On July 17, 2022, 7-year-old Ja’Ceon Terry was suffocated to death at a foster care facility in Louisville, Kentucky. After his parents had their rights terminated in 2021, Ja’Ceon was bounced among residential care and foster families for months, which eventually landed him at Brooklawn, a foster care facility owned by Uspiritus. This facility has a history of complaints and alleged abuse, most of which were unconfirmed by the Kentucky Cabinet of Health and Family Services due to lack of witnesses or video evidence. This is just one of 130 facilities, or child placing agencies, that partner with the state to care for foster children—and it’s not the only one with a concerning history.
The separation of children from their families, which is done in the name of protection, too often leads to them being placed in a foster care system where they receive little care, little protection from harm, and little stability. These systems, even if well-intended, can inflict long lasting damage on a child. The child-welfare system is also deeply rooted in inequity and often punishes parents and children for simply living in poverty.
Our investigation will focus on how separation happens in Kentucky and what happens to youth who end up in facilities that are meant to protect them. We’ll look at Kentucky courts and judges to understand who is making these decisions and which families are being impacted the most. We’ll also do a comprehensive review of all of the child placing agencies in the state, requesting complaint histories, incident reports, investigative decisions, and deficiency records. We’ll use these records to examine the scope of abuse, neglect, and unsafe conditions in Kentucky’s foster facilities and look for any gaps in oversight and accountability.