State takes action against academy that serves children with disabilities

State takes action against academy that serves children with disabilities

By PETER HANCOCK
Capitol News Illinois
phancock@capitolnewsillinois.com

SPRINGFIELD – Officials from multiple state agencies said Friday that they are cutting ties with a residential school that serves children in state care with mental and developmental disabilities after an independent review documented reports of mistreatment of youth at the facility.

Northern Illinois Academy, in Aurora, is an 87-bed private residential facility that serves children with co-occurring mental illnesses or autism, mood disorders and developmental delays. It is owned and operated by Sequel Youth and Family Services and receives funding from the Department of Children and Family Services, the Department of Healthcare and Family Services and the Department of Human Services.

The students currently at Northern Illinois Academy will be moved to other facilities.

The report, dated May 4 from the disability rights group Equip for Equality, found numerous problems with NIA’s programming, training and services. Those include inadequate and overextended staffing; insufficient incident reporting, including cases of children running away from the facility; lack of meaningful programming and treatment planning; undocumented and improper use of physical restraint and seclusions; and insufficient adherence to COVID-19 health and safety requirements.

“The top priority of the Department of Children and Family Services is protecting vulnerable children by ensuring they receive the best available support and services,” acting DCFS Director Marc Smith said in a statement. “It is unacceptable when any facility is not meeting the strict standards established by DCFS, and our team is taking steps to thoughtfully and carefully transition our youth in care to other facilities that can provide the nurturing, supportive environment our kids deserve.”

Pursuant to its contract with DCFS, Equip for Equality, the state-appointed protection and advocacy organization for people with disabilities, first conducted a review of NIA in November and December of 2019. At that time, EFE noted numerous concerns about NIA’s lack of meaningful programming, unsafe restraint practices, restraining residents from communication devices and a host of other issues.

Following that review, in January 2020, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services revoked NIA’s certification as a psychiatric residential treatment facility, or PRTF.

In March 2020, however, DCFS found that NIA had made significant improvements, and the agency lifted a hold that had been in place on new admissions to the facility while continuing to conduct intensive monitoring.

But Equip for Equality conducted another review in the fall and winter of 2020 and found that many of the same issues continued to exist, including unsafe and abusive restraint practices that at times resulted in physical injuries, inadequate discipline in response to staff abuse, and failure to report abuse to the hotline.

Anthony Penn, executive director at NIA, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Illinois State Board of Education said it also conducted a review of the facility and announced Friday that, effective Aug. 6, it will assign a status of “non-approved” for NIA’s education services. That means school districts will no longer be able to receive reimbursements for student placements there.

“The problems documented by Equip for Equality are deeply troubling,” state Superintendent of Education Carmen Ayala said in a statement. “As a consequence and as a result of ISBE’s regulatory review, we are revoking approval of the facility and helping school districts to transition their students to better learning environments ahead of the next school year.”

There are currently only 15 students residing at NIA. The agencies with responsibility for students at the facility said they will immediately begin the process of transitioning students to other settings, “on a phased and orderly basis.”

 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

Leave a Comment





Local News

Vintage cars will again be rolling in the La Grange Pet Parade. The 78th edition of the parade starts at 9:30 a.m. June 1. (Photo by Steve Metsch)

Folks urged to enter costume contest for La Grange Pet Parade

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Steve Metsch About 40,000 people are expected along the streets of downtown La Grange on Saturday morning June 1, with some of them dressing in costumes for the 78th annual La Grange Pet Parade. A costume contest has long been part of the parade, Molly Price, the parade’s executive director, said on…

Deputy Supt. of Public Works Ken Tucker (from left), Trustee Tim Kovel, Building Commissioner Matt Struve, Mayor Ernest Millsap, Public Works Superintendent Jody Kovel, Trustee Jorea Touranjeau, Trustee Dominic Misasi, and Trustee Lida Mills at the site of the new public works office building. (Photo by Carol McGowan)

Hodgkins breaks ground on new public works building

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Carol McGowan The Village of Hodgkins is getting ready to welcome a new public works office building at its facility off of 67th Street, east of East Avenue. Village officials and public works employees gathered last month for a groundbreaking. Hodgkins Mayor Ernest Millsap explained the history behind the Paul G. Struve Public Works Building.…

Sandburg pitcher Ethan Highfill gets Marist's Aiden Cech to swing and miss on a pitch during a 7-3 Eagles' victory on May 23. Photo by Xavier Sanchez

Baseball | Sandburg wins a playoff game, but falls to LW West in regional final

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Xavier Sanchez Correspondent Sandburg won a playoff game for the first time in four postseasons, but for the second consecutive year its season came to an end at the hands of Lincoln-Way West. The Eagles (21-12) fell to the Warriors, 6-1, in the Class 4A Sandburg Regional championship game on May 25.…

The Chicago Red Stars' Penelope Hocking had her streak of three games with a goal stopped in a 1-0 loss to Louisville on May 25 in Bridgeview. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Emma Sears scores match’s lone goal as Louisville blanks Red Stars

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent The Chicago Red Stars are miles ahead of where they were last year. The team secured its 16th point on May 12. In 2023, it had to wait until July 7 to hit its 16th point during a season in which it finished in last place in the NWSL.…

all sports 2

Sports Bits | St. Michael seventh-grader sets Illinois state record in 110-meter hurdles

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent • St. Michael School seventh-grader Tommy Walter set a grade-school state record en route to winning the Illinois Elementary School Association Class 2A 110-meter hurdles at the grade-school state meet held May 10-11 in East Peoria. Tommy set the Class 2A record in the event with a time of…

Water Polo Stock

Water Polo | Lions, Eagles, Macs, Crusaders and Mustangs earn All-State honors

Spread the love

Spread the loveAll-State water polo Lyons girls water polo standout Maya Mladjan was named to the Illinois Water Polo organization’s All-State first team. The Lions’ Delaney Judkins and Isabella Recker, and Mother McAuley’s Becca Engquist earned second-team honors. Sandburg’s Claire Donnell made the third team and the Mighty Macs’ Andi Moriarity made the fourth team.…

Chicago Christian's Grace Mullin is committed to Air Force. Chicago Christian photo

Chicago Christian’s Grace Mullin caps successful spring by committing to Air Force

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent Grace Mullin has proven talents on the ground. In the future, the Chicago Christian graduate may show more talents in the air. After an incredible spring and track season, Mullin — who graduated May 23 — capped things off by committing to the Air Force Academy. This came less…

tennis stock

Boys Tennis State Finals | Lyons’ Jack McLane and Mason Mazzone take 2nd

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent Two doubles teams from Lyons made deep runs at the IHSA Class 2A boys tennis state finals, with one of them bringing home some hardware. The boys state tennis finals were held at various sites in the north and northwest suburbs May 23-25. The Lions’ Jack McLane and Mason…

all sports

Postseason Roundup | Area teams still alive in playoffs

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent Several area baseball, softball, boys volleyball and girls soccer teams were still alive in the postseason heading into this week. Among those was two-time defending Class 3A champion Nazareth, which is competing in Class 4A this season. The Roadrunners, Brother Rice and Mount Carmel won regional titles. So did…

The St. Laurence 400 meter relay team of Harley Rizzs, Quinton Williams, Vincent Enoch and Monroe Thompson Jr. won the 2024 state championship in 41.94, becoming the first relay team in Vikings history to win a state title. Photo courtesy of St. Laurence High School

Boys State Track Finals | St. Laurence’s Harley Rizzs wins 100m title, helps Vikings to 400m relay gold

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent St. Laurence junior Harley Rizzs was a member of the Vikings football team that earned a 2023 Class 4A state runner-up trophy the day after Thanksgiving. He bettered that two days before Memorial Day when he became the first St. Laurence track athlete to win an individual state championship.…

Neighbors

Vintage cars will again be rolling in the La Grange Pet Parade. The 78th edition of the parade starts at 9:30 a.m. June 1. (Photo by Steve Metsch)

Folks urged to enter costume contest for La Grange Pet Parade

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Steve Metsch About 40,000 people are expected along the streets of downtown La Grange on Saturday morning June 1, with some of them dressing in costumes for the 78th annual La Grange Pet Parade. A costume contest has long been part of the parade, Molly Price, the parade’s executive director, said on…

Deputy Supt. of Public Works Ken Tucker (from left), Trustee Tim Kovel, Building Commissioner Matt Struve, Mayor Ernest Millsap, Public Works Superintendent Jody Kovel, Trustee Jorea Touranjeau, Trustee Dominic Misasi, and Trustee Lida Mills at the site of the new public works office building. (Photo by Carol McGowan)

Hodgkins breaks ground on new public works building

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Carol McGowan The Village of Hodgkins is getting ready to welcome a new public works office building at its facility off of 67th Street, east of East Avenue. Village officials and public works employees gathered last month for a groundbreaking. Hodgkins Mayor Ernest Millsap explained the history behind the Paul G. Struve Public Works Building.…

Sandburg pitcher Ethan Highfill gets Marist's Aiden Cech to swing and miss on a pitch during a 7-3 Eagles' victory on May 23. Photo by Xavier Sanchez

Baseball | Sandburg wins a playoff game, but falls to LW West in regional final

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Xavier Sanchez Correspondent Sandburg won a playoff game for the first time in four postseasons, but for the second consecutive year its season came to an end at the hands of Lincoln-Way West. The Eagles (21-12) fell to the Warriors, 6-1, in the Class 4A Sandburg Regional championship game on May 25.…

The Chicago Red Stars' Penelope Hocking had her streak of three games with a goal stopped in a 1-0 loss to Louisville on May 25 in Bridgeview. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Emma Sears scores match’s lone goal as Louisville blanks Red Stars

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent The Chicago Red Stars are miles ahead of where they were last year. The team secured its 16th point on May 12. In 2023, it had to wait until July 7 to hit its 16th point during a season in which it finished in last place in the NWSL.…

all sports 2

Sports Bits | St. Michael seventh-grader sets Illinois state record in 110-meter hurdles

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent • St. Michael School seventh-grader Tommy Walter set a grade-school state record en route to winning the Illinois Elementary School Association Class 2A 110-meter hurdles at the grade-school state meet held May 10-11 in East Peoria. Tommy set the Class 2A record in the event with a time of…

Water Polo Stock

Water Polo | Lions, Eagles, Macs, Crusaders and Mustangs earn All-State honors

Spread the love

Spread the loveAll-State water polo Lyons girls water polo standout Maya Mladjan was named to the Illinois Water Polo organization’s All-State first team. The Lions’ Delaney Judkins and Isabella Recker, and Mother McAuley’s Becca Engquist earned second-team honors. Sandburg’s Claire Donnell made the third team and the Mighty Macs’ Andi Moriarity made the fourth team.…

Chicago Christian's Grace Mullin is committed to Air Force. Chicago Christian photo

Chicago Christian’s Grace Mullin caps successful spring by committing to Air Force

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent Grace Mullin has proven talents on the ground. In the future, the Chicago Christian graduate may show more talents in the air. After an incredible spring and track season, Mullin — who graduated May 23 — capped things off by committing to the Air Force Academy. This came less…

tennis stock

Boys Tennis State Finals | Lyons’ Jack McLane and Mason Mazzone take 2nd

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent Two doubles teams from Lyons made deep runs at the IHSA Class 2A boys tennis state finals, with one of them bringing home some hardware. The boys state tennis finals were held at various sites in the north and northwest suburbs May 23-25. The Lions’ Jack McLane and Mason…

all sports

Postseason Roundup | Area teams still alive in playoffs

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent Several area baseball, softball, boys volleyball and girls soccer teams were still alive in the postseason heading into this week. Among those was two-time defending Class 3A champion Nazareth, which is competing in Class 4A this season. The Roadrunners, Brother Rice and Mount Carmel won regional titles. So did…

The St. Laurence 400 meter relay team of Harley Rizzs, Quinton Williams, Vincent Enoch and Monroe Thompson Jr. won the 2024 state championship in 41.94, becoming the first relay team in Vikings history to win a state title. Photo courtesy of St. Laurence High School

Boys State Track Finals | St. Laurence’s Harley Rizzs wins 100m title, helps Vikings to 400m relay gold

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva Correspondent St. Laurence junior Harley Rizzs was a member of the Vikings football team that earned a 2023 Class 4A state runner-up trophy the day after Thanksgiving. He bettered that two days before Memorial Day when he became the first St. Laurence track athlete to win an individual state championship.…