Troubled Teen Industry Exploitation
From Wilderness Therapy to Gay Conversion Therapy, programs designed to “fix” troubled children are collectively referred to as the “troubled teen industry.” The programs are often private and may include residential centers, boarding schools, and more.
There are around 10,000 of these facilities / programs currently operating in the United States. Unfortunately, that number is an estimate as these programs are largely unregulated. Because of the unregulated nature of these facilities, many reports have been made alleging abuse. Widespread sexual, physical, and mental abuse have been reported. In some cases, there have even been reports of death and trafficking from within these programs.
The Troubled Teen Industry and Legality
In 2008, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report detailing widespread abuse at these facilities. There has also been a bill titled the “ Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act” that was spearheaded by Breaking Code Silence, a leading non-profit seeking to help exploited teens.
Despite these attempts, there is no federal bill currently in place that regulates this industry. There is no one law that governs these programs that include “treatments” and sponsors. For instance, many of these exploitative programs may be religion-based, making it difficult to regulate them due to state-level exemptions. Making matters worse, some programs such as the wilderness therapy ones, require parents to give up parental rights. This means that the program can assume parental rights over the teen, allowing them to exploit and abuse them under the guise of the law.
Further, every state differs from how they regulate and keep track of the programs. Unfortunately, it is common that there is no regulation or monitoring of any sort. In fact, there is only a rough estimate of how many teens and children are in these programs, which range from 120,000-200,000.
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Common Abuse Faced within the Industry
According to the American Bar Association, the troubled teen industry makes billions of dollars, with some estimating $23 billion comes from public funds such as Medicare and Medicaid. On top of the public funds, many parents report paying around $6,000 a month for these programs.
However, the money does not flow back into the care of the teens, and in fact these programs often result in worse outcomes. Because they utilize untrained and unsupervised staff, many of these programs become a breeding ground for abuses of power.
Some common abusive practices include:
- Sexually invasive cavity searches
- Sexual shaming
- Strip searches
- Physical and medical neglect
- Inhumane discipline
- Lack of communication with parents, lawyers, and loved ones
Generally, the perpetrators of these abuses are the authority figures at these facilities, including staff and administrators. These abuses can be part of the program itself as well, including inhumane discipline. A common discipline in these programs is to force a misbehaving child to isolate from everyone. Nicknamed “Code Silence,” these prison-eques tactics can be traumatizing for these already-vulnerable children.
What to Do If You Are a Victim?
If you are a victim of this industry and have been sexually or physically abused, you must know that you are not alone. Although change is slow, there are numerous non-profits and free resources that may help begin the process of healing. Some of these websites are listed below.
- https://www.breakingcodesilence.org/acca/ (Breaking Code Silence – “network of institutional abuse survivors who are/were incarcerated in the U.S. “troubled teen industry.””
- https://www.rainn.org/resources (National Sexual Assault Hotline, confidential 24/7)
- https://enoughabuse.org/get-help/survivor-support/ (Resources for survivors of child abuse)
If you or someone you love has suffered from a program in the Troubled Teen Industry, contact us at Van Law Firm immediately. All of our legal professionals will take your case seriously and keep sensitive information confidential. Don’t wait too long to file your case because your time under the Statute of Limitations may be running out. Our consultations are always free, so call us today. Our team is standing by to help you earn the justice and compensation you deserve.
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