Bridges4Kids Logo

About Us Breaking News Find Help in Michigan Find Help in the USA Find Help in Canada Inspiration
IEP Goals Help4Parents Disability Info Homeschooling College/Financial Aid Summer Camp
IEP Topics Help4Teachers Homework Help Charter/Private Insurance Nutrition
Ask the Attorney Become an Advocate Children "At-Risk" Bullying Legal Research Lead Poisoning
Bridges4Kids is now on Facebook. Follow us today!


Article of Interest - Restraint & Seclusion

Printer-friendly Version

Bridges4Kids LogoReformers Push to End Restraint, Seclusion
Death, injuries prompt training of workers in more positive methods.
Encarnacion Pyle, The Columbus Dispatch, April 24, 2005
For more articles like this visit


Matthew Goodman, an autistic teen, spent the last 16 months of his life heavily sedated, in arm splints and a helmet, at Bancroft NeuroHealth in New Jersey. The restraints were supposed to keep him from picking at an injury, but his mother thinks they contributed to his death at age 14.

Children who fight, throw tantrums or threaten workers while in residential care in Ohio are more likely to be tackled or dragged to a ‘‘seclusion room" than given a psychiatric drug.

In the first six months of 2004, kids were held down or isolated 9,920 times, according to logs the treatment centers gave the state.

But some say a movement to reduce the use of these practices has been slowly sweeping the country since the Hartford Courant documented 142 deaths during or after restraints between 1988 and ’98.

‘‘Seclusion and restraint should no longer be recognized as a treatment option at all, but rather as treatment failure," said Charles Curie, who heads the federal Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration.

Seclusion rooms can be a single bedroom or a small room with only a bed and a window where staff members keep watch. Restraints can vary from holding a patient’s arms to pinning someone to the floor.
Under Curie’s watch as deputy secretary of mental-health services in Pennsylvania, state hospitals there cut the number of hours children were in seclusion or restraints by more than 90 percent between 1997 and 2001.

In May 2003, Curie issued a national call to eliminate these methods, and last fall his agency awarded $5.3 million to agencies in eight states, not including Ohio, to come up with alternatives to calm people of all ages who are acting out.

The danger is more than emotional.

In Ohio, more than 150 children and 55 residential workers have suffered bruises, broken bones or other injuries during seclusions and restraints the past two years.

In 1999, a 14-year-old boy in foster care died in a Fairfield County home while wrapped in a mattress like a hot dog in a bun.

But since 2003, the Ohio Department of Mental Health has taught more than 270 residential-center and psychiatric-hospital workers nonviolent ways to control aggressive children and adults.

The agency also has created three groups of professionals to promote other ways to defuse potentially fiery situations.

‘‘They’re like supernannies, giving helpful hints to staff whose buttons are being pushed by sick, challenging kids," said Penny Wyman, executive director of the Ohio Association of Child Caring Agencies.

Leading the charge in central Ohio are Buckeye Ranch in Grove City and St. Vincent Family Centers, which has residential and partial hospitalization programs on the Near East and West sides.

The threat of force can backfire by making children resistant to future treatment, said Michelle Ward, president and chief executive officer of St. Vincent, which specializes in troubled kids age 12 and younger. The center also works with teens.

‘‘You don’t use a fire hose to put out a trash-can fire," Ward said.

Residential workers need to learn how to intervene when children show the first signs of being upset or under stress, she said.

At age 42, Sondra Williams is still living with the effects of being frequently bound, held down and overmedicated during years spent in psychiatric units.

‘‘It’s left me with a lifetime of emotional scars that will never heal," said Williams, of the North Side, who was in and out of institutions until doctors discovered recently that she was autistic instead of mentally ill.
Buckeye Ranch has cut its restraint use from a high of 1,029 incidents in 2002 to 766 last year, said Rick Rieser, president and chief executive officer.

But it still ranked third highest among the state’s 52 children’s residential centers for the first half of last year, according to Department of Mental Health records.

Buckeye officials said their figures are high because they report restraints ‘‘to the letter of the law," and it’s a big center. It has 84 beds.

Still, not everyone thinks Buckeye and St. Vincent are doing all they can.

Last year, Ohio Legal Rights Service sued both for allegedly failing to share records of children who had been restrained, including a 13-year-old whose wrist was broken by a Buckeye worker. The independent state agency investigates potential abuse of disabled residents.

On April 13, U.S. District Court Judge James L. Graham ordered Buckeye to provide all records relating to the fractured wrist, as well as all seclusion and restraint records since the suit was filed in May 2004.
The St. Vincent case is pending.

Since August 1999, the federal government has recorded 130 deaths nationwide, including five in Ohio, related to restraints and seclusion. But Ohio Legal Rights says the correct figure for the state is nine deaths.

Either way, the numbers show that people are still being hurt and killed, despite progress in the use of other techniques.

Saudia McGuire couldn’t agree more.

The 33-year-old single mother of three boys simply has to look at the photos in her purse.

Instead of her 9-year-old son’s shybut-devilish grin, she sees dark, deep bruises covering his arms and legs and a rug burn on his neck.

‘‘Devin was hurt twice while restrained at St. Vincent’s two years ago," said the East Side resident. ‘‘One time, he ran out of line and down a hallway and was dragged by the collar of his shirt by a worker."
Franklin County Children Services, which has temporary custody of Devin Chrysafis, investigated both incidents but didn’t substantiate any charges.

McGuire called police the second time he was hurt but was told residential treatment centers are held to a different standard.

‘‘If I had given him those bruises, my other two children would have been taken away from me and I would have been hauled off to jail," she said.

In the end, Children Services moved her son to another center. He’s now at the Children’s Aid Society in Cleveland, where McGuire is happy with his treatment.

Janice Roach isn’t so lucky.

Her 14-year-old son, Matthew Goodman, died in February 2002, a day before he was scheduled to leave a New Jersey institution that Roach feared had been abusively restraining him.

‘‘They killed his spirit long before his body," said Roach, now an advocate against restraint and seclusion who lives in a suburb of Philadelphia with her two other children.

In 1996, Roach and her ex-husband enrolled their severely autistic son at Bancroft NeuroHealth, once considered one of the nation’s top institutions for the disabled.

Things went well for Matthew, who had other medical problems. But in the spring of 2000, he developed a blood infection in his leg from an open sore.

After a summer confined to a bed at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, he went into the medical unit at Bancroft, which is in Haddonfield.

Matt sometimes picked at his injuries and, without classes, friends and recreational activities to distract him, his self-destructive behavior worsened.

Workers put him in arm splints and a hockey helmet and heavily sedated him.

‘‘He spent his days lying on the floor of Bancroft’s NeuroHealth unit barely conscious," Roach said. ‘‘It was 16 months of cruel torture."

After a long search, Roach found a Florida rehabilitation center willing to take her son. She visited him the weekend before his scheduled transfer.

‘‘He was on the floor, totally out of it," she said. ‘‘I laid down next to him and told him, ‘Just hang in there, Mattie.’ "

Two days later, a nurse at Bancroft called her. They couldn’t find his vital signs, and they were driving him to Children’s Hospital.

He arrived at the emergency room comatose — still in restraints.

‘‘My baby was dying, and they kept him tied up like a monster," Roach said.

He died the next day of pneumonia, blood poisoning and an acute respiratory infection.


back to the top     ~     back to Breaking News     ~     back to What's New


Thank you for visiting

bridges4kids does not necessarily agree with the content or subject matter of all articles nor do we endorse any specific argument.  Direct any comments on articles to

© 2002-2021 Bridges4Kids