Counselors forcing kids to fight. That’s what a parent says happened to his daughter at a behavioral health facility in Fayetteville.
The facility is called “Piney Ridge.” According to the facility’s website, they treat youth between the ages of seven and 17 for sexual behavioral disorders. The family we spoke with says staff members forced their 12-year-old to fight with other kids.
“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’ and said when they’d finally get us on the ground that’s when they would step in and stop it,’” the girl’s grandma, Georgia Willis said.
Georgia Willis recalls what her granddaughter tells her happened at Piney Ridge. In October 2015, her son Jimmy Smedley checked his then 11-year-old daughter in for what was going to be nine months.
“I just had a funny feeling that something was going on but I didn’t think it was that big, you know,” Smedley said.
But Smedley says he quickly learned something big was going on.
“She had bruises, busted lips,” he said of previous incidents.
At a family session just weeks ago, he says a therapist told him about the fighting.
“The two staff members that was doing it was pairing them up and they’d take them outside by the dumpsters where there wasn’t a camera on the yard and that’s when they would make them fight or egg it on,” he said.
Furious, he pulled his daughter out of the program immediately. He says his daughter lost twenty pounds and was always scared.
“You already feel bad enough when you take your kid to something like that,” Smedley said. “I mean, it hurt me deeply to even leave her there and then when I find this out I was infuriated and I still can’t get over it today.”
Willis says driving away from Piney Ridge was bittersweet.
“I can’t get it off my mind and all I can think of when we were driving off from there, we were leaving these other little girls there,” she said.
The family tells me they’ve been in contact with the Department of Human Services. They also said Piney Ridge promised to call to follow up with their concerns and now, and almost three weeks later, they haven’t heard a word.
Piney Ridge is licensed by DHS, which sent me this statement confirming staff suspensions and an investigation.
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