Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Overweight People Don't Need Government Sponsored "Fat Camp"!

Overweight People Don't Need Government Sponsored "Fat Camp"!
by Angela Smith, HEAL National Coordinator

I am overweight and have struggled with weight issues for most of my life.  I had control of my weight when I was in my early 20s.  But, I began taking hormonal birth control (Depo Provera) in my mid-20s and I gained nearly 90 pounds in 6 months without having changed my diet (vegetarian) or my exercise regimen (walked 2 miles every morning).  Not only did the hormonal birth control cause weight gain, fatigue, breakouts, and abnormal hair-growth, it also stunted my sex drive.

Many people with PTSD and trauma, particularly victims of sexual assault and abuse (like myself), often struggle with weight because our bodies want protection and in our society no one supposedly wants to get physical with fat people.  So, we use weight as a coping mechanism.  "Intensive Behavior Modification Therapy" is not going to help those of us struggling with our weight because it focuses solely on changing behavior, often through confrontation (aka "attack therapy"), ridicule, and aversive/abusive therapies instead of addressing the trauma or underlying causes of weight problems.  Some of which include adverse reactions to behavior modifying/psychotropic drugs.

I'm currently losing weight and have lost 20 pounds this year.  Here's how I am doing it:

1.  I figured out what my goal weight should be for my age and height.  According to the CDC, my goal weight/healthy weight is between 122-164 pounds.  (Yes, I currently am considered "obese" by the CDC standards and NO, I don't want to be put in fat camp or any other behavior modification program using Social Security dollars as current legislation is seeking to do.  More on this below.)  You can figure your "healthy weight" here: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/  (Click on BMI Calculator link and enter your current height and weight, it will tell you if you are "obese" and what your "healthy weight" range should be.)

2.  I set my goal weight at 130 pounds and wanted to know the number of calories that are needed to maintain a weight of 130 along with the average amount of activity I do per day.  So, I found the following site: http://caloriecontrol.org/healthy-weight-tool-kit/assessment-calculator/  and entered in my sex, height, goal weight, and activity level and hit "Re-Assess My Goal" button.  This gave me the number of calories I needed to maintain my goal weight each day.  I set my activity level to "sedentary" and depending on my level of activity on any given day I figure out how many calories I burn to decide how much over the maintenance calories I can eat on that day or at the end of the week. 

3.  So, to figure out how many calories are burned by a given activity (i.e. 30 minutes of yard work), you can use www.google.com and enter in "How many calories do I burn doing 30 minutes of yard work or 1 hour of yard work?" and you may find this page: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/calorie-burners#1  or a number of other pages.  And, the same can be done for any activity.  If I do 1 hour of yard work, I can guess at about 200-400 calories were burned, and if I need to lose weight, give it the lower end of 200 to minimize any chance of "over-eating".  Given my goal weight and my activity level, I should only be eating about 1750 calories per day.  I do my best to keep it at 1500 during the week depending on my activity level.  And, yes, this is different than the average 2000-2500 you read on most food packages.  But, those food packages are not based on you, your lifestyle, or your weight.  They are national averages boosted, in my opinion, to keep people fat. 

I didn't learn how to calculate my healthy weight, healthy calorie intake, or healthy activity level in any primary or secondary school courses, including Health classes.  I was never taught how simple it is to manage my weight or how to understand metabolism, activity rates, and caloric intake.  And, even when I've joined weight management groups and organizations (haven't been part of any for many years), they never provided me with this simple information on how to figure it out.  No doctor I've visited ever sat down with me and looked at this issue simply and no nutritionist explained it to me in simple terms because they all wanted me to keep paying them to tell me what to do instead of how to figure out how to take care of myself.  Behavior modification programs do not help, they make things worse.  I know that for a fact too because I am a survivor of abusive/aversive behavior modification and I would never want anyone to go through that, especially not for being overweight when compassion, love, time, and basic health information and tools can address the issue effectively.

This is why I do not support HR 1953, the Treat and Reduce Obesity Act of 2017, which will divert Social Security funds to paying for overweight people to be placed in "intensive behavior modification therapy".  That is abuse.  It is awful.  And, no one should support it, period.  If you agree, please join me by signing the petition at: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/oppose-hr-1953-treat?source=c.tw&r_by=9710095

Friday, May 5, 2017

Fix Your Family, Help Your Teen

Fix Your Family, Help Your Teen
By Angela Smith, HEAL National Coordinator

HEAL is a well established children's rights and consumer advocacy network that has been organizing to stop fraud and institutionalized abuse for over 15 years.  We have a network of families and individuals who volunteer to help in these efforts.  And, because of our time working in this field, we have identified what the segregated congregate care (a.k.a. behavior modification, troubled teen or teen help) industry uses to define and often demonize youth while encouraging parents to avoid accountability and responsibility by writing large checks often to fraudulent and abusive providers that spirit away their youth to labor camps and pharmaceutical testing facilities masquerading as boarding schools and treatment programs. 

We shall examine the common caricatures these modern day orphanages[1] use to identify and define youth.  In addition, we will provide suggested conversations between parents/caregivers and their teens that can assist with addressing the identified problems at home with some basic communication skill building so you can avoid the high cost, abuse, and untimely death often associated with institutional care and private, unlawful imprisonment.

There are three common caricatures used by the industry to demonize youth.  They go by many names and descriptions, but, HEAL has simplified it to "the brat", "the escape artist", and "the rebel".   (HEAL would never define any youth by a single characterization, nor any human being for that matter.  The terms here are our understanding of how the industry defines, labels, and dehumanizes youth.)  "The Brat" is often defined as a do-nothing, entitled, demanding youth who respects no one and values nothing.  "The Escape Artist" is often defined as a poorly focused dreamer that is "addicted" to drugs, electronics, gaming, or fantasy.  And, "The Rebel" is often defined as defiant, obstinate, full of potential and always angry.  Sometimes youth exhibit mixtures of all three, but, the industry often treats them as nothing more than animals that need to be broken[2] and programmed with no regard for the youth or the life experiences that may have resulted in questionable behavior and acting out. 

Children learn what they live and live what they learn.[3]  So, if a child or youth on the surface appears to be a "brat", "escape artist", or "rebel", often they have learned this way of life from their primary caregivers/parents.  And, this is one of the main selling points of the segregated congregate care industry.  They point out that parents have failed in every respect and are left with hiring someone to break and program their teen to fix the identified problems since the parents clearly have not and will not invest the time and patience to address the issues with empathy, compassion, and acceptance of their own responsibility.  It is easier to blame the kid and send them to "brat camp".[4] But, doing so is wrong and will hurt not just the family coffers, but, those subjected to being orphaned and abused as well.  It simply is too costly in every way to be reasonably considered an option.  So, what do you do?

(P=Problem  S=Solution  C=Conversation Starter)


S: So, it seems your teen is entitled, demanding, appreciates no one, and is both ungrateful and unwilling to be bothered with the expectations of others.  First, we need to examine each of the characteristics above and determine to what extent they are truly present.  If they do not feel any sense of responsibility for themselves, their belongings, the family home, or their own room, that is a problem.  Responsibility is a learned skill or behavior.  Is it possible you have not raised them to be responsible?  Or, are you expecting them to be responsible before they are developmentally ready for that life lesson?  One article suggests that personal responsibility is learned in college[5], so, it may be unreasonable to demand a teen be as responsible as you may expect at their age and stage of development.  There is no fast-forward to responsible adulthood and segregated congregate care results in infantilization and regression, not maturity and responsibility.

Someone who acts entitled is immature and may be suffering from infantilization in the home.  Have you spent time teaching your child basic life skills from the time they were born and appropriate to their developmental stage?  By the time a youth reaches high school age, they should be able to basically take care of themselves.[6]  But, they won't if they don't know how and if doing so has been used to degrade or punish rather than include and uplift. 

In working class households, there is no hired help and chores are a part of everyday life for every family member.  Parents are often working 40+ hours per week at fairly demanding jobs often where labor laws are regularly violated.  This means they work without breaks or through breaks, sometimes off the clock, and under duress that they will be replaced if they demand better from their employers.  When these parents get home they are usually tired, irritable, and would love to relax.  But, often that is not an option and they must spend 2 to 6 hours cleaning the home, doing minor repairs, fixing dinner, and helping children with homework or any other activities.  Their children see this from the time they come home from the hospital as infants.  Children in these families often follow their parents around and ask if they can help or try to copy their parents because children live what they learn and learn what they live.  If your teen rejects personal responsibility as "beneath them", it is likely a class issue and involves neglect or unreasonable expectations on the part of the parent(s)/primary caregiver(s).

If your teen has grown up watching you go to socials, parties, and fun activities like golf or tennis and has never seen you do a single household chore, then expecting they act differently is completely unreasonable.  If your child remembers you saying you are off to work and sees you grab your golf clubs and give them a wink, they don't think your work is serious and don't associate your work with their life of luxury.  They don't think you work at all, most likely.  Or, that you only work when you feel like it.  So, why would you expect them to act any different?  How do you fix this?

C:  Sit down with your teen and start your conversation with this: "It seems I may have given you the wrong impression about my work and our family lifestyle.  (If you had a luxurious upbringing as well, explain that here by saying: As you may already know, I was also raised in the lap of luxury and did not have many expectations placed on me regarding household chores or taking care of my belongings...  If you did not have a luxurious upbringing, let your child know about your own developmental years and acknowledge that you did not want them to have the same hardships you had as a child and may have failed to teach them basic life skills as a result.)  You are almost an adult and will be off to college or some other independent adventure very soon.  Regardless of where I have failed you to this point, I want to take time to help you prepare now for independent living.  (Acknowledge things your teen has done well or currently does well here, maybe by saying something like: I'm impressed that every morning you shower, dress yourself, and put yourself together to go to school.  I'm so pleased with the good grades you have earned.  And, you are very talented when it comes to (singing, tennis, science, etc.).  Before you are off to independence, I want you to have some additional skills such as balancing a checkbook, preparing your own meals, navigating strange/unfamiliar towns/places, doing laundry, organizing your schedule and basic housekeeping.  I can personally help you learn all of these things or any that you do not already know and I'd like to invite you to accompany me to my work, chores, and activities so you can get a better idea of the big picture and how we maintain our current lifestyle.  (If you bring your teen to your work, they will see you in action and understand that you have responsibilities and do actually work, not just play golf all day.  Ask them to help you with a minor work project (preparing presentation folders, answering phones, or any task they could reasonably handle).) If you gather up old/used clothes from your closet for donation to Goodwill, then make a day of it and have your teen do it with you.  This will teach them a sense of work ethic and charity which appear to be your major complaints at the moment.  If they need help with life skills you don't have, consider learning these skills together.  Take a cooking class together if you both don't cook.  There are many easy and fun solutions if you just take a breath, stop hating your teen, and start parenting with patience and love.


S: So, your child is a poorly focused dreamer, spends too much time with games/electronics, abuses drugs, and/or lives in a "fantasy world".  Your teen may be too smart for his school.  Depending on your economic class, if you are not comfortably middle class or higher in the economic chain, your child's school may be using the same disgusting behavior modification techniques as are engaged in at most segregated congregate care schools and programs.  One school behavior modification procedural manual states: "In response to a question regarding what public schools should do with intelligent, highly motivated, and/or efficient children, Sulzer and Mayer suggested: [emphasis added] “Certainly it would be possible to slow response ratio in other ways: yell at the student when he hurries [commit verbal abuse], ignore him altogether [neglect], flunk him, keep reminding him to slow down, feed him tranquilizing drugs and all kinds of other possibilities.”12"[7]  So, if most schools are treating intelligent children from working class backgrounds like this, then it is no wonder that a youth in that situation would want to escape. 

The other possibility is that some other form of abuse, besides institutional abuse, is involved.  Most people, including children and youth, divert their attention and seek to escape when reality has traumatized them and they don't know how to cope.[8] [9]

There is yet one other possibility, and that is that they are again learning what they live and living what they learn.  If the parent(s) or primary caregiver(s) get home from work and turn on the television (computer, handheld device, or game system) where they remain ignoring and avoiding their own household duties and responsibilities every night, then it is unreasonable to expect children in that home to do otherwise.  In fact, in such homes, it is often that the parent/caregiver(s) will tell a child from an early age to go watch television and leave the adults alone.  And, when children obey this into their teen years to their own developmental detriment, it is truly unfair and unjust to punish them for doing as they've been both told and taught.

Regardless of which of the above three are most likely occurring, institutionalization in segregated congregate care is the same as taking someone from the proverbial frying pan and throwing them in the fire.  If you take a trauma victim and force them into a situation where they are constantly triggered, they will not improve or recover and actually regress deeper into fantasy.  The same is true for individuals suffering milder forms of these abuses in their current school.  We've met many victims of institutional abuse who were "escape artists" that have manufactured grandiose fantasy worlds to explain their compounded trauma including some who believe they are the second coming of Christ, some who believe they are the anti-Christ, and even some who believe they are both Christ and anti-Christ in one.  One victim believed every song written by Bob Dylan was about them, even though they weren't even born when those songs were written.  One victim believed they could control the brightness of electric lights with their mind.  You might say they must have always been "crazy" or clearly "schizo".  But, the reality is that they were not making such claims nor believing such things before being institutionalized.  If you speak to them, they will tell you that they believe the suffering they endured while institutionalized is proof that they are specially chosen by God, Satan, the Universe, or Bob Dylan's lyrics to expose the suffering of the world and bring about transformative destruction or peace, depending on their interpretation and fantasy development.  But, given their lack of skill or knowledge of politics and society at large, they introduce themselves as specially chosen ones and wander the world trying to convince everyone that their fantasy is the true reality.  This is not a future any parent would choose for their child.  And, it can be avoided in most cases by avoiding institutionalization and focusing on getting the family and teen back on track.

C:  First, you'll need to determine which reality you are dealing with here.  Is your teen escaping because they attend a school that is not respecting their intelligence?  This is something you may be able to determine simply by asking your teen if they feel school is stupid, pointless, or bullsh*t?  If they feel school is stupid, it is likely because the school is not respecting nor nurturing your child's natural talent and intelligence.  You may want to consider home-schooling or enrolling your teen in high school courses at the local community college.[10]  Your teen can earn high school and college credits from the same coursework which will jumpstart their college education and put them in an environment that is both challenging and rewarding.   This may be enough to get them excited about learning again and with some support will help them choose to achieve rather than avoid education/education goals.  This is less expensive and far more valuable and rewarding than any segregated congregate care, including most boarding schools. 

But, if your child has been traumatized and is using escape to avoid trauma triggers, you may need to do a bit more than simple positive redirection as is suggested in the paragraph preceding this one.  Trauma can include normal trauma/stress like the death of a loved one, divorce, moving, big changes to school or home, and extraordinary trauma like targeted and excessive bullying, abuse, and rape.[11]  Children and teens feel helpless when traumatized and this helplessness can result in a virtual shutdown or closing off from a "reality" which is too traumatic and overwhelming for them to handle.  The worst thing anyone could do to a traumatized youth is create more trauma by marking them as damaged, sending them away to live with abusive strangers in strange and unfamiliar places, and exposing them to constant new stimuli which will increase the feeling of helplessness likely leading them to feel suicidal or risking their life to physically escape the institution/program/etc.  This is the exact opposite of what a true professional would advise who specializes in treating trauma.  No legitimate mental health professional engaging in ethical treatment practices (that do not involve receiving kickbacks for institution referrals from the institution (common problem)) would ever recommend taking a trauma victim and compounding their trauma by spiriting them away as a damaged animal to be broken and programmed by any institution.  Many victims of institutional abuse become self-medicating or fantasy-focused (large movie/fiction collections, constant gamers, etc.) and spend their lives retreating and avoiding a world that tortured instead of nurtured them when it was most needed.  Institutionalizing trauma victims makes them victims for life and does not help them learn positive coping skills.

If your teen has experienced overwhelming trauma (overwhelming to them, not necessarily objectively overwhelming), they may have Post Traumatic Stress which is common when children experience many forms of trauma or chronic trauma like neglect and poverty.  You are going to need to help your teen overcome their trauma or at least learn to manage their Post Traumatic Stress.  You are going to need to let your teen, in this case, be the decision-maker when it comes to any treatment or treatment providers.  And, you will have to be patient and wait for them to be ready for it.  Forcing treatment on a trauma victim who already feels helpless just makes them feel more helpless.  To heal, they must feel that they matter and that they have the power and responsibility to manage their own affairs with your support.  One guide we recommend at HEAL for helping a loved one cope with Post Traumatic Stress is available here: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/ptsd-trauma/ptsd-in-the-family.htm.   You are going to need all of these skills and tips to gently help your teen heal from trauma.  Once they learn to manage their triggers, then encourage and support them to get "back on track".  If they have been traumatized at school, but, feel safe at home, ask them if they want to switch to a home-school option and take a break from the pressures of the social demands of school life.  When they are ready, find out if they have any extracurricular interests and let them know they can take guitar, swimming, or any other lessons when they are ready.  If they tell you they want to go back to a school environment, consider the community college option mentioned above and ask them what they think would be best.  The most important thing with a trauma victim is that they feel empowered and supported, not helpless, useless, and judged.  If you treat your traumatized teen with patience, kindness, empathy, love, and support, then they will be okay in the long run.  If you send them away, expect a lifetime of pain and regret.


S: So, your child is defiant, obstinate, full of potential, and always angry.  Well, the problem may be you.  Offended?  Then, the problem is most likely you.  But, it all depends on what you mean by defiant and "always angry".  For one, your teen may be angry with you and that's why you perceive them as being angry all the time.  But, it is highly unlikely that they are "always angry".  Find out why they seem angry and if they are angry with you, find out why by asking them.  If you find yourself cutting them off, refusing to listen, and becoming defensive, consider yourself the obstinate one.  And, remember that children live what they learn and learn what they live.  If you shutdown communication with your teen whenever they say anything you don't agree with or like, then you are the problem.  You need to learn some basic communication skills.  Here are some resources you can check out and practice for better communication with your teen: https://www.thebalance.com/communication-skills-list-2063779 and http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/communication-parents.aspx.

When a parent claims a teen is defiant, it usually indicates that the parent feels disrespected by the teen's disobedience.  Are your expectations reasonable?  Do you show your teen respect?  With rebellion, the issue is usually with ignorant and arrogant parenting styles coupled with frustrated and sometimes angry teen responses.  Obedience should not be the goal of parenting, period.  The goal is to prepare children for responsible independent living when they reach the age of majority.  Obedience to authority figures is not a legitimate life skill.  Certainly, it isn't when you are talking about blind or unquestioning obedience to questionable authority figures.  A father who raped his daughter enrolled her in a residential treatment program after she reported the rape to the authorities to avoid being prosecuted.  It took more than 2 years of her story never changing through three different institutional settings before a therapist actually made the effort to ask the authority the teen reported the rape to years ago whether the statements were true.  The law enforcement authorities said they had been trying to find the teen for years and had no idea where she had been sent.  But, they confirmed everything and the teen was released and her father rightfully prosecuted and sent to prison.  But, certainly the father in this situation should not be obeyed.  And, only unreasonable people would believe otherwise.  This article is not for the unreasonable parent.  We know there are bad parents out there, we've met many of them.  But, for those who we believe can and will do what is best for their children, we believe this article will be helpful.

So, assuming you are a reasonable parent who is experiencing unusual levels of defiance and anger from your youth, what do you do?

C:  Many articles on the subject of rebellion and defiance suggest most youth do not exhibit extreme rebellion or defiance.  In fact, it usually only becomes a problem when the parent is confused about how best to support their child as they mature into independent adulthood.

"[T]he primary goal of the teen years is to achieve independence. To do this, teens must start pulling away from their parents — especially the parent whom they're the closest to. This can feel like teens are always at odds with parents or don't want to be around them the way they used to.

As teens mature, they start to think more abstractly and rationally. They're forming their moral code. And parents of teens may find that kids who previously had been willing to conform to please them will suddenly begin asserting themselves — and their opinions — strongly and rebelling against parental control.

You may need to look closely at how much room you give your teen to be an individual and ask yourself questions such as: "Am I a controlling parent?," "Do I listen to my child?," and "Do I allow my teen's opinions and tastes to differ from my own?""[12]

The above excerpt is from http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/adolescence.html# and the entire article offers great tips for parents and parenting teens.  Of course, the solutions offered include learning about teens/development, better communication, empathy (remember your own teen years?), picking your battles, respect your kid's privacy, and make appropriate rules. 

HEAL has received calls from parents who considered shipping their kids off to institutions for the following reasons:

1.  Parents taking extended European trip and wanted a "kennel" they could place their kid(s) because they didn't want to leave them at home alone and didn't want to bother extended family (i.e. grandparents) to care for the kids while the parents are on an extended 3 month vacation.

2.  Parents upset that 17 1/2 year old daughter spoke on the telephone with a boy her own age from school.  Daughter went to a co-ed school.  Parents did not ask daughter why she was on the phone with a boy nor whether it involved any school projects or tasks.  The younger sibling had tattled that the older sister broke the house rule of no contact with boys outside of school/church until college.  And, without any communication or inquiry as to why the call occurred in the first place, the parents were looking at institutionalizing their nearly grown daughter.

3.  Catholic parents upset that son brought home Torah (Jewish Bible/5 Books of Moses) from the library.  Jewish literature was not allowed in the home.  The youth was doing a class assignment that required he bring home that book.  This rule violation was enough, even with the reasonable explanation, for the parents to consider shipping their son off to an institution.

We could go on and on with examples like these.  The first one was most likely narcissistic parent(s) who would rather brag they sent their kids to "boarding school" then provide nurturing in-home care that would permit their youth to stay in their own familiar community and surroundings while parents go on vacation.  These parents did not want to postpone their vacation nor take their children with them even though such a trip would be invaluable to youth and look great on college applications. 

The second two were what we would consider unreasonable rules and expectations.  We've spoken to parents who would love their only problem to be that their child brought home a Jewish book or talked on the phone with a classmate.  It is insane to consider institutionalizing a teen because they talked to a friend on the phone or brought home a book you didn't like.

So, we take the "defiant", ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder), obstinate, and angry allegations against teens with a grain of salt at HEAL.  Generally, risky behaviors are really about poor coping mechanisms after trauma and parents who are concerned about risky behaviors should follow the advice for the Escape Artist above.  Regardless, communication skills are necessary regardless of what type of problem you are dealing with and should be the focus of your efforts before you consider how you want to address the problem(s).

We often suggest parents dealing with "rebellion" sit down with their teens and negotiate a contract that both find reasonable regarding expectations and privileges.  This will help prepare the teen for other negotiations in life and give them the sense that you respect them and want to support them as they transition to independent adulthood. 

Institutionalization conditions youth to being institutionalized and many either stay in mental institutions or find themselves in jail because they learn helplessness and fear independence and autonomy because they have been severely punished for both while institutionalized.  It is best to avoid enrolling youth in segregated congregate care whether it is labeled treatment, boarding school, group home, orphanage, boot camp, or something else.  A little common sense, communication, love, and patience will solve most problems. 

Or, enroll your kid in a program run by neo-nazi survivalists in Idaho or Mexican gangs in Tijuana/Baja.  Maybe send them to a "Christian" program run by ex-cons in VA or a "Mormon conversion center" masquerading as a treatment program in Utah.  Many of the programs Dr. Phil recommends have been closed after youth deaths, so, maybe listen to him?  He lost his license after sleeping with a teen patient, but, he's trustworthy, right?[13]

Teen programs will tell you anything you want to hear because they want to exploit your children and take your money.  I, Angela Smith, have been a children's rights and consumer advocate for 25 years.  I have a certificate in child development from the Kent School District in Kent, WA, an AA Degree from Highline Community College, a BA from the University of Washington, and I am currently on hiatus from law school where I successfully completed my first year and passed the California "Baby Bar" exam.  I have worked as an educator and youth advocate for over 20 years.  And, I have never been arrested, let alone convicted, for any crime.  I have been sued once in my life by an institution on the HEAL watch-list but that suit was withdrawn by the program before the court could rule in our favor.  I have cared for many children in both school and home care settings and no child has ever died, been raped, been exploited, been maimed, or otherwise abused while in my care.  The same cannot be said for most, if not all, segregated congregate care facilities and programs.

You may also find our parenting guide at www.heal-online.org/parent.htm useful.  Good luck!

[7] http://www.heal-online.org/ebook.pdf   (page 9) and Sulzer, Beth and G. Roy Mayer. “Behavior Modification Procedures for School Personnel”. The Dryden Press Inc. Hinsdale, IL. © 1972. (p. 132)

Monday, April 10, 2017


by Angela Smith, HEAL National Coordinator

Tim Brown, HEAL Kentucky (KY) Coordinator and I spent a week lobbying our legislators in Washington, DC in March, 2017.  We had scheduled visits with three of our senators and met briefly with our representatives.  We presented a packet of legislative suggestions for stopping institutionalized abuse in residential care settings for children, youth, the disabled, and the elderly.  You can view the packet here: http://www.healreport.tv/heallegislativerequest.pdf.  This packet along with a cover letter was submitted to: Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA), Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY).  You can view the slide show presentation featuring Tim Brown (HEAL KY Coordinator) and myself by viewing episode 51 of The HEAL Report available on YouTube at https://youtu.be/zUDSfV6HUeo.

Since our trip, our legislators have introduced or co-sponsored the following bills related to teen liberty:

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) has co-sponsored HR 1748, the "Opening Doors for Youth Act of 2017", introduced by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA).  HEAL has read through this legislation and it looks promising.  We are concerned that 50% of the grant monies provided through this legislation will be going towards "community-based" and "evidence-based" (as opposed to best evidence-based which is the proper standard) "preventions" and "interventions".  Without clarification or limitations on what "preventions" and "interventions" will be permitted and leaving it up to states to determine the proper "prevention" and "intervention" services, may see more youth ending up in abusive institutions.  This is our biggest concern with this legislation.  Overall, the legislation appears promising in giving youth opportunities for both education and employment.  However, some of the language in the bill has left us wondering if this is another sneaky giveaway to abusive institutions.  Please join us by writing your Representative and demanding that segregated congregate care be excluded from any potential grant recipient lists.  Take Action Now at: http://www.heal-online.org/hr1748action2017.htm

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has sponsored S. 827, "A bill to provide for the sealing or expungement of records relating to Federal nonviolent criminal offenses, and for other purposes."  Learn more at: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/827/cosponsors?pageSort=lastToFirst  The text of this legislation is not yet available.  But, HEAL is keeping an eye on this and other promising legislation sponsored and/or co-sponsored by the legislators with whom we met while in DC.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has co-sponsored S. 866, introduced by Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA), "A bill to amend the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 to eliminate the use of valid court orders to secure lockup of status offenders, and for other purposes."  The text of this legislation (and others listed here) is not yet available.  HEAL will be keeping a close watch on this and similar legislation.  Learn more at: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/866/cosponsors?pageSort=lastToFirst

HEAL is also continuing to work on legislative reforms at the State level.  Police Captain Charles Kennedy (Ret.), HEAL Alabama Coordinator, is currently working with State Representative Steve McMillan (R-AL) to make sure that children and other vulnerable populations are protected from institutionalized abuse.  Right now, you can sign our petition in support of HB 440, the "ALABAMA YOUTH RESIDENTIAL FACILITY ABUSE PREVENTION ACT".  Sign now at: https://www.change.org/p/alabama-state-house-alabama-pass-make-law-hb-440-the-youth-residential-facility-abuse-prevention-act   This legislation is very promising and you can view the current version of this bill at http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/ALISON/SearchableInstruments/2017RS/PrintFiles/HB440-int.pdf.  While the bill is not perfect, it is a definite step in the right direction.  It gives youth enrolled without a court order the right to be removed from any facility as well as the right to uncensored and unmonitored contact with parents and authorities.  In addition, it bans the use of conversion therapy at faith-based programs and schools.  This bill currently holds much promise for real change in Alabama.

In Washington State, HEAL HQ is supporting HB 5408 (2015-2016), " Removing references to faith-based exemptions regarding criminal mistreatment of children and vulnerable adults."  This bill would require faith-based providers be regulated alongside secular providers of segregated congregate care/residential services.  We are waiting on the 2017 version of this bill to be introduced and will keep you posted.  You can view the text of this legislation here: http://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2015-16/Pdf/Bills/Senate%20Bills/5408.pdf.

Also, in Washington State HEAL HQ is supporting SB 5870 (2015-2016), " Prohibiting the use of aversion therapy in the treatment of minors."  This bill would prohibit the use of aversion therapy (including conversion therapy) in the treatment of minors.  We are waiting on the 2017 version of this bill to be introduced and will keep you posted.  You can view the text of this legislation here:  http://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2015-16/Pdf/Bills/Senate%20Bills/5870.pdf

I have requested that both of the above bills in Washington be reintroduced this legislative session and will keep fighting until these bills become law! 

If you would like to learn more about HEAL, please consider signing up for our free weekly e-newsletter (delivered via e-mail) by e-mailing news@heal-online.org with "subscribe" in your subject line. 



Friday, December 2, 2016

Life Lessons from Gift Exchange Holidays

Life Lessons from Gift Exchange Holidays
by Angela Smith, HEAL Coordinator

I started writing this on November 30th, 2016 in hopes to share with you life lessons I've learned from gift exchange holidays such as Christmas.  As a child, I wanted to participate in not just making my own wish list and receiving gifts, but, in giving to my loved ones as well.  I would draw pictures, cross-stitch, needlepoint, and crochet gifts for loved ones in hopes to show my love for them by giving a gift as I knew that was the true reason for the gift exchange.

My family is far from perfect, as are most, if not all families.  But, we did and continue to carry on certain family traditions.  Even when I had no gift for visiting family and friends, I helped bake goodies for everyone with my grandmother and took joy in seeing their satisfaction with the treats we made.  And, I believe my family got at least one thing right, they taught me the value of sharing and expressing my love through both words and deeds.  Offering someone warmth when they are cold, a smile when they are down, and a helping hand when needed are all gifts I have cherished and shared throughout my life.

I believe there are four categories of genuine gifts.  These four categories are needful things, wanted things, joyous things, and things to be treasured/cherished.  I believe most gifts should answer a need and be needful/needed things. 

A needful/needed thing is something someone needs.  In the intangible category it could be anything from a smile to a word of encouragement.  In the tangible category it could be anything from a hug to a house.  Some needed things are easier to give then others depending on the giver's individual resources.  But, in the spirit of peace on earth, this type of giving is best.  This year, HEAL HQ is collecting and creating needed things that include books and clothes for local homeless youth.  We encourage others to give to and/or volunteer for those in need and suggest if you don't know someone in need that you do most of your giving to a charity serving neighbors in need like a shelter, soup kitchen, or food bank.  For me, it is difficult to enjoy even small luxuries while people are homeless, starving, exploited and oppressed.  So, I do my best to be mindful of this when considering how to best show my reverence and consideration when sharing and spreading good will and good cheer.  I have to believe that the spirit of giving is intended to inspire generosity and hope, not greed and envy.

Many a child has rolled his or her eyes at the sight of socks or underwear on Christmas morning.  But, the reality is those were things the child needed and therefore truly the best of all the gifts and the ones which likely got the most use.  And, everyone knows that for some, the magic of Christmas is about getting what you've wanted all year and not what you need at all.

A wanted thing is something someone wants or for which they have wished.  In the intangible category it could be anything from appreciation to an apology.  In the tangible category it could be anything from concert tickets to a trip to the moon (or mars if that's your thing).  A wanted thing must actually be what the person wants to count as wish fulfillment.  So, if someone wants Fair Trade Chocolate and you give them a Hershey Bar, you haven't fulfilled their wish effectively.  Getting the wrong thing for someone, even with good intentions, can result in a fuss.  It is best not to get someone something they want unless you are certain you are getting the right thing.  If you have activist friends, like I do, it is best to find out their favorite charity and make a donation to it in their honor than make the mistake of getting an unwanted thing by mistake.  If your friends welcome your good will and good cheer, then all should be pleased regardless.

A joyous thing is a surprise that brings joy.  In the intangible category it could be anything from a call from an old friend to a surprise party or invitation.  In the tangible category it could be any surprise or gift that brings joy to the recipient.  These can be tricky, but, if you know your recipient well a wanted thing can become a joyous thing as well.  But, be careful when reaching out to old friends in old address books, there may be a reason they haven't spoken in a while.  A good surprise is one that is cherished.

A treasured/cherished thing is something given with love that has meaning or value to the giver or the recipient, sometimes both.  In the intangible category it could be anything from time to a recital of an original work (i.e. poem or song).  In the tangible category it could be something the giver handmade for the recipient or a wanted thing so desired that it is also a treasured and cherished thing once received.  For example, I collect from time to time, original copies of Lord Byron and Emily Dickinson's poetry.  This includes original magazine or journal publications in which theirs are among many contributors.  My mother found an original publication while antiquing and that remains a treasured thing of mine.  It was from my mother whom I love, something I desired greatly, and something I will forever cherish. 

So, the life lessons I've learned from gift exchange holidays are that the best gifts fill a need and that the most cherished gifts involve consideration, love, knowledge, care, and wisdom.  I hope that parents and guardians will encourage, welcome, and include children in all holiday preparations including preparing to both give and receive with love, warmth, and kindness to friends, family, neighbors, and anyone in need.

Warning: One of the worst things anyone can do is to give a gift or volunteer with the intention of receiving or gaining something beyond which the joy of giving or participating can provide.  When someone gives in order to manipulate or lay claim to some form of repayment or return on their gift or volunteer participation, beyond the satisfaction of giving or participating, they are not a true giver nor a true volunteer.  Selfish, self-centered, greedy, exploitative, manipulative people who try to use their feigned kindnesses for personal gain or their own entertainment at watching the chaos they create in the wake of their lies and manipulations do not even understand the meaning of giving or volunteering. 

The definition of a gift is: "something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation".  Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gift  The definition of a volunteer is: "a person who voluntarily undertakes or expresses a willingness to undertake a service".  Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/volunteer.  So, a gift is something given freely without compensation and a volunteer is someone who freely and willingly provides a service to their family, community, country, organization or cause.  When someone expects a return or repayment for their gift, it is not a gift.  When someone expects to be served by their family, community, organization, or cause, they are not a volunteer, but, a recipient of services.  Cooperative relationships exist and reciprocity is natural and normal in many situations.  But, when one volunteers for an organization or cause or gives a gift, it must be with the understanding that they are undertaking an act of giving and generosity with no expectation of personal gain and any attempts to exploit recipients of their gifts or volunteer time and efforts is unethical and therefore unwelcome.

At HEAL, we welcome truly giving people who are happy to volunteer and work with us to achieve our goals for a better world without institutionalized abuse.  However, if you are looking to volunteer with HEAL with some personal agenda or with ulterior motives, know we will figure it out and we will wish you well but ask that you take your private agenda and unethical practices elsewhere.  Volunteer with HEAL because you support us, our agenda, and campaigns.  If you are looking to sign up for any other reason, please don't.  If you need our help, please ask and we'll do our best.  If organizing on your own, see www.heal-online.org/solidarity.htm for information on requesting our help.  But, don't sign up to be a volunteer if all you really want is attention and support.  It dishonors our mission and distracts from important work we do. 

HEAL appreciates all of our volunteers and supporters.  We look forward to a successful 2017 and hope those who can join in and support our efforts and campaigns, will continue to do so.  If we all put a little more love, thought, and care into our actions, the world will be a better place.  Let it be so!  Have a great holiday season and wonderful 2017!



Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The USA's Biggest Enemies are Ignorance and Fear

The USA's Biggest Enemies are Ignorance and Fear
by Angela Smith, HEAL Coordinator

So, Donald Trump is now the president elect and many activists and allies to HEAL are asking: "What do we do now?"  I wonder if they would be asking this with the same level of fear if Hillary Clinton was the president elect.  I know I would be.

The biggest problem with the US government is the rampant corruption.  We have the ability to reduce and eliminate corruption.  Donald J. Trump suggested introducing term limits for federal legislators.[1]  Progressives also support introducing term limits to help stop the corruption.[2]  Unfortunately, Mitch McConnell has already said there will be no term limits considered by the Senate.[3]  So, on this issue, I would personally side with President Elect Trump's position to impose term limits.  But, just like with most things, Congress will not back the president elect's proposed agenda regardless of what the people and public want them to do. 

So, while we know the two corporatist parties (Democrats and Republicans) are solely interested in personal wealth and power for themselves and other "elites" and do not care about workers, human rights, education, and other public interest issues (i.e. healthcare); we also know that we have to build effective third-parties going forward to challenge the corporatist duopoly.  Volunteer and help build the Green Party, Libertarian Party, and/or any other third party or independent faction organizing to challenge the establishment.  If you truly care about workers, human rights, equality, and other public interest issues, the Green Party is your best bet now and going forward.  Help build that party going forward and consider running for office as a Green candidate.  Learn more and sign up to volunteer here: http://www.jill2016.com/postelection

The biggest problem we face is that people want instant gratification and when they don't get what they want immediately, they give up and go back to business as usual.  HEAL doesn't do that and we don't really respect people who do that.  We know we are making progress because we work hard to make it so daily no matter who is in the White House and no matter what our opposition looks like on any given day.  I've been an activist and organizing locally with various organizations and groups since 1986.  That's right, 30 years of organizing and working and fighting for change.  I've participated in many successes and had my fair share of disappointments as well.  I celebrate the wins and don't allow losses to kill my passion and dedication or mutate me into some defeatist jerk who just tells everyone that making any effort on any issue is a waste of time and resources and that they should just give up.  To those defeatist naysayers who just want everyone to be as hopeless, faithless, and miserable as they are, I'm happy to quote former VP Dick Cheney and say "Go F*ck Yourself".[4]

We have to volunteer, mobilize, educate the public, and show courage while encouraging others to do the same.  We must not give up because people are "too ignorant" and we must not give in because people are "too afraid" to challenge politicians and policies that hurt them.  For survivors of institutional abuse like myself, we've already been raped, abused, tortured, had friends and fellows killed, and have been denied justice and proper redress for our grievances.  If you tell me Trump is going to sick dogs on protesters, I'm going to say how is that any different than what is happening in North Dakota in the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline?  The problem isn't red or blue, the problem is our whole damn corrupt system and we have to organize to challenge it.  We have to get out the vote for third-parties.  We have to run for office and fight to challenge the power while working diligently to push those in power to do their job and act in the best interest of the majority of the people.  We must be vigilant and for those who just don't have the time, resources, or inclination to be vigilant, at least pay attention to and support those of us who are so vigilant like the Green Party and reject any fear-based propaganda and manipulation by the ruling "class".  Vote for what you want, not against what you most fear based on lies and propaganda.  Read and understand political platforms and policy votes.  Take charge of your mind and develop critical thinking skills.  Read more.

Survivors of institutional abuse tend to isolate and believe our injuries are special or different from the women and children being sex trafficked, the worker being exploited, the prisoner being tortured, and the environmental activist being disappeared.  But, we are not special and our injuries are not so different from those experiencing other forms of oppression, persecution, and abuse.  We must unite with all who are being treated inhumanely and unjustly and in so doing build a coalition of the disenfranchised, marginalized, oppressed, and persecuted.  This is how we will win. 

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/10/18/donald-trump-calls-for-congressional-term-limits-to-end-cycle-of-corruption/
[2] http://www.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2010/01/20/a-progressive-case-for-term-limits and http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/2/24/840195/-
[3] https://pjmedia.com/news-and-politics/2016/11/09/mcconnell-trumps-drain-the-swamp-term-limits-vow-going-nowhere-in-the-senate/
[4] http://www.truth-out.org/archive/item/48499:cheney-to-leahy-go-fuck-yourself

Saturday, October 1, 2016

CA SB 524: New "Regulations" of "Troubled Teen" Programs in CA Will Not Stop Institutional Abuse

CA SB 524: New "Regulations" of "Troubled Teen" Programs in CA Will Not Stop Institutional Abuse

by Angela Smith, HEAL Coordinator

There are many problems with SB 524 that Governor Jerry Brown of California just made law.  It is these problems that HEAL raised with individuals working on this legislation during the entire process.  HEAL did not support the bill as written because it provided only lip service to the issues raised by victim's groups and did not effectively address the problem.  It is HEAL's concern that this legislation will have the effect of convincing Californians that this problem has been solved while institutional abuse and fraud are still rampant in the state.

The first huge problem is that parents and institutions can prohibit or agree to prohibit, censor, and monitor a youth's communication without a court order.  Preventing an abused youth from communicating abuse to the authorities or their parents is a serious problem and one of the primary problems our movement has identified in both reporting abuse in a timely fashion and getting justice for victims.  SB 524 states:

[Youths have the right] "To consent to have visitors or telephone calls during reasonable hours, privately and without prior notice, if the visitors or telephone calls do not disrupt planned activities and are not prohibited by court order or by the youth’s parent or legal guardian."  (Source: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billCompareClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160SB524 )

Now, anyone with half a brain who had been working on this issue for years would tell you that this is a significant problem and one of the main issues our movement has called to address for decades.  Now, we have it encoded in to California law that kids can be held in facilities incommunicado without a court order.  That's really bad.

Facilities that are not covered by this legislation include group homes, residential treatment centers, and other facilities approved by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Juvenile Justice, or any Juvenile Hall operated by a county.  Additional facilities not covered by this legislation include health facilities, clinics, any place where a juvenile is judicially placed pursuant to the Welfare and Institutions Code, and Any facility conducted by and for the adherents of any well-recognized church or religious denomination for the purpose of providing facilities for the care or treatment of the sick who depend solely  upon prayer or spiritual means for healing in the practice of the religion of the church or denomination. (Source: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billCompareClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160SB524 )

But, that's not all.  There are more facilities that are not covered by this legislation that include any school or dormitory or similar facility except a private alternative boarding school or private alternative wilderness program as defined in the legislation.  Recovery houses and alcohol and drug treatment facilities are not covered by this legislation.

Here's how the bill defines private alternative boarding schools and wilderness programs:

"“Private alternative boarding school” means a group home licensed by the department to operate a program pursuant to Section 1502.2 to provide youth with 24-hour residential care and supervision, which, in addition to providing educational services to youth, provides, or holds itself out as providing, behavioral-based services to youth with social, emotional, or behavioral issues. The care and supervision provided by a private alternative boarding school shall be nonmedical, except as otherwise permitted by law."


"“Private alternative outdoor program” means a group home licensed by the department to operate a program pursuant to Section 1502.21 to provide youth with 24-hour residential care and supervision, which provides, or holds itself out as providing, behavioral-based services in an outdoor living setting to youth with social, emotional, or behavioral issues. The care and supervision provided by a private alternative outdoor program shall be nonmedical, except as otherwise permitted by law."  (Source: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billCompareClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160SB524 )

Beyond that, the initial language identifying staff of private alternative boarding schools and wilderness programs as mandated reporters has been stricken from the final bill.  That makes it unlikely that staff will report abuse they witness because they do not have the protections against retaliation by their employers afforded to mandated reporters by law in California.

This bill is a lie.  It is a fraud.  It is lip service masquerading as legislation while providing no significant regulations.  In addition, the exemption of faith-based and any and all facilities that do not meet the narrow definition provided for alternative boarding schools and wilderness programs are not covered by the legislation.  It is a hoax to trick victims and the public into believing something significant has been achieved where it has not.

It is similar to the lie California legislators pulled by claiming to pass the bill to outlaw reparative/conversion therapy on LGBT youth.  SB 1172 was celebrated around the country and in California where it was signed into law as a ban on conversion/reparative therapy also known as "pray away the gay".  But, did you know that law only applies to licensed mental health professionals and not churches nor faith-based services that are the primary culprits when it comes to conversion and reparative "therapy" scams?  Yes, LBGT people all hailed SB 1172, but, didn't read the fine print.  This is just like SB 524 now.  People believe a problem has been solved, when in reality lip service was paid to the issue in the form of impotent legislation that tells the public all has been resolved while nothing actually has been resolved.  Here is what SB 1172 says:

"Existing law provides for licensing and regulation of various professions in the healing arts, including physicians and surgeons, psychologists, marriage and family therapists, educational psychologists, clinical social workers, and licensed professional clinical counselors.

This bill would prohibit a mental health provider, as defined, from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts, as defined, with a patient under 18 years of age. The bill would provide that any sexual orientation change efforts attempted on a patient under 18 years of age by a mental health provider shall be considered unprofessional conduct and shall subject the provider to discipline by the provider’s licensing entity."  (Source: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billVersionsCompareClient.xhtml?bill_id=201120120SB1172 )

So, while all facilities that do not fall under the specific definition of covered programs in SB 524 or are otherwise exempt continue to abuse kids with no worries, the few that actually meet the specified criteria don't have to worry because kids will be held incommunicado and staff will be scared to blow the whistle in fear of retaliation from their employers because they were not defined as mandated reporters in this legislation. (Source: http://www.maineemploymentlawyerblog.com/2014/09/u-s-district-court-holds-company-may-lawfully-retaliate-employees-report-abuse-clients-dhhs.html)

This is what happens when you let fame, fortune, and notoriety override common sense and good judgment in advocacy and activism.  SB 524 is garbage and those selling it to us do not deserve our support nor our votes.
Author's Note: I would personally suggest all survivors of programs that are approved and paid for through social services, IEPs, and other state-sponsored placements (including foster care) write anyone and everyone who is saying this legislation solves the problem about how in your circumstance, not a damn thing would have changed even if this had been law during your enrollment.