Investigations conducted by the Government Accountability Office during the 110th Congress at the request of U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, uncovered thousands of cases and allegations of child abuse and neglect since the early 1990’s at teen residential programs, including therapeutic boarding schools, boot camps, wilderness programs and behavior modification facilities. A separate GAO report also conducted at Miller’s request found major gaps in the licensing and oversight of residential programs. Where state licensing standards exist, these programs are governed by a weak patchwork of state and federal standards, however some are not covered at all.
The legislation would also help ensure that parents have the information about teen residential programs that they need to make safe choices for their children.
“These horrific abuses continue to put the lives of far too many children in jeopardy,” said Miller, “Today the House took a critical step toward finally ending this culture of abuse and neglect at residential programs for teens. I hope that the Senate will now join us in approving these common-sense protections to keep our children safe no matter what setting they are in.”
“With passage of H.R. 911 today, the House took bold action to protect the welfare of children in the care of residential treatment programs,” said U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), the chairwoman of the Healthy Families and Communities subcommittee. “This bill will establish important protections from the deceptive and malicious practices that have impacted far too many American families.”
Among other things, H.R. 911 would create a toll-free national hotline for individuals to report cases of abuse and a website with information about substantiated cases of abuse at residential programs. And to prevent deceptive marketing practices and create transparency to help parents make safe choices for their children, it would require, among other things, that programs inform parents of their staff members’ qualifications, roles, and responsibilities.
The House passed similar legislation last June by a bipartisan vote of 318 to 103, with the support of the American Association of Children’s Residential Centers, American Bar Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, the Child Welfare League of America, Children’s Defense Fund, Easter Seals, Mental Health America, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, the National Child Abuse Coalition and many other organizations.
For more information on this legislation, click here.
To read a letter of support for this legislation from families whose children have died at these programs, click here.
For more information on the committee’s past hearings on these abuses, at which GAO released its reports, click here.
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