10/17/2007 12:19 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

How to Regulate a Rogue Industry?

It was an incredible experience for me last week to sit in Congressional hearings and listen to two parents I'd featured in my book finally get a chance to tell their stories to people who might make a difference. Bob Bacon and Cynthia Clark Harvey both lost children to negligent and abusive practices in the largely unregulated "troubled teen" industry.

Their testimony was heart-breaking-- as was that of another father who'd lost a child similarly, Paul Lewis. None of these families had placed their children recklessly, the parents had done everything possible to check out the facilities they used-- and nonetheless, their children ended up having serious medical problems dismissed as faking until as a GAO investigator put it, they either had no pulse or stopped breathing.

I was absolutely thrilled to see that the ranking Republican on the committee was moved by the testimony to say that regulating the industry should be a bipartisan issue and that while he generally opposes new federal laws, sometimes they are needed.

However, as this piece I just wrote for the American Prospect shows, successful regulation will be tricky. Would love to hear people's thoughts about how to ensure that kids who need help get it, those who don't need treatment aren't given it and that any treatment provided is both safe and effective.