A family that claims staff members at a behavioral health center forced their 12-year-old child to fight other kids. They say it happened at Piney Ridge in Fayetteville.
The Department of Human Services licenses Piney Ridge. It’s a facility that treats children who suffer from sexual behavioral disorders. And DHS says there is validity to claims made by the family.
“She said ‘Meemaw they would just take us out there and the staff would be standing over there and they would say ‘fight, fight, fight,’’” the girl’s grandma, Georgia Willis said.
Georgia Willis and her son Jimmy Smedley believe it’s two staff members that forced his then eleven year old daughter to fight other kids.
“The staff is who I had to put my trust into 95% of the time,” Smedley said. “That’s who my kid’s going to be with and thems the ones I couldn’t trust.”
A representative from the Department of Human Services tells me they have heard these claims. When I reached out about Smedley’s concerns, DHS confirmed they received a report on March 20th .
That report says youth at the facility made claims that staff members allowed them to, “play fight and one of the youth got a black eye.”
“It’s important that it needs to be investigated because they’re doing these kids wrong in my book,” Smedley said.
According to DHS it is being investigated. Piney Ridge sent us a statement too.
Because of confidentiality laws, it reads that they cannot comment on this specific case. But, the Chief Executive Officer of Piney Ridge tells me this: They have a no tolerance policy for anything like this. And, “employees found to be in violation of our abuse and neglect policies are immediately suspended pending a full investigation.”
It continues that termination is possible.
DHS confirms two staff members have been suspended. This family says they’re not going to forget about it just because their daughter is no longer at Piney Ridge.
“I’m not letting it go,” WIllis said. “We’re not letting it go. Somebody has got to help these kids.”
“These are grown ups doing this,” Smedley said. “This is the staff members you’re leaving your kids with back there and they’re not doing what they’re saying; they’re not protecting them.”
DHS says when there are issues, they will investigate if any licensing rules were violated. The department also has a division dealing with child maltreatment investigations which are confidential by law.
DHS also handles civil and criminal investigations.
Statement from Piney Ridge: Piney Ridge is proud of our long history of providing exceptional care to our patients and their families in highly structured treatment programs. We maintain a zero tolerance policy for any action that could endanger the physical or emotional wellbeing of a patient. Employees found to be in violation of our abuse and neglect policies are immediately suspended pending a full investigation and prompt disciplinary action – including termination – is taken as warranted. Due to federal and state patient privacy and confidentiality laws, we cannot comment on the specific allegations.
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