"If you walked in part way through my presentation, you might have assumed that I was talking about human rights violations in a third world country. Unfortunately, these human rights violations occurred right here in the United States of America."
- Testimony of Greg Kutz, Managing Director
Forensic Audits & Special Investigations
Government Accountability Office
Residential programs go by all kinds of titles. Some are called residential treatment centers, group homes, boot camps, wilderness camps, therapeutic boarding schools. The industry has one thing in common. The alarming widespread use of inhumane treatment as a behavioral intervention, sometimes called "treatment," at other times "therapeutic," rooted in unscientific philosophical, theoretical or religious grounds. Not only are many practices used not positive, ethical models of change, they are usually extremely harmful, leading only to superficial changes and a lifetime worth of consequences. Most of CAFETY's members know this first-hand.
Widespread & Systemic use of Torture and Inhumane Treatment
Between July 17 and December 26, 2006, in a collaborative effort between CAFETY and the Alliance for the Safe, Therapeutic, and Appropriate use of Residential Treatment (ASTART), we posted an online survey. Over 700 youth and young adults from 85 programs, located in 23 states and 5 countries responded. The survey revealed human rights abuses to be widespread and systematic.
USE OF ESCORT SERVICES:
- Trauma reported - 48%
COMMUNICATION AND PRIVACY RIGHTS VIOLATIONS:
- Mail-monitoring - 93%
- Call-monitoring - 96%
- Filtered, restricted or interrupted correspondence - 86%
- Experienced physical restraint - 34%
- Witnessed peers physically restrained - 60%
- Breaking a program rule - 67%
- Saying something disrespectful - 52%
- Cursing - 48%
- Making a face - 30%
- Forced labor - 71%
- Restricted access to the bathroom - 68%
- Scare tactics - 63%
- Excessive exercise - 58%
- Food/nutritional deprivation - 43%
- Sleep deprivation - 41%
- Physical punishment - 31%
- Emotional, physical or sexual abused by staff - 45%
EDUCATION AND MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT
- No individualized plan - 60%
- Not satisfied with the training background of the staff members who were providing education, therapy, support and/or care - 87%
- CAFETY's report reveal similar findings. Click here to download.
- More on what we've done to promote and secure the human rights of children sent to US corporate owned programs.
The GOA testimony reports four striking patterns:
* Untrained program staff;
* Misleading marketing of programs to parents;
* The occurrence of abuse before the fatalities occurred;
* Negligent operating practices.
- Download GAO Report October 2007.
- Download GAO Report May 2008.
Each state is responsible for regulation and do so with varying levels of stringency (or not at all), with variable funding allocation to monitoring (or non-at all), and various levels of sensitivity and competency depending on the overseeing agency responsible, ie. Monitoring through the Dept of Health vs Dept of Labor or Corrections. ASTARTs 4 state-policy study found that: policies vary from state to state and, in some states, private facilities who do not receive state fund, are religiously affiliated or fail to properly identify as a treatment facility, ie, behavior modification program, boot camp, wilderness program or therapeutic boarding school are exempt from regulation. We'd like to continue identifying facilities of concern, research protection failure and mobilize our base to advocate for change in the respective states of concern.
Consistent with ABA’s recommendations, CAFETY advocates legislation at the state level which would:
1. Require licensure of, or otherwise regulate, private residential treatment facilities by defining clearly which programs must comply with the statute and impose minimum legal requirements to operate and maintain them, including standards regarding staff qualifications and residents' physical and emotional safety, educational, mental health, and other treatment needs.
2. Require government monitoring and enforcement of the operational standards outlined in the statute.
3. Promote the preferred use of appropriate in-home and community-based prevention and intervention programs for at-risk children and youth by requiring enhanced governmental support that provides families with better access to these programs.
While we recognize reform is not the solution, CAFETY supports passage of “Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act”. We believe SCARPTA would help ensure minimum at least some institutionalized children and youth are protected from ill-treatment and torture by establishing new national standards for residential programs:
* Prohibit programs from physically, mentally or sexually abusing children in their care;
* Prohibit programs from denying children essential water, food, clothing, shelter, or medical care – whether as a form of punishment or for any other reason;
* Require that programs only physically restrain children if it is necessary for their safety or the safety of others, and to do so in a way that is consistent with existing federal law on the use of restraints;
* Require programs to provide children with reasonable access to a telephone and inform children of their right to use the phone;
* Require programs to train staff in understanding what constitutes child abuse and neglect and how to report it; and
* Require programs to have plans in place to provide emergency medical care.
Prevent deceptive marketing by residential programs for teens
* Require programs to disclose to parents the qualifications, roles, and responsibilities of all current staff members;
* Require programs to notify parents of substantiated reports of child abuse or violations of health and safety laws; and
* Require programs to include a link or web address for the website of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which will carry information on all private residential programs.
Hold teen residential programs accountable for violating the law
* Require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to conduct unannounced site inspections of every private teen residential program in the country at least once every two years;
* Give HHS the authority to assess civil penalties of up to $50,000 against programs for every violation of the law; and
* Give parents the right to sue in federal court program operators that violate national standards.