DHR staff are not responsible for the paralyzed child in their care in Alabama
Savannah Tryens-Fernandes is a journalist for The Alabama Education Lab and is supported by a grant from Report for America.
The Alabama Supreme Court today ruled that officers from the Cullman County Human Resources Department are not responsible for injuries sustained by a child in their care while incarcerated at the Metropolitan Jail in Mobile County.
In May 2015, BJ, as he is called in the lawsuit, was 18 when he was arrested for assaulting another resident in Altapointe, the foster home where he lived, according to court records.
BJ had been in the care of DHR since the age of 3, when he was removed from his home after being physically and sexually abused by family members. Throughout his life, BJ was placed in a number of foster homes, group homes, residential facilities, hospitals and psychiatric institutions.
While in prison, he reportedly refused to take medication or attend a psychiatric consultation for the multiple emotional and mental disorders he had been diagnosed with.
In June 2015, BJ “initiated a confrontation with correctional officers in the prison” leading to a permanent spinal cord injury which left him functional quadriplegic.
The incident occurred just nine days after DHR agents requested a suspension of BJ’s release from prison – despite having the bail money to release him and having obtained his placement in an intensive psychiatric inpatient treatment center in Gadsden – so that he is present. for a court hearing, according to court documents.
Her restaurateur sued three DHR employees for failing to provide BJ with proper placement or medication. The complaint alleged officials knew he would likely suffer emotional distress due to their inability to provide him with a placement other than jail.
The lawsuit also says DHR had no right to unilaterally block BJ’s transfer to Mountain View without consulting its Individualized Service Plan team, which is responsible for determining what services are provided to a child in state custody. , and includes BJ itself.
The Supreme Court ruled that DHR officers who oversaw BJ’s care are ultimately entitled to state agent immunity, meaning they are protected from prosecution because ” Claims against them arose out of the performance of their respective duties as employees of Cullman County. DHR and that they exercised their judgment and discretion in the performance of these duties.
Neither party in this case has responded to a request for comment at the time of writing.