Mother feared for son after Utah death

  • West Ridge Academy in Utah

    West Ridge Academy in Utah

A mother of three feared for her 17-year-old son when she learnt that a Bermudian had died at a treatment institution in the US.

The woman said she was “horrified” to read about a teenager who died at a residential facility in Utah last month — the same state that her son was in residential care.

She added that she was not immediately able to confirm that her own child was safe after she read about the incident, which — it emerged later — happened at West Ridge Academy, not the institution where her son was.

The 48-year-old explained that she heard about the sudden death of a teenager at a treatment facility in the US.

She said: “I was horrified ... and had to wait ... to confirm that it wasn’t my child.

“I called everybody that I knew, trying to find out information and trying to remain calm at the same time.

“I had to call my family members to help me to think clearly and think through what needed to be done to find out.”

She said a social worker in Bermuda provided confirmation by e-mail later that night that her son was safe and well and the institution he attended in Utah followed up with assurances of its own.

The woman said her relationship with her son had broken down and he went to residential care with the Department of Child and Family Services.

She claimed he was attracted by the idea of time abroad and “actually went to the magistrate and asked to be sent overseas”.

But when she attended a review hearing in Family Court she learnt for the first time that it had been decided to remove her son from the island.

She said: “I wanted more information.

“For any parent, if someone is sending your child overseas away from you, you want to know the institution where they’re going, what they will be going for.

“You want information about the reason they’re sending him, what can they do to help him? But I wasn’t given any of that.”

The woman explained the teenager was assessed at Redcliff Ascent in Utah this year then returned to Bermuda for a short period, before he went to its sister institution, Discovery Ranch, in the same state.

She added: “This was my whole concern. I don’t feel that the resources were exhausted here on the island before they sent him overseas.

“Mediation counselling wasn’t offered, other therapists weren’t really looked at.”

The woman said: “My position was I wasn’t sure if my son was mentally ready for what he was having to deal with overseas.

“It wasn’t that I didn’t want him to go, it was that I wasn’t completely informed and I wasn’t completely confident that my son was ready.”

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