I was placed in Fox Run Center for Children and Adolescents in November of 2020 following a suicide attempt. I had been suffering severe mental health issues for years and after trying to take my life for the fourth time, it was determined that I could not be safe at home. I had tried every outpatient program and had been hospitalized multiple times and we had run out of options as a family.
We had heard horror stories of residentials of the years of being in hospitals so did everything we could to avoid putting me in one. When the time came, we were told by multiple people that Fox Run was the best of the best. I was even excited to begin my journey towards being free of my mental illness. No one informed us that the COVID policy did not allow any visitation, even with family, until I arrived at the facility and my dad’s parental rights had been terminated (we could not afford it for me to be there so my father had to give up custody of me to our county so pay for it – yet another issue with this system).
After I said my last goodbyes to my dad who I would not see again for 7 months, I was taken back to my unit. I instantly smelled an odor of urine that was extremely strong but so constant. I eventually became nose blind to it over my time there. The first red flag was the lack of action towards the psychosomatic seizures I experienced. They were blown off as “faked for attention” the same day I arrived.
The night I arrived, I got my first experience with verbal abuse towards me and the other residents as one of the staff screamed for no justified reason throughout the night. This same staff would later turn out to do this on a daily basis. My personal belongings were misplaced for nearly 48 hours, meaning I was in the same clothes that entire time. I was threatened to be dragged out of my bed by one of the therapists the next morning when I refused to get up. I was told by a nurse that I smelled horrible and that my family couldn’t handle me or they wouldn’t have sent me.
Within my first week, a nurse screamed at all of us who were refusing to go to class that we were “not smart enough” to not go to school and we wouldn’t get anywhere in life if we kept acting like that. She said it in the most degrading way it could have been stated. I was later escorted into a hallway and restrained in the CPI control position for “being disruptive” for simply having a difficult time and quietly refusing to go to my room. I was neither a threat to myself or others.
The control position restraint puts so much pressure on your stomach it is commonplace for people to pee, throw up, and sometimes even poop themselves. Many staff would use the threat of restraints as a way to keep unwanted behavior in check saying they could restrain us for “whatever they wanted” and when in restraints could be heard saying to “press harder” when the resident wasn’t being as compliant as they wished. Throughout my eight months there I was called attention-seeking for having seizures, having panic attacks, self-harming, and at one point managing a pretty serious attempt at my own life.
On what we called “turn up” nights when multiple people would be getting in fights and self-harming, all of the 1-3 staff on our unit would be occupied dealing with the situations and the rest of us would be left to our own devices. Often we would gather in one bedroom and shut the door and try to keep each other calm through the sounds of screaming and loud noises. We would end up going for hours without being checked on. On one such night, a girl managed to end up in her bedroom with the door shut for over an hour and tied something around her neck so successfully she was colorless and unresponsive when they found her. Weeks later, the facility passed the state safety inspection.
People would be lead through the hallways without shirts on to be put in restraints without any attempt to shield them from us and us from them. Sexually traumatized children were not being protected from their bodies being exposed to other sexually traumatized children. We would be forced to witness the physical restraints of other residents while they screamed to be let go because we didn’t have enough staff to remove us. We were forced to be the ones to comfort the other residents experiencing panic attacks and flashbacks. Even if other staff were available, they would ignore us as we screamed for help. They would say all of us were attention-seeking and no one could help us.
We were denied the right to use the restroom, contact our family, shower, have blankets, etc. all based on “behavior”. There were instances where staff would choke, punch, throw, and hit residents. The emotional abuse was so bad that people became scared to ask to go to the bathroom. I was shrieked at for asking for simple things such as water, the bathroom, and hand sanitizer as we did not have regular access to wash our hands. People would self-harm and leave pools of blood on the floor around our unit that would not be cleaned up for hours and usually not cleaned up with biohazard protocol in mind.
I could go on for days about the horrible situations this place put me and others through. All under the preface of being the best in the state. I and other residents tried to start a conversation about the issues we were facing. We were always told that the staff was trying their best and if they didn’t care about us they wouldn’t be there, as if caring about us was an excuse for their behavior. Other times it was simply brushed off as coming from a bunch of bored and mentally ill teens who just wanted to start stuff.
We had a grievance filing system, but no one used it because the papers would have our names shown to the staff we were writing a grievance on and we would often experience backlash once they found out we had written a grievance on them. They would deny us our right to contact Disability Rights Ohio, something that is illegal because it “wasn’t phone call hours.” They would say they weren’t denying us the right, it just wasn’t appropriate timing, even though phone call hours were late at night and not always given.
We felt so helpless. I still felt helpless until the day I found out about this. Through the time I spent there, I got to know a lot of kids who went through a multitude of residential and group homes for troubled teens. I know Fox Run is not an outlier in its treatment of teens. The stories I have heard about other facilities are no better. I will never be the same after going to Fox Run. I will carry the trauma I received at this place for the rest of my life. I hope to God that someday no other kids or teens will have to experience something like this. Needing help should not be an automatic sentence for abuse