Clarinda Academy has issued a response to allegations of abuse laid out in a report by Iowa and Washington state advocacy organizations.

Iowa’s Human Services and Inspections and Appeals departments are looking into allegations against Clarinda Academy. The facility is owned by Alabama-based Sequel Youth and Family Services.

A federally mandated protection and advocacy organization in the state of Washington alleged earlier this year that foster children were being held against their will at the Clarinda facility, were subjected to excessive restraint and were verbally abused.

Disability Rights Washington said it partnered with Disability Rights Iowa to expose “a very restrictive and segregated institution where policies, training and oversight do not adequately protect against the risk of abusive restraints.”

Sequel Executive Vice President Steve Gilbert told the newspaper that Clarinda was subject to 28 different on-site assessments by state authorities.

“In September the state of Iowa completed their on-site audit at Clarinda, which noted no deficiencies and renewed our full licensure status,” Gilbert told The Des Moines Register.

In a letter regarding the allegations, Richard Anderson, president of the Clarinda Youth Corporation, called the report inaccurate in its depiction of the facility.

The Clarinda Academy houses youth in the legal system from 13 to 18 years old from across the country, according to Anderson. Clarinda Youth Corporation is a non-profit corporation established to hold the license with the state of Iowa to operate the Clarinda Academy, to lease space from the state of Iowa to operate the academy on the state property, which is the former Clarinda Mental Health Complex. The corporation also retains a service provider to operate academy programs

The Register reported a Lincoln, Nebraska, mother of a 15-year-old student at Clarinda Academy told police in February that a staff member assaulted her daughter and she was bruised while an employee was attempting to restrain her.

During the past five years, several allegations of restraint, assault and sexual abuse have been reported. There have been more than 30 reports about students and staff during that time frame.

“Clarinda Youth Corporation is committed to opening the door to life-changing opportunities for at-risk young men and women. For more than 25 years, students have benefited from an enriched educational experience at Clarinda Academy. The program is focused on improving academic skills, safely and with dignity,” according to Anderson’s statement.

Clarinda Academy teaches students traditional, academic subjects and life skills. Anderson said the academy will not have any further comments on any reported incidents.

The Washington Department of Children, Youth and Families said it will no longer send youth to Clarinda Academy.

According to Washington state data in late 2017, three-quarters of the contracts for out-of-state placements were made with Sequel. According to the story, efforts are being made for Washington children at the Clarinda Academy into other situations by the end of January.

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“Clarinda Academy is in good standing with the state regulatory and licensing oversight bodies as well as The Joint Commission. The state of Iowa also recently completed their on-site audit at Clarinda, which noted no deficiencies, and renewed the Academy’s full licensure status for the next three years,” Anderson said.

“The city of Clarinda and Page County have a long history of providing care for our community members in need. We support each other through institutions such as Clarinda Academy, as well as the Clarinda Mental Health Institute, the Clarinda Correctional Facility, the Page County Home, Page II, and Nishna Productions. We celebrate our history, our community values, and the people who provide these essential services,” Anderson continued.

The federal government has tried to move facilities such as Clarinda away from the use of restraints on youths, saying the practice can re-traumatize them. But Iowa’s standards allow physical restraints to keep children from hurting themselves, others or property.

Clarinda and Woodward could be asked to begin improvement plans after the Iowa investigation is complete, said Mikki Stier, deputy director of Iowa Department of Human Services. A department spokesman, Matt Highland, said he couldn’t immediately characterize the number or nature of any allegations made against staffers or others at the Woodward Academy.

Iowa’s Department of Inspections and Appeals, which licenses such facilities, told state lawmakers earlier this fall they were unaware of alleged abuse until the Disability Rights Washington report.

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