Family sues Kentucky children’s home after autistic son runs away, drowns in Ohio River

Published 5:21 pm Monday, December 5, 2022

*The family of a 9-year-old boy who was found drowned in the Ohio River is suing the children’s home where he was staying and state officials for negligence in the boy’s death.

Ian Sousis walked away from the Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky on June 4. The boy, who was autistic, had walked away on two previous occasions, according to the federal lawsuit filed by his grandparents, James and Rhonda O’Brien. Police received a call about his body being found in the river a few hours after his morning disappearance.

The lawsuit names the children’s home, some employees and the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

The lawsuit says the defendants were “acting under color of state law and acting recklessly in a gross and negligent manner.” The family alleges the children’s home didn’t call the O’Briens when their grandson fled. The grandparents had warned officials that drowning deaths are common among autistic children, and the home is close to the river, the lawsuit said.

Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky CEO Rick Wurth said in a statement to the Kentucky Enquirer that the agency “continues to mourn the death of Ian Sousis” and “is cooperating with all appropriate agencies and organizations as it pertains to this matter.”

Ian was diagnosed with autism and started running away as a little boy, the newspaper reported. He was placed at the children’s home in November 2021, after his grandparents had him declared dependent by the state.