May, 22 2018
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Report Finds Many Teens Abused at Boot Camps
The Government's Look at the Industry
The U.S. Government Accountability Office said its investigation of these programs -- often referred to as boot camps and wilderness programs -- found extreme abuse and neglect, in some cases involving the deaths of children.
Investigators told the House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee they found examples of youths being forced to eat their own vomit, being thrown to the ground and kicked or forced to stand for hours in the hot sun by staff who lacked proper training.
"Today's testimony reveals disturbing facts about the world of residential treatment programs," Greg Kutz, managing director of forensic audits and special investigations at the Government Accountability Office, told the committee.
"If you walked in part way through my presentation, you might have assumed that I was talking about human rights violations in a third world country. Unfortunately these human rights violations occurred right here in the United States of America," he said.
Kutz said these programs marketed appealing outdoor experiences to "desperate parents," charged high fees and operated with little government oversight.
Testimonies of Parents
The committee also heard from some parents of children who died while attending these programs.
Cynthia Clark Harvey said her 15-year-old daughter Erica, who was enrolled in a program after becoming suicidal, died of heat stroke and dehydration in 2002 during a Nevada wilderness trek, after staff failed to recognize the symptoms.
Bob Bacon said his son Aaron died in 1994 while attending a wilderness program in Utah after 21 days of "ruthless and relentless" physical and psychological abuse and neglect.
An Urgent Situation
Committee Chairman George Miller, a California Democrat, said the federal government has failed to grasp the urgency of the situation.
"I am sure that there are programs staffed by caring, professional, competent staff members who do help to improve children's lives," he said. "Yet there are clearly a number of programs staffed by untrained, unlicensed, poorly paid staff members who simply cannot be entrusted with children's welfare."
The Role of NATSAP
Jan Moss, executive director of the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs, created in 1999 to help raise industry standards, said the organization was pushing for strong state licensing and monitoring requirements.
Government Report on US Boot Camps 10/10/07
Florida, Boot Camp Guards Testify 10/9/07
Florida Boot Camp Case, Victim Handled According to "Procedure" 10/8/07
Pyramid Club in Ohio helps local at-risk youth to achieve success 10/6/07
New York: Teens Charged in Sex Crime at Residential Treatment Center 10/12/07
Utah Teens Who Escaped from Boarding School Apprehended 10/9/07
Boot Camp Death Part of National Investigation 10/4/07
Virginia Boot Camp Brings Hope to Troubled Teens 10/8/07
Illinois Parents Want WWASP Academy Closed 10/7/07
Florida Teen Boot Camp Case, Medical Examiner Testifies 10/5/07
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