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Lawsuit accusing NC of warehousing foster kids in psych facilities survives challenge

Virginia Bridges and Ames Alexander, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Parenting News

Late last year, the department got $80 million from the General Assembly to invest in community-based services that are designed to keep children out of psychiatric facilities and other institutions. Among other things, the money will help provide support for foster families and will pay for therapists who can provide care to children in their homes.

“We want (psychiatric facilities) to be the setting we use the least,” Crosbie said in an interview. “We want kids in homes.”

‘She does not feel safe’

One of the plaintiffs in the suit, a Black 16-year-old foster child who was in the custody of Mecklenburg County DSS, has been placed in dozens of different locations, including hotels, hospitals and several psychiatric facilities in the Carolinas, according to the suit.

The child — identified as “London R.” in the suit — was confined in a psychiatric residential treatment facility (PRTF) in Rock Hill, S.C., from November 2022 to at least March 2023, when the amended lawsuit was filed. It’s unclear whether she remains there today.

“This PRTF placement was not clinically indicated,” the suit says. “It was intended only as a short-term, emergency placement. Instead, London R. has languished at this PRTF for nearly four months.”

London R. was diagnosed with PTSD, ADHD and a mood disorder, according to the complaint. Her treatment providers recommended that she be placed at a community-based therapeutic foster care program, but social service workers weren’t able to find her a program, the lawsuit says.

While at the psychiatric facility in Rock Hill, London R. was in a room with nothing but a dresser and an uncomfortable bed, and she was given at least 12 pills every day, including “a powerful cocktail of psychotropic medications” that made it difficult for her to stay awake for online schooling, according to the complaint.

Although she successfully attended a community-based school in the past, she had been given no option but to attend the online school used by the other high school age children in the facility, the suit says.


Residents at the facility weren’t allowed to wear regular shoes outside, and were instead required to wear “shower shoes” intended to make it more difficult for them to run away, according to the complaint.

London R. has repeatedly said she wants to live in the community, the suit says.

“She does not feel safe from other residents at the PRTF, and is uncomfortable that male staff work the overnight shift on all-female halls,” the lawsuit says.

At one psychiatric facility about 45 miles southeast of Charlotte, staff implemented “a psychologically abusive punishment resembling solitary confinement,” the lawsuit alleges. Those punished at Anderson Health Services in Marshville were confined to their bedrooms for as long as 30 days, with the exception of 15-to-30-minute walks outside, the suit says.

A child reported that a therapist at the facility “sexually touched him” during a private therapy session, according to the lawsuit. The therapist was suspended, but it’s not clear whether further action was taken.

Officials at Anderson Health Services could not immediately be reached for comment.


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