Education

The City of Anchorage and the Bellewood Home for Children are engaged in a sharp disagreement, as the city seeks to prohibit the agency serving at-risk Kentucky youth from admitting young people with the most severe behavioral issues.

Bellewood has operated within Anchorage city limits for more than a century. It currently serves the state’s most at-risk youth, including foster children and many with behavioral issues. The agency serves “homeless children, abandoned, neglected, abused,” said Abby Drane, CEO of Uspiritus, which oversees Bellewood Home for Children.

The city claims in a lawsuit filed last month that in 2005 the city supported a bond agreement to help Bellewood expand, and the agency agreed not to serve children who were in danger of harming themselves or others.  

The city’s lawsuit against Bellewood claims the agency has violated that agreement.

In an interview on Friday, Bellewood’s chief executive said the children who’ve been admitted did not pose harm to anyone.

But the complaint says Bellewood—which currently serves around 50 youths—does serve young at-risk populations that would fall into the state’s category of young people who pose a risk to themselves or others, according to a recent report to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

And Anchorage City Attorney John McGarvey said in an interview that since 2012 there has been “significant uptick in the number of police interactions with Bellewood residents.”

Drane said “that’s not what we’re hearing.”

She counts five times since January that kids have left the campus and police needed to be called.

The lawsuit does not seek to evict a single person from Bellewood, McGarvey said. But if the court sides with Anchorage, then Bellewood would have to stop admitting “additional residence who are a danger to themselves or others,” McGarvey told WFPL.

Bellewood merged with Brooklawn—a state agency serving at-risk youth near West Buechel—in 2012 under Uspiritus. Since then, Bellewood has added increased security and has removed older kids (over age 18) from campus and improved its child to staff ratio, said Drane.

“We have lots of supporters in the City of Anchorage. We have a couple of city council members who seem to be afraid of our children,” said Drane.

Drane said she wants the City of Anchorage to drop the lawsuit and engage in conversations with their group. The last conversation between the two involved a mediator around a year ago, she said.

But McGarvey said: “For the last two years we have tried on multiple occasions to work out mutually agreeable solution.”

He also said that that there have been assaults and burglary on Bellewood, staff and other residents by their peers. McGarvey said most of the time the police are called for “AWOLSs,” when children leave the Bellewood campus.

Anchorage, in eastern Jefferson County, has about 2,300 residents, according to the U.S. Census.

WFPL reporter Jacob Ryan contributed to this story.