Two Utah Foster Facilities Housing Oregon Youth Close

Two private facilities in Utah which house dozens of Oregon foster youth are both set to close a few months after one facility was embroiled in scandal following reports of physical and sexual abuse, including a large-scale fight which was suppressed by SWAT police.   

The Red Rock Canyon School and Mount Pleasant Academy are both owned by Alabama-based Sequel Youth and Family Services, whose private, out-of-state facilities currently house 43 of Oregon’s 60 out-of-state foster youth.  

According to reporting, a fight between two people broke out at the Red Rock Canyon School in St. George, UT in April, which then spread. A SWAT team was called to suppress the fight, dressed in riot gear with guns drawn, and some reports from the youths themselves say they had guns pointed at them. The police claim they were operating under the impression that there was an active shooter on campus, which turned out not to be true.  

The Salt Lake Tribune reported that since 2017, the police have been called to the school 72 times, and 24 staffers were investigated for child abuse. Officials are investigating reports that a staff member at Red Rock impregnated a 15-year-old girl at the school.   

Senator Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis) is leading a pushback against Oregon child welfare officials, whose reports about these private facilities which emphasized the youths’ access to yoga and recreation programs, stood in stark contrast to the mounting tide of reports of a wide variety of abuses.  

Oregon officials have stated their intention to bring back the 11 Oregon foster children at Red Rock, but as of reporting last week, all of them remain at the facility, which is set to close at the end of the summer. 

Mount Pleasant Academy, a specialized program in Mt. Pleasant, UT for male youth with “compulsive sexual behavior” and “pornography…or digital addiction,” will also close. Three male youths from Oregon residing in there will be transferred to new facilities, but among the current candidates are other “schools” run by Sequel.  

Sequel is voluntarily closing Red Rock, saying in a public statement, “We have recognized that we have not consistently delivered on our mission.”   

By Ian MacRonald