Friday, December 30, 2011

Recommended Resolutions for "Teen Help" Industry

By The HEAL Team

The following list of resolutions are the changes residential treatment, "specialty/therapeutic"schools, wilderness programs, boot camps, and similar facilities should adopt now and continue to heed in the future. While HEAL believes that our society requires a lot of changes to ensure the health of individuals, families, and communities; we don't believe that such changes are impossible or unlikely. And, we do not agree that the "teen help" industry is a "necessary evil" due to our overall failures to cultivate our society properly. We are all responsible for ourselves, our families, and our communities. The solution is local and family involvement and commitment. Anything less, is far less than our children deserve. That said, we recommend the following resolutions for the "Teen Help" Industry:

1. We will no longer accept children nor teens on an involuntary basis, with the exception of adjudicated (court-ordered) youth.

2. All children shall have daily access to the telephone from first day of enrollment. And, we resolve to not monitor nor participate in calls unless it is a scheduled "therapeutic" call. We resolve to post the numbers for Child Protective Services, Law Enforcement, and Regulatory/Licensing Agencies next to all phones provided to enrolled children/teens.

3. We will no longer read, monitor, nor censor letters from nor to clients.

4. We will obtain all appropriate licensing and accreditation for all services we claim to offer.

5. All staff, including staff without regular access to enrolled clients, shall pass an extensive background check and have no history of violence nor sexual assault, molestation, sexual harassment, nor sexual abuse.

6. We will not violate the constitutional rights of free speech, free expression, freedom of religion, nor privacy of children and teens enrolled in our program. We will not use children and teens' pictures for self-promotion without the express and volitional (without coercion or duress) agreement of the youth upon reaching age of majority to use their photos.

7. We will amend our contracts to ensure there are no illegal nor unconscionable terms. We will remove any statement absolving our program and program staff of liability in instances of tortious or criminal conduct, be it negligent or intentional.

8. We resolve to only accept children whose families live within 100 miles of our program. And, we will require immediate family (i.e. parents) to participate in weekly visitation and/or therapy sessions beginning the first week of enrollment.

9. We will no longer accept children who are transported to our program using an escort/transport service. Families will need to bring their children to the program to show a commitment to honesty and voluntary participation for all involved.

10. We will post the laws of our State regarding a minor's rights to unenroll from our program and provide all minors access to the telephone to contact home or social services to express their desire to leave at any time.

11. We resolve to not use a level-system of "privileges" and "consequences" that deny contact with the outside world nor require children to "earn" necessities such as soap, laundry, shower-time, healthy/nutritious food, rest, or personal/free-time.

12. We resolve to serve the children and teens in our program and to not coerce, force, or use children and teens for uncompensated labor for ourselves or neighboring businesses. We resolve to not place any child or teen enrolled in charge of any other child(ren) or teen(s) enrolled.

13. We shall not perform strip-searches of children nor teens.

14. We shall not permit staff nor other enrolled children/teens to sedate, physically abuse/restrain, nor verbally abuse any child enrolled. If an enrolled child is "out of control" we will contact law enforcement and/or an ambulance to have the child/teen taken to a licensed psychiatric or medical hospital for immediate care.

15. We resolve to adopt the following standards regarding the use of physical restraint. Physical restraint must only be used when actual, imminent severe physical harm to self or others is apparent. This is not something that should be twisted or relaxed to allow for the misuse of restraint by programs for their convenience and/or to intimidate, harass, or otherwise control children who are not a legitimate physical threat to self or others. By "severe physical harm" we mean the child to be restrained must have already punched, kicked, pushed or physically attempted to harm self or others and that the violence is so escalated that no verbal de-escalation techniques would or could work. This means someone who is literally out of control with rage. And, the program should not be operating in a manner that is likely to induce such a rage.

16. We resolve to adopt appropriate social-psychological practices and to look to leaders such as Dr. Peter Breggin when uncertain of the most ethical approach in a therapeutic situation.

17. We resolve to never deny a child/teen contact with the outside world, their families, nor basic necessities.

18. We resolve to adopt the following standards in regards to respecting children and teens enrolled in our programs: Children shall be listened to and have their needs and concerns addressed respectfully. Family disfunctions that the child reveals in therapy shall be considered valid and family members who have been neglectful, abusive, or otherwise remisce in duty shall be made aware of their own issues and the program shall require parents and other family members to get counseling to address their own short-comings and needs for improvement. In the event families refuse to get such counseling, the child should be dismissed from the program due to non-compliance of the family members with requirements of the program.

19. We resolve to adopt the following therapeutic standards: Therapy should consist of developing appropriate communication skills for all family members. And, all family members should be counseled to respect and validate each other's concerns and needs without defensiveness or judgment. Children should not be scapegoated by their families and the programs must adhere to a strict policy of respecting the children as individuals and requiring families to work on better communication and addressing the needs of all family members with the greater responsibility being that of the parents. Parents are adults and have legal duties to provide for their children.

20. We resolve to not operate our program like a "cult". We will adopt the following standards to this end: Large Group Awareness Training or other "cult-tactics" shall not be employed. Group therapy must be optional and not forced upon any individual. And, programs should not attempt to indoctrinate children into any particular faith or belief-system, but, be set up to provide a safe environment to learn healthy communication skills, heal from trauma, and learn critical thinking skills that encourage questioning authority, self-reliance, and independence.

21. We resolve to release children and teens as soon as possible to ensure our clients are not removed from society nor their communities for an extended length of time.

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