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Troubled Teen Industry – Legislation to stop abuse in boarding schools and camps

Troubled Teen Industry – Legislation to stop abuse in boarding schools and camps
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There is good news about stopping abuses in the Troubled Teen Industry.  Today, February 11, 2009, a committee in the House of Representatives voted to present a bill, H.R. 911, to the House for a vote.  You may be interested in the remarks made by the committee chair below.

 

SEE MY PREVIOUS POST ON THIS SUBJECT FROM JAN 26, ’09:

with tips for how to check if a program is legitimate.

 

(excerpt)  Remarks of the Honorable George Miller Chairman, House Education and Labor Committee regarding the Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act Wednesday, February 11, 2009.  H.R. 911

 

Today, our committee considered legislation to stop child abuse in residential programs for teenagers and ordered it reported to the House.  It builds on a two year investigation into the shocking abuse and neglect of teens at residential programs across the country.  The Government Accountability Office uncovered thousands of cases and allegations of child abuse in recent years at teen residential programs, including therapeutic boarding schools, boot camps, wilderness camps, and behavior modification facilities.  A number of these cases resulted in the death of a child. Our committee heard stories about program staff members forcing children:

 

–  to remain in so-called “stress” positions for hours at a time;

 

–  to undergo extreme physical exertion without adequate food, water, or rest;

 

–  to stand with bags over their heads and nooses around their necks in mock hangings;

 

–  and to eat foods to which they are allergic, even as they get sick.

 

Bob Bacon, whose son Aaron died after being deprived of adequate food and water at a wilderness therapy program, told this committee last year, “The stories of Aaron’s death and the others who have died, or survived the abuses of these programs, are chilling reminders of the dangers of absolute power, and point out the extremely high risks we take in allowing these programs to operate without strict regulation and oversight.”

 

We heard from parents of children who died preventable deaths at the hands of untrained, uncaring staff members.  We heard from adults who attended these programs as teens about the physical and emotional abuse they witnessed and suffered.  We also learned about the weak patchwork of regulations governing teen residential programs.

 

Parents often send their children to these programs when they feel they have exhausted their alternatives.  They trust that these programs and their staff will be able to help children straighten their lives out.  In far too many cases, however, the very people entrusted with the safety, health, and welfare of these children are the ones who violate that trust in some of the most horrific ways imaginable.  The GAO informed us about programs’ irresponsible operating practices that put kids at risk, and about the deceitful marketing practices that programs use to lure parents desperate for help for their kids.  We know that there are many programs and people around the country who are committed to helping improve the lives of young people and who do good work every day.  But unfortunately, it can be extremely difficult for parents to tell the good programs from the bad.

 

H.R. 911 requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish minimum standards and to enforce those standards. Ultimately, however, states will be responsible for carrying out the work of this bill:

 

–   within three years, set standards and enforce them at all programs, both public and private.

–   standards will include prohibitions on the physical, sexual, and mental abuse of children.

–   …will require that programs provide children with adequate food, water and medical care.

–   …require that programs have plans in place to handle medical emergencies.

–   include new training requirements for program staff members, including training on how to identify and report child abuse.

–   set up a toll-free hotline for people to call to report abuse at these programs.

–   create a website with information about each program, so that parents can look to see if substantiated cases of abuse have occurred at a program that they are considering for their kids.

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