TERRE HAUTE, IN - For almost a century, Gibault has provided care and treatment for troubled kids, but a former staff member has come forward with disturbing allegations against the Terre Haute facility.
The allegations include complaints that restraint holds are used on children, not because the kids are a threat to themselves or others, but as a form of retribution.
Sadie All spoke to several former Gibault employees and they had similar stories. They say they are concerned about some of the treatment and when they did speak up, they say nothing was done.
Nick Sallee took a job at Gibault children's services in Terre Haute in late 2017. Sallee is a criminal justice major at ISU. Within the first week after his training, he was disturbed by some of the interactions between staff members and kids.
"In my opinion, the whole institution needs to be looked at and criticized and changes need to be made," Sallee said.
It's a challenging environment for children and staff.
Some students can be aggressive, posing a risk to themselves and others.
Staff members have rules to follow when restraining a child and they're required to make detailed reports about a confrontation.
Sallee says he witnessed a restraint of a 10 year old boy. The supervisors he observed restraining the child did not use a child restraint.
Instead, Sallee says two grown men, one weighing close to 300 pounds put their body weight on the child's back and legs.
"I noticed his breathing was irregular, he could barely speak because they were suffocating him," Sallee said.
Sallee says the supervisors twisted the boys arms and informed him that he was being restrained because he was going to attempt to flee the facility in the snow without a coat or shoes.
Sallee observed the child was wearing both.
After reporting what he saw to the department of child services and reaching out to the media, Sallee says Gibault conducted an internal investigation.
The two employees were suspended.
I sat down with a former co-worker who was hesitant to come forward and asked to remain anonymous.
I was told that the employees' suspension was brief and they did return to Gibault.
"I'm just curious as to why they brought back the other employees knowing what they knew, what happened during the restraint and they ended up firing the one person who told the truth," the former worker said.
Sallee says the entire restraint was done away from security cameras which is against protocol and he believes the paperwork on the restraint was doctored.
The anonymous former worker says she believes some staff used questionable restraints to relieve aggression against specific children.
"It always really bothered me that they would say no one would believe the kids because of their really troubled past... I guess you learn pretty quickly and it's either you're on board or you're not," she said.
Brandon Jones, another former worker, spoke to us on the phone. He says he too witnessed unnecessary restraints. Like the time a child was punched in the ribs over and over.
Jones claims every restraint he was involved with during his 6 months on staff was abusive. He reported his concerns to management and says nothing was ever done.
The same day that I talked with Nick Sallee, I called Gibault to hear about its investigation, officials said I would get a response soon, instead I got a call from Sallee saying he was fired for taking his story to the media. He only worked at the facility for six weeks.
Gibault did send a written statement saying they are a transparent agency that turns over all allegations of abuse to child protective services. They would not address the specifics of Sallee's observations.
We've got the complete statement from CEO Michele Madley on our web page.
We looked into Gibault's licensing and accreditation. You'll see that part of the story tomorrow at six.