The House Wednesday overwhelming passed HR 6358 (formerly HR 5876) by a vote of 318-103, with provisions to ban degrading and humiliating treatment, set national standards, create a national hotline that must be accessible to teens in program to report maltreatment and $15 million in funding for enforcement and regulation.
Teen "boot camp" "tough love" "wilderness" and "emotional growth" boarding schools and programs currently hold some 20,000-100,000 teens. There have been hundreds of corroborated reports of emotional, physical or sexual abuse and dozens of deaths in the programs, which are currently under no federal regulation, despite being the equivalent of private jails for children.
In a press release, bill sponsor George Miller (D-CA) said, "In far too many cases, the very people entrusted with the safety, health, and welfare of these children are the ones who violate that trust in some of the worst ways imaginable...We have a responsibility to keep kids safe no matter what setting they are in. With today's vote, the House has made it clear that these abuses have gone on for far too long and they won't be tolerated anymore."
"It is absolutely crucial that we keep children safe when they are in these facilities by setting minimum safety standards, and stopping residential programs from using the kind of deceptive marketing that have drawn in so many parents.," Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), a co-author of the legislation said in the release.
Now the battle moves to the Senate -- though action is not expected until after the November elections. Though the bill lost some important provisions and funding to gain bipartisan support, this is still a real victory for those who care about kids. At least one branch of Congress has now said unequivocally that selling child abuse and sometimes outright torture as therapy is unacceptable.