NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A new, scathing report released by the New Hampshire Office of the Child Advocate alleges a Gallatin facility for at-risk youth “operates on a culture of fear and humiliation” and fails to provide necessary therapeutic and medical care, in addition to highlighting the “significant lack of ethical treatment and boundaries by direct care staff.”

Bledsoe Youth Academy, operated by Youth Opportunity Investments, is a 30-bed residential treatment center for troubled boys ages 12 to 17, according to the center’s website.

The facility, previously named Volunteer Youth Academy, has been at the center of multiple News 2 reports about alleged disturbances and issues with children escaping.

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Representatives from the New Hampshire Office of the Child Advocate visited Bledsoe Youth Academy in July to check on two youths from New Hampshire who were placed in the facility. Cassandra Sanchez, the child advocate for the state of New Hampshire, told News 2, stepping into the center was like stepping back in time.

“We’ve made a lot of progress as a country when we’re talking about residential care for kids, reducing that stigmatization, the institutional feel, and I felt all of that by being in this facility,” Sanchez said.

The NH Office of the Child Advocate’s findings include “evidence a culture of instances of shame, humiliation, and inhumane punishment endemic to the program,” the report said, referring to a child eating alone on a “dirty, sticky” floor because he was “on punishment.”

Sanchez told News 2, in speaking with the children from New Hampshire who were staying at Bledsoe Youth Academy, her office learned staff frequently brought up children’s past trauma as a way to embarrass them in front of their peers. In one example, included in the report, a staff member was accused of telling a child, “You are here because your uncle raped you.”

“Really for it to be a healing environment you need to remove those triggering aspects from the program, and really this program is adding them to and allowing them to come out through their staff,” Sanchez said.

One of the children from New Hampshire told Sanchez the conditions at Bledsoe Youth Academy were so poor, he would “do whatever it takes to get back to” the New Hampshire juvenile jail, according to the report.

“These are also kids that we’ve known in New Hampshire at other placement settings so we see them in a different way. [They were] not very bubbly and outspoken, holding everything in, internalized; absolutely indicating the fear in some of the expressions they were giving us as they were explaining the facility,” Sanchez said.

The NH Office of the Child Advocate’s report also highlighted concerns about “dangerous” restraints used by staff which caused “rug burns on [the children’s] faces,” the document said.

The program’s response to the rug burns was to put towels and pillows on the ground while the staff employs prone restraints, according to the report, which Sanchez worried could result in a child fatality.

Sanchez’s report chronicled the “unclean” conditions in the facility, including children’s concerns over bed bugs, according to the Office of the Child Advocate. “Most of the areas of the facility felt unclean,” the report reads.

Sanchez told News 2, Bledsoe Youth Academy is only partly to blame. Its parent company, Youth Opportunity Investments, has been the target of censure and multiple lawsuits in Tennessee and other states.

Youth Opportunity Investments operates eight other facilities in Tennessee, in addition to running facilities in Florida, Michigan, and Texas. Sanchez said she worries about the number of children suffering behind closed doors.

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“Take a look at them as the parent company, not just that one facility alone,” Sanchez encouraged.

“Typically folks know who we are, they know what we’re coming to look for, they tidy up, and everything is in tip-top shape, so we expect to really have to dig a little deeper to fully understand the culture and what the practices are in the facility,” Sanchez said. “Coming into a facility and seeing concerns that are very obvious and not something we have to dig deeper for is very concerning. What is happening to our kids when we’re not there?”

News 2 reached out to Youth Opportunity Investments for comment but had not heard back by the time this article was published.