just ends — Devereux doesn’t change. They don’t change how they hire, how they train, or how they supervise their staff or the children in their care. The victims change, the offenders change, but Devereux’s actions never do, and that’s why the abuse continues. It’s heartbreaking, and it has to stop.”
- The man reported for sexually abusing the 13-year-old girl in 1997 was later indicted on charges of fondling or engaging in sex acts with nine different girls at Devereux Deerhaven. Later, police arrested another staff member, accused of sexually assaulting four more Deerhaven residents. Both men received convictions. In 2000, a third Devereux Deerhaven staff member was charged with sexually assaulting three girls. Police reported 16 girls were sexually abused by staff at Deerhaven between 1996 and 1999.
- Reporters found it was easy for predators to find ways to be alone with children because the facilities were understaffed with low-paid employees. Interviews and documents show that Devereux staff knew they could take unapproved breaks, clock out early, or sleep through their shifts and face little or no consequence.
- A former student reported watching a DSP bring in a PlayStation and computer monitor in 2017. He reportedly played video games for hours instead of checking in on the residents.
- However, Clark, the CEO, claimed that Devereux staffers caught sleeping through their shifts were fired. He said they use a new camera system to identify staff who haven’t moved for a while and have someone verify if they’re asleep.
- Devereux officials reported that staff members are now trained to flag when a coworker spends too much time with a particular resident, gives gifts, or shows up after hours to visit specific residents. However, in virtually all of the cases examined, staff failed to identify that children were sexually abused on campus. Instead, the residents were left to report the abuse of another resident or their abuse.
- Reporters found that the walk-in closet, where Edward and the 14-year-old boy were abused, was a hot spot for sexual abuse. Devereux staff knew for years that these closets could not be supervised easily and were used for sexual abuse. Some closets were later blocked off, but some were left accessible anyway.
- Lastly, the Inquirer found that Devereux’s programs were hunting grounds for predators. The interviews and documents show that, despite bringing in $467 million in annual revenues, Devereux campuses were indeed understaffed and failed to adequately supervise its patients and staff members, who all too often disappeared for hours and slept through shifts.
Throughout the decades of abuse, many staff members that were accused of sexual assault were charged and prosecuted, now serving time. However, Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health has faced no charges and remains functioning as normal.
Legal Options for Victims of Sexual Abuse in a Medical Facility
Attorney contributor Brian Kent, an experienced sexual abuse lawyer licensed in Pennsylvania, represents victims of sexual abuse and their families in civil lawsuits. We asked Brian to share his insight to help victims of sexual abuse determine whether they have a claim against a medical facility.
In our interview, Brian emphasized sexual assaults often occur in medical facilities. He stated that sometimes sexual predators place themselves in positions of power and use their authority to exploit the victim and their trust. This exploitation is seen across the country, as medical staff members have been charged with sexual abuse. However, Brian then emphasized the obligation of medical institutions and staff to their patients. He said, “medical institutions and staff have a legal duty to protect their patients and provide a safe environment. Medical institutions must protect their patients from predators.”
We asked Brian about the legal options of a victim of sexual abuse in a medical facility. He provided the following insight: The victim and their family should ask if the medical facility did it’s best to prevent the abuse. In some sexual abuse cases, the abuse only occurs as a result of negligence by the staff or facility. A medical facility could be considered negligent if prior sexual misconduct complaints were filed against workers, but they were still permitted to work. Another example of negligence is a lack of security provided as well as a lack of accountability. If a medical facility is aware of previous sexual misconduct and does not provide proper protection, the following crimes are considered foreseeable. In cases of foreseeable crimes, the medical facility can be found negligent. In such cases, the victim and their family may have grounds for a civil lawsuit and should secure the services of an experienced sexual abuse lawyer.