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Kentucky agency launches probe into facility accused of abusing developmentally delayed child

The investigation came weeks after Autumn Janeway sued Brooklawn, a facility owned and operated by Uspiritus, alleging her son, Anthony, 11, endured “physical and emotional abuse” during his stay from July 2021 until March.
Autumn Janeway's son Anthony.
Autumn Janeway's son, Anthony.Michael Swensen for NBC News

The Kentucky agency that oversees state youth centers said it has launched an investigation into allegations of abuse made by the mother of a developmentally delayed child who was allegedly choked, scratched and taunted at the same Louisville foster care facility where a 7-year-old boy suffocated to death in July. 

The investigation came weeks after Autumn Janeway filed a lawsuit against Brooklawn, a facility owned and operated by Uspiritus, alleging her son, Anthony, 11, endured “physical and emotional abuse” during his stay from July 2021 until March 2022.

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services said its Department for Community Based Services has started an investigation into the allegations related to Anthony Janeway and that the “investigation is active at this time,” Susan Dunlap, a spokesperson for the agency, said in a statement Monday. 

Uspiritus said it was “unable to comment on specific personnel matters and the private health information of the individuals mentioned at this time. Our focus is caring for all the children we serve. Working with the Commonwealth, we will create a new culture of care for Kentucky’s most vulnerable children."

Janeway said she voluntarily checked Anthony into the location for private residential therapeutic treatment because of his attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, and because the boy was harming himself and his younger siblings, and running away. 

Anthony and Autumn Janeway hug at a shopping plaza
Anthony and Autumn Janeway hug at a shopping plaza in Georgetown, Ky.Safia Samee Ali / NBC News

She said she struggled to keep Anthony, who has been in special needs care since he was 5, at home and was constantly anxious about his and his siblings’ safety.

“I needed help and when you take a parent like me that is desperate to get their child help, we put trust into places like Brooklawn,” Janeway said. 

Shortly after Anthony entered Brooklawn, Janeway said he was being antagonized by staff, which she heard multiple times on the phone. 

According to the suit, Anthony told her he had been “choked” during a phone call in October 2021 prompting Janeway to immediately drive down to the facility. 

Janeway said she saw “bright red circular marks and bruising” around his neck, according to the lawsuit, as well as “other darker colored contusions” on his chest and clavicle. 

“I absolutely lost it. I hit the floor. I was so emotional,” Janeway said. “I didn’t know what to do.”

According to her suit, “at no time prior” to her arriving was she “notified that her son had been injured or had received medical care for the injuries to his neck.” 

The facility director told her the marks were the result of a restraint position her son had been placed in, according to the lawsuit, an explanation Janeway said she didn’t believe because of the location of his bruises.

This is not the only allegation of wrongdoing by the facility. Last month, an NBC News investigation into Brooklawn detailed allegations of wrongdoing and abuse over several years leading up to the July 17 death of Ja’Ceon Terry, a 7-year-old who was a ward of the state and had been staying at the facility. He died of “positional asphyxia,” according to the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office, which also ruled his death a homicide.

Ja'Ceon Terry.
Ja'Ceon Terry.Courtesy of The Law Offices of C

On the day Ja’Ceon died, a program manager recalled being told that the child had been held in a chokehold by two employees and that he began to vomit, according to a source with knowledge of the encounter. 

Two employees involved in the death have been dismissed, the facility said. However, no charges have been filed and police and state officials say the investigation remains open. 

“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,” the company said last month. 

Janeway said she wanted to call the police before seeing her son, but was told not to by the facility director because an officer would upset the other children, according to the lawsuit. The director, she said, assured her that Brooklawn would report the incident to the Kentucky Department of Community Based Services for investigation, as well as conduct its own investigation, according to the lawsuit. 

It is unclear if the matter was reported to the state agency, which denied a public records request.

Janeway’s lawsuit alleges negligence and negligent hiring, training, supervision and retention against the facility.

“I trusted a broken system that is supposed to help my son, not hurt my son, and it failed him,” she said.