This section contains a list of “Red Flags” for parents to use when considering residential treatment. If the program you are considering incorporates even one or more of these child welfare violations, DO NOT enroll your child.
Practices of the “Tough Love” Troubled Teen Industry that are illegal, abusive, unethical and a blatant violation of human rights.
1) Admittance without consent or due process/ Involuntary and forceful escorting to program.
2) Aversive Behavior Modification/ Fear and intimidation based control.
3) Physical/ Mechanical Restraint/ Pressure Points and Use of chemical control methods (such as pepper spray) as punitive punishment.
4) Isolation/ Social Ostracism used as punitive punishment.
5) Stress Positions/ Infliction of painful punishments.
6) Food/ Water/ Bathroom/ Sleep deprivation.
7) Denial of adequate medical care.
8 )Denial of communication with Parents/ Access to law enforcement, lawyers and advocates.
9) Mail censorship.
10) Placing higher level students in a position to police and punish lower level students.
11) Inadequate or “Fast Track” education/ Lack of qualified teachers, tutors and proper class oriented participation.
12) Forced Labor/ Denied access to school as punishment. (ie: 8 Hour Detention/ “Homeless”/ “Worksheets” or all day work projects)
13) Lack of proper social interaction/ Levels of silence/ Code silence punishments.
14) “Attack Therapy” Using mental, emotional and verbal abuse as “Treatment”.
15) Sexual abuse/ Forced sexualized behavior/ Sexual shaming.
16) Operating as a private/ unlicensed/ unregulated “Treatment Center” without being subject to regulation of clinical standards in patient care.
17) Accredited by Program Trade Organizations that DO NOT properly monitor or set specific standards of care to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all students. Often spearheaded by the program owners themselves and only perpetrated as a third party agency. Membership status does not depend on proof of standards being met, only requirement is payment of dues.
Agencies such as:
NATSAP – National Association Of Therapeutic Schools and Programs
NWAC – Northwest Accreditation Commission
NAAS – Northwest Association of Accredited Schools
IECA – Independent Educational Consultants Association
OBHIC – Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Industry Council
Please take a moment to review the related links, regarding red flags and warning signs of abusive treatment.
These are the steps justiceforchildren.org recommends:
- Stay CALM!!! Do not let your emotions dictate your actions, and do not release your emotions onto persons who are supposed to investigate your case (CPS, Law enforcement, etc.)
- IF THIS IS AN EMERGENCY: Call 911 or your local police.
- DOCUMENT EVERYTHING from this point forward, including times, dates, and places. COLLECT and KEEP all documents from all professionals who have an opinion about the child abuse. This includes therapists, doctors, policemen, and teachers. If a professional informs you that they have an opinion or a suspicion of child abuse, have them document that suspicion, preferably in the form of an affidavit. Be sure to get a copy of any opinions from professionals regarding your child’s case.
- HAVE YOUR CHILD EVALUATED. Talk to medical and psychology professionals. If possible, have your child evaluated at a Child Assessment Center (CAS).
- BEGIN INVESTIGATION. Talk to Law Enforcement to initiate an investigation into the allegation of child abuse. Any reasonable belief of abuse or neglect should be reported to the police.
- TALK TO Child Protective Services (CPS). If the abuse is not criminal, talk to CPS to initiate an investigation into the allegation of child abuse. Here is a state listing of websites & numbers to call. You will want to call the state you were abused in, they said the report will initiate in that state and then it will get moved to the state you currently reside in. If your abuse was paid for by a local government agency, you will want to initiate the report in that state (ie, if Orange County, CA school system sent you to an RTC in Utah, you should contact the CA office of CPS). If you don’t feel that CPS is doing an adequate job, contact your State Liaison Office. Every state has one, and childwelfare.gov can help you find out how to contact yours.
- GET AN ATTORNEY. Get an attorney and start proceedings to gain full custody of your child and terminate the abuser’s parental rights.
- CALL JUSTICE FOR CHILDREN. If you encounter a problem with completing steps 3-6, call JFC so that we can help! Call us at 1-800-733-0059. Office hours are M-F 8-5 pm Central Standard Time.
Childhelp can also help you with support resources. Please visit their website:
Childhelp® is a national organization that provides crisis assistance and other counseling and referral services. The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with professional crisis counselors who have access to a database of 55,000 emergency, social service, and support resources. All calls are anonymous. Contact them at 1.800.4.A.CHILD (1.800.422.4453).