Children need love, care, and safety; they need families

The Greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved, and rejection is the hell of fears...... And, with rejection comes anger, and with anger some kind of crime in revenge for the rejection, and with crime, guilt - and there is the story of humankind. John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Thursday, January 21, 2010

GAO Report on Seclusions and Restrains - May 2009

Residential Treatment Centers are locked facilities, or institutions supposedly designed to "treat" difficult children.  These private businesses and hospitals have become a booming industry in the United States, often charging families, and Social Service departments $500 - $800 dollar a day to keep children locked up. 

Now, there are some residential programs that do actually help children.  These programs do not use restrains and seclusion, allow children to freely communicate with family, engage youth in therapy with family, have a family type home arrangement, and are NOT considered a permanent living arrangement but are used for specific short term treatment to help children and youth live more safely in a home with a family.

But this article is not about the progressive, humane, and caring centers that actually help children.  This is about the many, many RTC throughout the country who base their program on a system that does not work, that harms children, and engages in abusive and cruel treatment of children. 

Most people are unaware of what actually goes on in these residential treatment centers, (RTC). Dangerous, potentially deadly restraints are common; seclusions are frequent, and there is little oversight to monitor what is happening to children and youth housed in these institutions.

While we like to think children are being cared for and treated with respect, the reality is that children are hurt, isolated, and often alone, suffering untold abuse, all in the name of treatment. Family members are not allowed to see their rooms, communicate with them on a daily basis, or be an integral part of the program. Family members have little to no understanding of what goes on and are often unaware of the abuse children are suffering.

Last May, after several months of extensive research to determine how restraints and seclusions are used on children in the United States, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), reported its findings to the Committee.

Here is the summary of their findings....
GAO recently testified before the Committee regarding allegations of death and abuse at residential programs for troubled teens. Recent reports indicate that vulnerable children are being abused in other settings. For example, one report on the use of restraints and seclusions in schools documented cases where students were pinned to the floor for hours at a time, handcuffed, locked in closets, and subjected to other acts of violence. In some of these cases, this type of abuse resulted in death. Given these reports, the Committee asked GAO to (1) provide an overview of seclusions and restraint laws applicable to children in public and private schools, (2) verify whether allegations of student death and abuse from the use of these methods are widespread, and (3) examine the facts and circumstances surrounding cases where a student died or suffered abuse as a result of being secluded or restrained. GAO reviewed federal and state laws and abuse allegations from advocacy groups, parents, and the media from the past two decades. GAO did not evaluate whether using restraints and seclusions can be beneficial. GAO examined documents related to closed cases, including police and autopsy reports and school policies. GAO also interviewed parents, attorneys, and school officials and conducted searches to determine the current employment status of staff involved in the cases.


GAO found no federal laws restricting the use of seclusion and restraints in public and private schools and widely divergent laws at the state level. Although GAO could not determine whether allegations were widespread, GAO did find hundreds of cases of alleged abuse and death related to the use of these methods on school children during the past two decades. Examples of these cases include a 7 year old purportedly dying after being held face down for hours by school staff, 5 year olds allegedly being tied to chairs with bungee cords and duct tape by their teacher and suffering broken arms and bloody noses, and a 13 year old reportedly hanging himself in a seclusion room after prolonged confinement. Although GAO continues to receive new allegations from parents and advocacy groups, GAO could not find a single Web site, federal agency, or other entity that collects information on the use of these methods or the extent of their alleged abuse. GAO also examined the details of 10 restraint and seclusion cases in which there was a criminal conviction, a finding of civil or administrative liability, or a large financial settlement. The cases share the following common themes: they involved children with disabilities who were restrained and secluded, often in cases where they were not physically aggressive and their parents did not give consent; restraints that block air to the lungs can be deadly; teachers and staff in the cases were often not trained on the use of seclusions and restraints; and teachers and staff from at least 5 of the 10 cases continue to be employed as educators.

To read more, please visit GAO Report on Seclusion and Restraints

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