House bill takes aim at abuse in youth residential treatment programs

August 5, 2005

A new bill to combat child abuse at residential treatment programs in the United States and abroad was recently introduced by Congressman George Miller (D-California). HR1739, labeled "The End of Institutionalized Abuse Against Children Act," comes in response to reports of the death of young people so-called therapeutic boot camps, wilderness camps, and boarding schools.

A new bill to combat child abuse at residential treatment programs in the United States and abroad was recently introduced by Congressman George Miller (D-California). HR1739, labeled "The End of Institutionalized Abuse Against Children Act," comes in response to reports of the death of young people so-called therapeutic boot camps, wilderness camps, and boarding schools.

"There is no excuse for placing children in unlicensed programs with badly trained and abusive staff members," said Miller. "It is truly frightening when the very people entrusted to care for and protect children are actually the ones who endanger them. Residential programs for children should be licensed and meet reasonable safety and staff training standards.… The way kids have been treated at some of these facilities would make any parent shudder."

Since 2003, Miller has asked the Attorney General to investigate allegations of child abuse and human rights violations at the World Wide Associations of Specialty Programs (WWASP) campuses that provide "behavior modification" of troubled youth. Attorney General John Ashcroft declined to do so, responding that his office had authority to investigate abuses of American citizens abroad only when the alleged abusers were acting on behalf of a government.

The bill provides the following:

  • grants $50 million in funding to states to support the licensing of child residential treatment programs. States would be required to monitor the programs regularly to ensure that they comply with licensing requirements

  • federal civil and criminal penalties for the abuse of children in residential treatment programs

  • expansion of federal authority to regulate programs located overseas but run by US companies and provision of civil penalties for program operators that violate federal regulations

  • a requirement that the US State Department report any abuse of American children overseas.

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