HR 1981: Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act of 2013 is not getting a lot of press. I believe that is partly because of how few know that there is any need for it. There is. A desperate and dire need.
Over ten thousand teens enter "Residential Programs" every year. This federally unregulated industry is aimed at treating troubled teens, troubled with primarily substance abuse or behavioral problems. The residential programs often suggest guardians employ "professional escorts" to take their teens to the program. This is not kidnapping; they suggest the element of surprise and advise you against warning your teen or being available to them when they leave, this is legal due to their age and lack of rights. The escorts bring the teens, most often by van and then commercial flight, to the program. It is necessary for the program to obtain temporary legal custody of the child, therefore they are able to legally make all day-to-day decisions regarding their care.
The inherent problem is obvious -- in every step of the process there is an open door to those who would victimize a child. There is almost a written invitation for abuse. And, unfortunately, a disgusting amount of people have made this industry a safe harbor for a seemingly immeasurably number of abuse cases. The testimonials and reports can range from neglect to horrific and disturbingly creative abuse (such as reportedly having young girls suffering from eating disorders eat from plates using no hands in front of the schools population of males.) There is absolutely no reason to leave these centers and programs operating without oversight.
It is my hope that reputable residential programs would applaud such regulation.
HR 1981 asks for regulation of a dangerous industry that has already had far too many cases of abuse, neglect, and deaths to remain self regulating.
To write to Congress in support of HR 1981.
As it currently stands this is a state regulated industry. The problem is the irreputable groups just change business names and switch states. You can learn more about some of the worst offenders here.
If you are a survivor of abuse from a residential program who feels comfortable sharing any parts of your experience in one of these programs, I invite you to do so in the comments of this blog post and in your letter to your congress person.