Philly Should Reduce Reliance on Institutional Placements For Youth

Karen U. Lindell, Leola Hardy, •

October marked the second anniversary of the tragic death of 17-year-old David Hess, who was killed during an assault by staff in his bedroom at the now-closed Wordsworth residential treatment facility. Two years later, we continue to uncover examples of abuse, isolation, and substandard education in facilities that are supposed to provide treatment and supervision to youth involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Rather than provide trauma-informed care, institutional placements too often provide what one youth glibly referred to as "trauma-inducing care."

This summer, a staff member at Glen Mills Schools violently assaulted a child. In the presence of other youth, the staff member slapped the seated child in the head, lifted him up over his chair, threw him to the ground, and punched him. As many as 30 other youth watched, sitting motionless and seemingly unaffected, as though this kind of treatment is commonplace. Other staff members dragged the child away from the group into a different room, where a counselor grabbed his face and continued to punch him.

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