Miller Reintroduces Legislation to Prevent Child Abuse in Teen Residential Programs


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the senior Democrat on the Education and the Workforce Committee, today reintroduced legislation to protect teenagers attending residential treatment programs from abuse by staff personnel. The Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act of 2013 would set common-sense, minimum safety standards that states would need to adopt and enforce to protect teens from physical, mental and sexual abuse in these programs. It would also create easily accessible information for parents about the safety record of programs.

“When a parent turns to these programs for help, they should trust that their child will not suffer neglect, injury, or even death while undergoing therapy,” said Rep. Miller. “This bill would make it illegal for a residential facility to deny children essential water, food, clothing, shelter, or medical care – whether under the guise of discipline or therapy.”

Tens of thousands of U.S. teenagers attend private and public residential programs—including therapeutic boarding schools, wilderness camps, boot camps, and behavior modification facilities—that are intended to help them with behavioral, emotional, mental health, or substance abuse problems.  Investigations by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), conducted at the request of Miller in 2007 and 2008, found that these programs are not always run in a safe manner.  Recently, the Tampa Bay Times confirmed that problems of abuse continue – with stories of children being bruised, bloodied and choked to unconsciousness at these programs, all in the name of discipline.


Specifically, the Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act would:

  • Prohibit programs from physically, mentally, or sexually abusing children;
  • Prohibit programs from depriving children of water, food, clothing, shelter, or medical care;
  • Prohibit physical and mechanical restraints except in emergency situations for children’s or staff’s safety;Establish a toll-free hotline to report abuse at these programs;
  • Provide web resources for parents to find information on residential treatment programs; and
  • Establish civil penalties for health and safety violations.

The legislation is supported by leading child advocacy and national organizations like the National Child Abuse Coalition, Mental Health America, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, the Community Alliance For the Ethical Treatment of Youth, Easter Seals, the Children’s Defense Fund and the Arc.

The bill previously passed in the House of Representatives during the 111th Congress on February 23, 2009 with overwhelming bipartisan support.

For more information on the bill, click here.