The Education Writers Association announced ProPublica as the winner of its National Award for Education Reporting in the category of investigative reporting, general news outlet (medium). The award honored a series on the for-profit company AdvoServ, which runs specialized schools and residential treatment facilities for children and adults with severe disabilities. Reporters Heather Vogell and Annie Waldman exposed how AdvoServ has evaded accountability while evidence of abuse has piled up for decades.
“The depths of the betrayals are horrific indeed,” said contest judges. “But it’s the breadth of the reporting in these stories that really countersinks the nail. Vogell documents so many instances of maltreatment and in such detail that it’s impossible to argue that the abuses she uncovered were anything but systemic. Every bit as compelling is her reporting on the for-profit’s efforts to evade responsibility and to keep its contracts. ProPublica’s team of reporters has again proven its value in investigating those who prey on the most vulnerable in our society.”
Following ProPublica’s investigation, Florida lawmakers introduced a bill that would eliminate a current obligation for the state to contract with facilities licensed by AdvoServ, instead requiring the company to prove it offers high-quality care. The legislation would also require AdvoServ facilities to keep video recordings of common areas for at least 60 days, so officials could review them if a problem occurred.