(WBIR, Sevier County) A state agency has found itself at the center of more controversy after an East Tennessee family claimed their son was abused while in the state's care.
It's been a rocky year for the Department of Children's Services. The department has come under fire for the amount of children who have died while under its care. The Tennessean newspaper broke the story that more than 190 children have died over the last two years while in DCS' system.
The controversy led to DCS appointing a new chief last month, after the old department head stepped down.
The French family of Sevier County told 10News Tuesday their 15-year-old son suffered a broken arm back in May while in DCS custody. The French family said they had signed their son, Dakota, into DCS custody in October following ongoing issues with learning and behavior disorders.
DCS then sent French to a West Tennessee care center called Youth Villages in Barton. It's a private, non-profit organization that partners with DCS to help children and teenagers in need.
Dakota French said at the end of last month, he got into a fight just before going to bed. He said three men from the facility then tried to restrain him by putting him into a therapeutic hold.
"One had him on one arm, the left side, another had him on another arm, the right side, and they had twisted it and broke his arm," Lisa French said. "And, one was holding the back of his head."
She said she has medical records from a Memphis hospital that prove Dakota's arm was broken in the facility.
After the incident, the French family took their son home to Sevier County. He's currently in a trial home placement and said he feels "devastated."
Tuesday, the French family will be in Juvenile Court in Sevier County to discuss the case further with a judge.
10News reached out to DCS about the case. A department spokesperson, Rob Johnson, said a special investigation unit is still looking into the case. He said he could not remember any recent similar cases happening at Youth Villages in Barton.
Youth Villages declined to comment on specifically on the French case, but it did send 10News the following statement.
"We help youth with very challenging emotional and behavioral problems on our campuses. We have close supervision and video oversight of every youth 24/7. Because of the mental and behavioral challenges they have, the youth can sometimes act out. When that happens, it's our job to help keep not only the youth in crisis safe, but also keep the other youth around them safe. We have many policies and processes in place to help ensure the safety of the youth and our staff. Our staff is highly trained and certified in therapeutic crisis procedures. When a youth is in crisis, there is a special team to support staff and help ensure proper procedures are followed. Because we take safety so seriously, there are several staff members and a manager present during a crisis and a nurse checks the youth involved. We take serious measures to help ensure the wellbeing of the youth on our campus. We report any incidents according to both internal and state requirements and look into the matter thoroughly. We carefully review the situation with staff, including reviewing video recordings.I'm sure you understand that because Juvenile Court proceedings are private, it wouldn't be appropriate for us to talk about any juvenile court matters."