Lexington boy’s death in state-contracted treatment facility sparks lawsuit

Death of Lexington boy in foster care ruled homicide
Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 5:19 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - A seven-year-old’s death while in state care is now the target of a lawsuit. A coroner ruled the boy’s death a homicide.

At the time, he was under the care of a state-contracted facility. Now, the couple raising the boy after his biological mother lost custody has filed suit.

Ja’Ceon Terry and his two younger brothers have been in foster care as their mother battled addiction. He died in July at Brooklawn, a children’s treatment facility in Louisville.

His death is devastating for two families-- his biological family and the couple the state gave custody to.

In the lawsuit, the couple raising Ja’Ceon claim wrongful death, negligence and negligent hiring, training, supervision and retention all led to his death.

Last week, the coroner announced Ja’Ceon’s death is considered a homicide, citing “positional asphyxiation.”

Ja’Ceon’s biological mother, Dominique, says she also wants to see justice served.

“I just think that something should happen to the two people that they found that caused my son not to be here anymore,” Dominique said.

The boy’s grandfather says he didn’t have the means to take custody of the boys before they went into foster care. He learned about Ja-Ceon’s cause of death ruling through an online media outlet.

“To read about it without knowing. We’ve been waiting for information since July, and to find out about it this way, it’s been hurtful,” he said.

Brooklawn released this statement:

“We are completely devastated by the unspeakable loss of a child in our care, Ja’Ceon Terry. He should not have died on our watch. As protectors of Kentucky’s most vulnerable children, we are dedicated to making sure it never happens again. The health and safety of the Brooklawn family is always our top priority.

We work every day to save young lives and help families in crisis. When we accept responsibility for caring for children, we commit to doing everything possible to keep them from harm.

The coroner’s report was released today. We are still searching for answers to the many questions about what happened on that Sunday afternoon. The leadership of Brooklawn will continue cooperating with state and local officials investigating this tragedy.

We have redoubled our efforts to ensure the safety and well-being of every child. Since July 17, we have taken the following actions:

  • Dismissed two staff members who were involved in the incident.
  • Increased training for staff members, who provide direct care for children, in de-escalation and relationship-building strategies, which have been shown to reduce and prevent the need for holds.
  • Retraining staff on behavioral models and therapeutic approaches.
  • Increased consultation and coaching with staff on intervention strategies that have been shown to create a collaborative and healing treatment environment.
  • Increased leadership presence and oversight in cottages to support staff and children.
  • Increased screening and assessments of all youth prior to admission.
  • We have persevered through tough times, and we will continue with the prayers and support of our community.”

The facility fired the two staff members who were involved in the incident.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Service has stopped placing children at the center for now. Louisville Metro Police and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services both are continuing to investigate the case.