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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Severe Abuse Alleged at Illinois Home for Girls

CHICAGO (CN) - Illinois regularly sent foster children with a history of sexual abuse and emotional problems to a facility where they were raped and assaulted by staff members and other residents, former wards claim in court.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in Cook County Court is latest misfortune to befall Rock River Academy & Residential Center, a residential treatment center for adolescent girls with severe emotional disabilities run by Universal Health Services.

Rock River closed earlier this year after an investigation by the Chicago Tribune found the residents suffered severe abuse during their stays.

The five plaintiffs behind Wednesday's lawsuit say they were minors while the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) was contracting with the facility to provide female wards of the state with services.

They say Rock River failed to deliver on its promise of providing each resident with "exceptional personalized care" in a safe environment.

The Tribune's investigation newspaper found that the Rockford Police Department fielded more than 700 reports "concerning victimization of girls under DCFS's care including rape, aggravated battery and sodomy at the Rock River Academy," during a four-year period, according to the complaint.

Each of the plaintiffs claim they were serially, sexually abused and raped by Rock River staff members, who "intentionally administered psychotropic drugs which they used to keep her in a semi-conscious state so that she could be more easily manipulated and sexually abused."

In its investigation , the Chicago Tribune reported that violence was constant at the 59-bed home, with 10 to 20 fights breaking out between residents every day. The girls received little to no effective therapy or schooling, the Tribune reported.

It found that the rate of physical restraints at Rock River was nearly eight times the median for all Illinois facilities.

Coupled with Rock River's very high rate of dispensing psychoactive drugs, wards of the facility had the second-highest rate both of self-inflicted wounds and psychiatric hospital visits, the Tribune reported.

Universal Health Services, a market-leader in behavioral health that runs more than 190 facilities nationwide, denied the accounts that former patients gave the Tribune about their experiences at Rock River. Universal did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the new lawsuit.

The women are represented by Peter Polansky with Polansky & Cichon.

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