Cruz demands investigation of child behavioral health facilities statewide

HARRISBURG, Aug. 19 – Chairman of the House Human Services Committee Angel Cruz today implored the Wolf administration to investigate all child behavioral health facilities in the 67 counties in the wake of new reports outlining child sexual abuse.

Cruz’s call comes days after the Wolf administration, through the Department of Human Services, announced that it is reviewing allegations to determine appropriate action with regard to the licenses of Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Facilities, following years of reported child sexual abuse at the hands of staff.

“There appears to be a sinister trend of children, particularly vulnerable children living with special needs, being subjected to unspeakably horrific abuse at the hands of those who have been entrusted with their care,” said Cruz, D-Phila. “It’s a trend that, in fact, spans years, and many times these allegations have been waved away with no follow-up investigations or accountability for these facilities. Children are sent to these facilities with the hopes that they will be provided the proper care to address their needs, but instead are forced to endure more trauma and bear it for the rest of their lives.”

Outlining his anticipation for an investigation, Cruz pointed to the 2019 allegations of child abuse at the Wordsworth Academy in Philadelphia that surfaced after the 2016 asphyxiation death of 16 year-old David Hess, and multiple abuse allegations at the Glen Mills School in Delaware County.

“We can no longer do these piecemeal investigations only after the number of allegations from children left traumatized by abuse becomes too burdensome to ignore,” Cruz said. “We’ve seen time and again that these allegations are not isolated incidents. One allegation at one facility is followed by more there and at other facilities, which is why I am demanding a full and thorough investigation of all statewide facilities and their staff.

“If there are instances of abuse at any of these facilities, I’ll work to ensure that every victim receives justice!”