Electric shock or trying to “fix” gay and lesbian youth with “conversion therapy” — the discredited and dangerous practice of trying to change gays and lesbians to heterosexual — at residential treatment programs, also known as the “troubled teen” industry, would be outlawed under a proposed law that’s been re-introduced in the House of Representatives.
‘TROUBLED TEEN’ INDUSTRY
In most states, residential schools, camps or wilderness programs marketed toward families with troubled teenagers are unregulated and not licensed to treat the mental health issues they claim to treat. Between 10,000 and 14,000 youth are enrolled in these programs, according to one estimate.
The Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act, H.R. 3060 would hold these residential programs accountable to a set of minimum health and safety standards and crack down on offenders who try to move abusive facilities across state lines by requiring all states to improve their licensing and oversight processes.
The bill would also require treatment programs to publicly disclose their licensing status and any history of violations.
Schiff first introduced his bill in 2015.
“Without stronger federal regulation and oversight, programs that engage in abusive practices will continue to slip through the cracks, leaving behind traumatized and abused children and families,” Schiff said in a press release.
HEALTH, SAFETY STANDARDS
Here are the health and safety standards Schiff’s bill would require:
- Prohibit programs from using anything other than safe and evidence-based treatment — meaning any form of junk science such as “conversion therapy” or electric shock would be banned
- Prohibit all programs from withholding food, water or shelter from a child, putting a child in seclusion, and all other forms of physical and mental abuse
- Require licensed medical staff on hand at all times in case of an emergency, and require all staff members to be properly trained in recognizing and responding to signs of child abuse and neglect, and mental health crises
- Allow youth to stay in contact with their parents, allowing them to know their children are safe, and provide uninhibited access to a child abuse hotline
- Publicly disclose any past record of child abuse and their state licensing status
CHILD ABUSE AT FACILITIES
Miller’s bills passed the House both times, but never went any further.
In 2008, Miller held hearings on the topic, and the Government Accounting Office issued a report.
Among the findings, the report said 1,619 program employees in 34 states were involved in incidents of abuse, including substantiated accounts of starvation, excessive use of physical restraints and isolation, verbal abuse and intimidation, and medical malpractice.
“Weaknesses in the current federal-state regulatory structure have failed to safeguard the civil rights and well-being of some of the nation’s most vulnerable youth,” the report said.
If a minor died at a facility or a journalist discovered the abuse, many shameless owners would move to another state and reopen under another name.
Also, these money vampires, who marketed their programs to deeply religious families with anti-LGBTQ attitudes, played the victim card when exposed, as if exposing or scrutinizing the cruel programs violated the owners’ religious freedom.
Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed, S.B. 524, the Protecting Youth From Institutional Abuse Act, into law, which requires private alternative youth treatment and education institutions — such as boot camps, therapeutic boarding schools, religious children’s homes and behavior modification programs — to be licensed by the state Department of Social Services.
As of last year, at least a dozen unlicensed youth residential institutions exist in California, and nationwide, hundreds of similar facilities, serving between 10,000 and 14,000 youths each year, operate, according to the bill.
Stephanie Thai contributed to this report.