Yesterday a federal lawsuit was filed against Aurora Chicago Lakeshore Hospital by on behalf of seven children and teens that had been placed at the hospital between 2017 and 2018 by the Department of Children and Family Services for psychiatric care.
The lawsuit alleges that while there, the children were subjected to sexual abuse by staff and peers as well as emotional abuse and the administration of sedatives when not warranted.
“These children were the most vulnerable kids in the city of Chicago .... They went to a hospital simply to be treated for the severe issues that they were suffering,” attorney Scott R. Drury, one of the West End Loop attorneys that filed the suit said. “And instead, what they received was sexual assault — not only by the other patients there, but by the staff.”
The suit, which names several staff remember of the hospital as well as DCFS administrators as defendants states that Lakeshore was a “hospital of horrors” where children were “subjected to sexual, physical and emotional abuse.”
“DCFS is committed to protecting the children of Illinois and providing the best possible services to the children in our care. We take seriously any allegations of abuse and have not allowed children to be placed at Lakeshore Hospital since 2018,” the agency said in a statement emailed to the Chicago Sun Times.
The agency stated that they had hired more than 300 people since April in an effort to “overcome the challenges that have plagued the department for decades.”
They also stated that they stopped admitting children to Lakeshore last year and those that remained at the facility were monitored by someone from the state around the clock.
The hospital though, seems to be attempting to divert the negative attention to shortfalls in funding.
“It is tragic that the Cook County Public Guardian chooses to malign health care providers instead of addressing the root of this statewide crisis: a lack of state funding which prevents children from getting appropriate care at the right time and in the right place,” Chicago Lakeshore Hospital CEO Patricia McClure-Chessier said in a statement.
“This problem is beyond the control of Chicago Lakeshore Hospital. Illinois already faces a severe shortage of mental health care providers and driving more out of business only serves to exacerbate the problem instead of solving it.”
The allegations made in the suit though, go beyond staffing shortages or funding issues, to say that there was willful negligence and even attempts to cover up the abuses. It even alleges that DCFS workers put children in a potentially dangerous situation, knowing of the hospital's documented problems, because it was one of the few that would accept children into it's custody.
The lawsuit further alleges that staff at the hospital attempted to impede investigations by fabricated records, destroying video tapes and concealed evidence.
‘When youth enter the DCFS system, they frequently have already experienced severe trauma and are among our area’s most vulnerable residents,’ Cook County Public Guardian Charles Golbert said in a statement. ’But rather than providing these young children the focused care they deserved, DCFS sent them to Chicago Lakeshore Hospital, knowing they would not be safe.″
Appointed by the county's chief judge, one of the Public Guardian's primary roles is to represent neglected children in court proceedings.
‘Instead of being placed in a safe environment where they could focus on their treatment, each plaintiff found himself or herself in a hospital of horrors where they were subjected to sexual, physical and emotional abuse and otherwise not properly supervised or monitored,’ the lawsuit states.