> Jun 25, 2008: This bill passed in the House of Representatives by roll call vote. The vote was held under a suspension of the rules to cut debate short and pass the bill, needing a two-thirds majority. The totals were 318 Ayes, 103 Nays, 13 Present/Not Voting.
> Jun 24, 2008: Statement by House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH)
“The Democrats in charge of this Congress continue to prove just how out-of-touch with the American people they really are. Rank-and-file Democrats were prepared to join with House Republicans in support of parental rights, but the Democratic leadership thwarted their will – and, frankly, the will of the American people – by abruptly pulling this bill from the House floor. Let’s be clear: the Democratic leadership stood firmly against the rights of parents today. The Republican motion simply would have required certain residential treatment facilities to obtain parental consent before providing their children medication or contraception. The House Democratic leaders were so opposed to this simple and straightforward change to the legislation – and one that an overwhelming majority of parents would support – that they derailed a key piece of legislation in order to block it. That’s not the kind of leadership the American people expect from their leaders in Washington.” (Continue Reading Here)
Providing for the consideration of the bill (H.R. 5876) to require certain standards and enforcement provisions to prevent child abuse and neglect in residential programs, and for other purposes. Agreed to by recorded vote: 223 - 185 (Roll no. 436).
> Jun 17, 2008: H. Resolution 1276 Introduced by Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Ca)
L E G I S L A T I V E U P D A T E S
Online Since 1999
Keeping Kids Safe
The Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act of 2008
An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. teenagers attend private residential programs – including therapeutic boarding schools, wilderness camps, boot camps, and behavior modification facilities – that are intended to help them with behavioral, emotional, or mental health problems.
Depending on the state where they are located, some of these programs are regulated; some are not. As a result of this loose patchwork of regulations, reports of child abuse at the programs have frequently gone unchecked. The Government Accountability Office found thousands of allegations of child abuse and neglect at private residential programs for teens between 1994 and 2007. Tragically, in a number of cases, this abuse and neglect led to the death of a child.
To address this urgent problem, the “Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act of 2008” (H.R. 5876) would:
Keep teens safe with new national standards for private residential programs. Specifically, the legislation would:
• Prohibit programs from physically or mentally 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
Specifically, the legislation would:
• 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.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Reps. Miller, McCarthy Introduce Legislation to Stop Child Abuse in Teen Residential Programs itnesses Tell
WASHINGTON, DC -- Teenagers attending private residential programs would gain new protections against physical, mental, and sexual abuse under legislation announced today by U.S. Reps. George Miller (D-CA) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY). An unknown number of private programs continue to operate free of government oversight.
“There is a nationwide epidemic of abuse and neglect of children at privately-run residential programs,” said Miller, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. “In too many cases, we have seen this abuse
and neglect lead to the most horrific outcomes imaginable: the deaths of children at the hands of the very people entrusted with their care. We have an obligation to keep kids safe no matter what setting they are in.”
“When parents send their kids to privately-run residential treatment facilities, they deserve to know that – at a bare minimum – these programs will be held accountable for their children’s safety and well-being,” said McCarthy, chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities.
“It is absolutely critical that we make sure that children are kept safe when attending these privately operated facilities and that families are protected from any misleading marketing schemes programs use to draw them in.”
The lawmakers announced the legislation on the same day that they heard testimony from investigators with the Government Accountability Office about the deceptive marketing practices and other shady schemes that many teen residential programs use to lure vulnerable parents desperate to find help for their children.
Through undercover work, the GAO investigators found programs that counseled parents their services would be covered by health insurance when, in fact, they likely are not covered; programs that said they offered transferable education credits when, in fact, they did not; and programs that said they were subject to independent inspections when, in fact, they are not. The GAO recorded the false assertions on audiotape.
The GAO investigators also presented details of eight cases of child abuse and neglect at teen residential programs, including four resulting in death. Two of the programs where deaths occurred continue to operate today.
The committee also heard testimony from two individuals who experienced abuse when they attended residential programs as teenagers.
The Miller-McCarthy legislation (H.R. 5876) would require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish minimum health and safety standards for private residential programs for teens. It would require HHS to inspect all programs around the country at least once every two years and to issue penalties against programs that violate the standards.
Among other things, the legislation would create a toll-free national hotline for individuals to report cases of abuse. It would require programs to provide children with adequate food, water, medical care, and rest. And to 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.
It is estimated that at least 20,000 U.S. teenagers attend residential programs, including therapeutic boarding schools, wilderness camps, boot camps, and behavior modification facilities. Parents send their children to the programs in hopes of addressing their kids’ behavioral problems, such as substance abuse, as well as mental illnesses.
Nationwide, federal funding to states supported more than 200,000 youth in facilities seeking help for behavioral or emotional challenges in 2004. Recent federal reviews and investigations highlighted maltreatment in some facilities, resulting in hospitalizations and deaths. This testimony discusses (1) what is known about incidents that adversely affect youth well-being in residential facilities, (2) the extent that state oversight ensures youth well-being in these facilities, and (3) the factors that affect the ability of federal agencies to hold states accountable for youth well-being in residential facilities.
This testimony is based on GAO's ongoing work, which included national surveys to state agencies of child welfare, health and mental health, and juvenile justice for the year 2006. GAO achieved an 85 percent response rate for each of the three surveys. The work also included site visits to four states (California, Florida, Maryland, and Utah) and discussions with the Departments of Education (Education), Justice (DOJ), and Health and Human Services (HHS). Interim work related to this testimony was completed between November 2006 and March 2008, in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.
Survey respondents from 49 states reported investigating complaints of youth maltreatment in residential facilities in 2006, including physical abuse, neglect, and sexual abuse, and 28 states reported deaths. There were no discernable patterns in the types of facilities involved, including whether facilities were operated by government or private entities, or located in urban or rural areas. State officials said that the number of maltreatment incidents was greater than the total reported to HHS--1,503 incidents in 2005--due to barriers in data collection and reporting, including inconsistent funding and authority. States license and monitor residential facilities, but state agencies reported oversight gaps that may place youth in some facilities at higher risk for maltreatment and death. Some types of facilities are exempt from state licensing requirements--primarily state operated juvenile justice facilities and private residential schools and academies. Licensing standards did not always address suicide prevention and other common risks. State agencies reported an inability to conduct yearly on-site visits to facilities because of fluctuating levels of staff resources dedicated by states, and infrequently sharing negative findings from their oversight results. HHS, DOJ, and Education hold states accountable for youth well-being, but federal efforts are hindered by the scope of the agencies' oversight authority and practices. Most notably, these agencies do not have the authority to hold states accountable for youth in private residential facilities unless they serve youth in state programs that receive federal funds. For facilities that were under federal purview, federal requirements did not always address the identified risks to youth--including such risks as suicide and inappropriate use of seclusion and restraint--and program requirements were inconsistent. In monitoring state compliance, federal agencies did not always include residential facilities in their oversight reviews.
Residential Programs: Selected Cases of Death, Abuse, and Deceptive Marketing.
In October 2007, GAO testified before the Committee regarding allegations of abuse and death in private residential programs across the country such as wilderness therapy programs, boot camps, and boarding schools. GAO also examined selected closed cases where a youth died while enrolled in one of these private programs. Many cite positive outcomes associated with specific types of residential programs. However, due to continuing concerns about the safety and well-being of youth enrolled in private programs, the Committee requested that GAO (1) identify and examine the facts and circumstances surrounding additional closed cases where a teenager died, was abused, or both, while enrolled in a private program; and (2) identify cases of deceptive marketing or questionable practices in the private residential program industry. To develop case studies of death and abuse, GAO conducted numerous interviews and examined documents from eight closed cases from 1994 to 2006. GAO used covert testing along with other investigative techniques to identify, for selected cases, deceptive marketing or questionable practices. Specifically, posing as fictitious parents with fictitious troubled teenagers, GAO called 14 programs and related services. GAO did not attempt to evaluate the benefits of private residential programs and its results cannot be projected beyond the specific programs and services that GAO reviewed.
In the eight closed cases GAO examined, ineffective management and operating practices, in addition to untrained staff, contributed to the death and abuse of youth enrolled in selected programs. The practice of physical restraint also figured prominently in three of the cases. The restraint used for these cases primarily involved one or more staff members physically holding down a youth.
Posing as fictitious parents with fictitious troubled teenagers, GAO found examples of deceptive marketing and questionable practices in certain industry programs and services. For example, one Montana boarding school told GAO's fictitious parents that their child must apply using an application form before they are admitted. But after a separate call, a program representative e-mailed an acceptance letter for GAO's fictitious child even though an application was never submitted. In another example, the Web site for one referral service states: "We will look at your special situation and help you select the best school for your teen with individual attention."
However, GAO called this service three times using three different scenarios related to different fictitious children, and each time the referral agent recommended a Missouri boot camp. Investigative work revealed that the owner of the referral service is married to the owner of the boot camp. GAO also called a program established as a 501(c)(3) charity that advocated a potentially fraudulent tax scheme. The scheme involves the friends and family of a child making tax-deductible "donations" to the charity, which are then credited to an account in the program the child is enrolled in. GAO referred this charity to the Internal Revenue Service for criminal investigation.
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Constitutional rights do not mature and come into being magically only when one attains the state-defined age of majority. Minors, as well as adults, are protected by the Constitution.