State investigating foster facility after child's death

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Posted at 10:50 PM, Jul 27, 2022

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — One day after LEX 18 highlighted a mother searching for answers after her son died in foster care, the state suspended placements to facilities operated by the company that operated the home where the seven-year-old died.

Tuesday evening, LEX 18's Mike Valente talked with Dominique Terry, whose son, Ja'Ceon died of as-yet unknown causes at Brooklawn Child and Family Services. Uspiritus operates that facility and has an agreement with the state to provide care to foster children in Kentucky. A spokesperson for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services confirmed to LEX 18 Wednesday evening that the agreement is suspended while the state investigates what happened.

“The cabinet is deeply saddened by the death of Ja’Ceon Terry; the death of any child in care is devastating," read a statement from a spokesperson for the cabinet. "The cabinet arranged for a viewing earlier today for family members, followed by a state-provided burial this afternoon. The cabinet contracts with licensed foster care facilities to provide residential care for children. Uspiritus, whose facilities include Brooklawn in Louisville, where Ja’Ceon passed, has an agreement with the state to provide care and treatment to children in the care of the cabinet. Placements at Uspiritus in all programs have been suspended (Private Child Caring, Private Child Placing, and Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility) due to an ongoing investigation by the cabinet’s Office of the Inspector General and Department for Community Based Services. A full review of Brooklawn, including staffing, regulations, and protocol, is continuing.”

"I’m just excited that no other child will go through the trauma that my son had went through," Dominique said.

Dominique said the cabinet has not told her how Ja'Ceon died and as of Tuesday night, she didn't believe she would even be able to have a funeral for him. On Wednesday, the cabinet and a local funeral home allowed for a visitation and burial so Ja'Ceon's family could say goodbye, but Dominique and her family still want answers.

Ja'Ceon had been in the custody of the state since Dominique ran into a bit of legal trouble a few years ago. He died on July 17. Dominique and her father, George Terry, said all they've been told is that there was some kind of an accident.

"Every time I close my eyes, I can see him," Dominique said Wednesday.

Ten days after his death, Dominique and her family finally got to see Ja'Ceon at Smith and Smith Funeral Home here in Lexington.

"My heart dropped when I first seen him when I walked into Smith and Smith," Dominique said. "I just said, 'I love you, Ja'Ceon. I hope you can tell me in my dreams what happened to you,' and I just laid on him and cried."

The funeral home had a blue casket for him, his favorite color, and they provided a minister for a graveside service. Ja'Ceon's grandfather, George, served as a pallbearer. He said it was a heartfelt goodbye, but certainly not one that gives any closure.

"As long as we don't know, the pain is still going to be there. The hurt and the pain is still going to be there," he said.

Dominique and her father haven't seen an autopsy report. They don't know when that state investigation will end or what it could find. They just want to know what happened to the little boy.

"That's the only thing we want - justice for Ja'Ceon. We got partly justice, but we want the whole justice now," George said.

Ja'Ceon is buried at Cove Haven Cemetery near some other family members. They're working to get him a headstone. As they work through the mystery of what happened, they're grateful they got to see him one last time.

"I'm going to cherish that forever," Dominique said.

"At least we got to say goodbye. Give him one last kiss," George added.

Ja'Ceon would have turned eight on August 10. The family plans to mark his birthday at his gravesite.