House Passes Bill to Stop Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens: American Psychological Association Calls California Congressman George Miller Instrumental

Thursday, June 24, 2008

WASHINGTON - The American Psychological Association applauded Rep. George Miller today for his leadership on the Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act of 2008, a bill that would mandate much-needed standards to prevent and respond to child abuse and neglect at residential treatment facilities.

The amended measure, H.R. 6358, passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday by a 318-103 vote. Miller, D-Calif., is chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, which passed the bill May 14.

“The American Psychological Association is pleased to acknowledge Representative Miller and other members of the Education and Labor Committee who have worked tirelessly on this important issue. We will continue our efforts to advocate for the introduction of a companion bill in the Senate and the enactment of this important legislation,” said Annie Toro, J.D., M.P.H., associate executive director of APA’s Public Interest Government Relations Office.

An October 2007 Government Accountability Office report titled Residential Treatment Program: Concerns Regarding Abuse and Death in Certain Programs for Troubled Youth found thousands of allegations of abuse – some leading to death -- at residential treatment programs in the United States and in American-owned and operated facilities abroad between 1990 and 2007. While the reports of deficient services at unregulated residential programs alone are alarming, there have also been publicized accounts of physical and sexual abuse and neglect at these facilities.

The Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act lays a foundation for change by monitoring the care of children in certain residential facilities by:

  • Prohibiting program staff from physically or mentally abusing children in their care;

  • Prohibiting programs from denying children essential water, food, clothing, shelter or medical care, whether as a form of punishment or for any other reason;

  • Requiring that programs only physically restrain children if it is necessary for their safety or the safety of others and to use restraint in a way that is consistent with federal law;

  • Requiring programs to provide children with reasonable access to a telephone and informing children of their right to use the phone;

  • Requiring programs to train staff in what constitutes child abuse and neglect and how to report it;

  • Requiring programs to have plans in place to provide emergency medical care.

In addition, this legislation would prevent deceptive marketing by such programs by:

  • Requiring programs to disclose to parents the qualifications, roles and responsibilities of all staff members;

  • Requiring programs to notify parents of substantiated reports of child abuse or violations of health and safety laws; and

  • Requiring programs to include a link or Web address for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which will carry information on all private residential programs.

The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington, DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists. APA’s membership includes more than 148,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting human welfare.