Minimum Standards of Care For Teens

The Troubled Teen Industry must be regulated!

As current regulation of the troubled teen industry is virtually non-existent, a set of universal standards is in urgent need of development in order to prevent the abuse of children and the existence of fraudulent conduct by programs. The suggested rules set out below establish basic standards that should be universally adopted; none of which should be considered at all ‘controversial’.

The list presented below is certainly not exhaustive, but if every program were forced to comply with these standards or face immediate closure, then the industry would be overwhelmingly improved overnight.

Suggested rules for programs:  

1) No program should have conflicts of interest with other programs, companies, professionals, agencies, or any other individuals.

2) No program should offer financial incentives or kickbacks to other programs, companies, professionals, educational consultants or any other individuals.

3) No program should offer financial incentives to parents to encourage them to recruit other clients.

4) All programs should be properly licensed by the state. Residential programs should always have three licenses: a residential license, a psychological treatment license and an educational license. Any programs offering drug treatment services also require a drug treatment license. Wilderness programs vary in these requirements because some do not offer education and others have no residential premises. Wilderness programs should always have a psychological treatment license. There is never any excuse for a program lacking correct and valid licenses.

5) All psychological, behavioural, and drug treatment plans should be fully accredited. A lack of accreditation equals a lack of legitimacy.

6) The use of hired transporters as de facto child kidnappers should never be sanctioned by a program. It serves no therapeutic purpose, and in fact, it is highly traumatizing and damages the trust between parent and child.

7) Under no circumstances should private mail – either to or from the student – be restricted, censored, or monitored.

8) Under no circumstances should phone calls to or from the student be withheld, denied, restricted, censored, or monitored, as long as those calls are between parent and child, or other close relatives. There should never be any program-mandated period of no contact with parents for any reason.

9) Under no circumstances should programs deny parental visitation with their child, or proscribe when this should, or should not, occur.

10) Under no circumstances should a divorced non-custodial parent be denied mail, phone, or visitation rights with their child, or have any restrictions placed upon them in doing so.

11) All programs should have an operational, unmonitored, private, abuse and complaints hotline available for use 24 hours a day in order for students to contact the authorities if necessary. Students should never receive any sanction for using the hotline.

12) All programs should have thorough coverage of CCTV on campus, or personal body cameras for those attending wilderness programs, with records kept for at least 5 years, so that evidence of abusive, illegal, or unethical conduct can be recorded and used in evidence. This protects both students and employees.

13) All students should have the right to contact an independent legal representative or child advocate by phone and/or mail as necessary and have the right to legally challenge their placement in a court of law.

14) A level system should not be used. Students should not be required to vote for other students’ advancement or be required to ‘tell’ on their fellow students in order to advance in the program.

15) Former students should not be hired as program employees.

16) Students should never be prevented from speaking, eating, drinking, or from using bathroom facilities.

17) Students should never be accused of being ‘manipulative’ because they make complaints or because they are unhappy.

18) Students should never be refused medical care, and all reports of illness or injury should be investigated and treated by a medical professional. Access to an outside, independent, doctor should be permitted.

19) Students should never be restrained or ‘taken down’ unless absolutely necessary for their own safety, or the safety of others.

20) Students should never be compelled to attend any religious service, activity, or lesson. No sanction or privilege should be imposed for attendance or non-attendance of such events.

21) If permitted under state law, isolation rooms should only ever be used in extreme cases, for a maximum of 1 hour. The student should be supervised at all times.

22) At least one medical professional should be on campus or on-call at all times. All staff should be trained in advanced First Aid, and this certification should be renewed annually.

23) Every issue should be fully recorded on file, including but not limited to: complaints, restraints, thefts, losses of property, reports of injuries or illness, etc.

24) All rules should be fair, and all sanctions should be proportionate.

25) Any form of discredited and/or abusive forms of ‘therapy’ should never be used. This includes, but is by no means limited to: Attack therapy, Aversion therapy, and Conversion/Reparative/Ex-gay therapy.

26) Any form of hate speech or verbal abuse by staff or students should be prohibited.

Any program that has a problem with any one of these rules can only be defined as one thing: abusive.

Any program that claims to be professional and ethical should have no qualms whatsoever about these standards being enforced by the federal government. After all, if programs abide by most of these standards anyway (as they claim they do!)…then what do they have to fear from regulation?

The fact that so many programs genuinely fear regulation, oversight, and inspection should tell parents everything they need to know about what goes on behind closed doors at programs…and it’s far from being positive.