Sunday, July 29, 2007


Today's article in the AJC, continuing to highlight the failures and abuses in Georgia's mental hospitals, paints a horror house scenario for our most vulnerable children. What is the deal with a state that, on the one hand, willfully houses young, mentally ill children with alleged adolescent sex offenders but, on the other hand, sends another teenager to jail for ten years for having consensual oral sex with someone two years his junior? In our mental "hospitals," the State of Georgia has housed children as young as six, with disorders like autism, with teens and older children charged with sex crimes. Some of those children, who really knows how many, have become victims of sexual abuse while in the state's care.

That's nothing short of malpractice. In fact, I'd call it criminal. Too harsh? I don't think so.

For most people, the idea that a six-year-old could need to be treated in a mental hospital or that a ten year old could be capable of sexual assault is unimaginable. This is very familiar ground for me, though, and I can tell you that it happens more often, to more children, than most imagine. In the late 1980's, I worked for a residential treatment facility that developed a much-needed residential treatment program for young children who had a history of sexual abuse, and who had acted out aggressively, sexually, with other children. I supervised that program. All of the children in the program were under 12, and most were placed by the state. Twenty years ago, and today, treatment standards-and basic common sense-dictated that those children were segregated from other residents and that there was a low child to staff ratio with twenty-four hour eyesight supervision. Even then, safety was an ever-present concern.

It is not at all uncommon for adolescents who commit sexual assaults to also have a mental health diagnosis, and treatment for these individuals is appropriate, but it appears that the State of Georgia was not even following the most basic treatment protocol for our most vulnerable children. They placed accused sex offenders with vulnerable children. That some of those children were sexually assaulted was predictable. I cannot imagine a competent mental health professional signing off on this. Our public mental health system is in shambles. It is underfunded poorly administrated. Who's going to be held accountable?

1 comment:

Tina said...

Georgia needs to put someone with MH or other social service credentials at the head of DHR.