The USA Government Accountability Office has found thousands of allegations of child abuse and neglect at residential programs for teens since the early 1990s. Tragically, in a number of cases, this abuse and neglect led to the death of a child. US House of Representatives approved legislation, and here is their news release.

U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA)

House Overwhelmingly Approves Legislation to Stop Child Abuse in Residential Treatment Programs. Bill Would Help Ensure Parents Have Information They Need to Keep their Children Safe.

February 23, 2009 6:14 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House of Representatives today approved legislation to protect teenagers attending residential programs from physical, mental, and sexual abuse and increase transparency to help parents make safe choices for their children. The Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act of 2009 (H.R. 911) won strong bipartisan support, with a vote of 295 to 102.

Click here for original press release:


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 Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act of 2009 would establish minimum health and safety standards for preventing child abuse and neglect at teen residential programs. It prohibits physical, mental, and sexual abuse and requires programs to provide children with adequate food, water, rest, and medical care. The bill allows for civil penalties against programs that violate the new standards.  It also requires states, within three years, to take on the role of setting and enforcing standards for both private and public youth residential programs.  

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.

Read a compilation testimony of Teens who were abused in residential treatment programs: http://cafety.youthrights.org/wiki/index.php?title=Submit_Your_Testimony

To contact your elected Senator in support of H.R.911 click here: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

For more information on this legislation, click here: http://edlabor.house.gov/documents/111/pdf/publications/TeenResProgramFactSheet.pdf

To read a letter of support for this legislation from families whose children have died at these programs, click here: http://edlabor.house.gov/documents/111/pdf/letters/20090209-HR911-parents.pdf

For more information on the committee’s past hearings on these abuses, at which GAO released its reports, click here:


To see who voted for or against this bill, click here:


For the original press release click here:


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