Delco Juvenile Justice Center shut down following abuse allegations

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LIMA, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — A Delaware County juvenile detention center is empty, following a judge's order to remove all of the children over allegations of abuse.

The judge ordered the Delaware County Juvenile Justice Center in Lima to be emptied last Friday. This came after public defenders wrote a letter warning the county about physical, psychological and sexual abuse by the staff.

"It has been referred to the district attorney who I think in turn referred it to the attorney general," said Delaware County Council chair Brian Zidek. "That would suggest that there would be potentially a criminal investigation going on."

The center which is for children between the ages of 10-18 who have endangered others, but officials said the kids were the ones who were endangered while there.

The letter alleges staff members ignored a suicide attempt and forced a child to drink from a toilet. One staff member allegedly slammed a teenager's head into a window so hard that it broke.

One report even said that a pregnant teen was restrained in a way meant to induce a miscarriage.

Public defenders accused facility officials of threatening the kids and pressuring co-workers to keep quiet about the abuse.

"It's horrific. It makes you sick to your stomach," said Zidek.

"As a parent, I could imagine what if that was my child who was being treated in that fashion. These are children who were put in our care. It is our job to safeguard their wellbeing while they're in custody."

Zidek told KYW Newsradio if the allegations are found to be true, consequences will follow.

"We'll take that which is found under advisement and see what needs to be done to rectify any problems that it might reveal," he said.

The state is currently investigating the allegations. In a statement, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services said, "No children or youth should be subjected to mistreatment or abuse at any time."