Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Message to Parents: Keep your children close, do your homework

Dear Parents :

There is a silently emerging multi-billion dollar a year industry that most people do not know exists. It is the parent-choice, private-pay Troubled-Teen industry. Tens of thousands of parents each year are placing their children and teens into residential programs across the US and around the world without realizing what they are getting themselves, and most importantly, their child or teen, into.

CAICA has received complaints from parents that their children have been abused in many of these programs. Some have even had difficulties removing their own child or teen from a facility, often because of custody issues (please see below).

This is a buyer beware market. There are no Federal laws in place to protect children who are placed into such programs. There is no governmental oversight.

CAICA recommends the following:

If your child, teen, or family are not in imminent danger CAICA recommends parents Stop - Take a Breath - Reassess - and Do Your Research.

CAICA strongly recommends doing everything possible before considering sending a child or teen away. Many parents have indicated if they knew then what they know now they would never have sent their child or teen away. There are options, it is important parents are aware of what those are.

Parent and teen coaching is becoming popular. It is less costly and has proven beneficial in helping to work through family issues that seemed insurmountable. Coaching often can have very immediate results and has worked to help keep many families together who otherwise might have been torn apart. There is a major cost benefit as well. Sending a child away is extremely costly.

Wrap-around services, too, are becoming increasingly popular and provide a service to keep children and teens home whenever possible. CAICA suggests you research to see if one exists in your local area or state.

CAICA recommends seeking local help whenever possible. Also, reach out to friends and family for advise and help. Parenting is a tough job and there is no shame in reaching out to those you love and trust for help. As a friend once said, "It takes a village to raise a child."

For parents who have no other choice but to place their child in a program:

CAICA and the US Department of State warns against parents sending children and teens to programs outside the country. American laws will not protect your child if he or she is in another country.

CAICA warns against parents hiring teen transports for the sake of transporting children to facilities they themselves have not visited and fully investigated.

CAICA warns against hiring transport companies who pick children up in the middle of the night, taking them from their beds without pre-warning from parents and without their consent. The effects on a child or teen can be traumatic and last a lifetime. Because there are no Federal Guidelines and the laws that are in place to protect children have often not applied to this industry, and because we have seen the many accounts of abuse, neglect, an deaths in these facilities, CAICA cautions parents to explore all viable options prior to placing their child or teen into such a program, and if their child is in a program, we recommend you look at the Warning Signs and questions to Ask. If your gut tells you something may be wrong, listen. Parents have regretted waiting until it was too late.

It is often anger and frustration that drives parents to look for a program for their child. There are people who stand to make a lot of money preying on their desperation. In one case, hundreds of websites lead some parents to the same umbrella of programs that are part of a 133-plaintiff lawsuit filed in August 2006. The Complaint speaks for itself.

It is important to remember that the troubled child/teen industry, including transport companies for children and teens, is virtually unregulated, there are no Federal laws to protect the children. There is no entity looking out for the safety and well-being of the children that is not financially tied to this industry.

Parents' responsibility:

It is the parent's responsibility to explore all viable options before deciding to place a child in a facility away from home for what often has been normal teen behavior that could be worked through with the help of a good therapist or coach.

It is also a parent's responsibility to listen to their gut and to listen to their child - they are not always lying, like the program would like you to believe. They are not always manipulating. Sometimes there really is something very wrong and your child or teen, in many instances, has no way to communicate that to you or anyone else who can help them.

Removing a child from a program: Custody issues:

If you are a parent who is trying to remove a child from a program and are having difficulties because of custody issues, CAICA recommends you hire a family law attorney to assist you. We recommend you ask your attorney if your parental rights have changed based on the program Contract you have signed. It has been our experience that your rights do not change, but this is a question for your lawyer. We recommend providing this website to your attorney for research purposes. Lawyers can reach CAICA's research team via e-mail at research@caica.org.

Please note:

CAICA is not a referral service and does not refer children and teens to programs.

CAICA provides resources to parents that can be found on our Links page.

CAICA does not refer families to transport companies for the sake of transporting a child or teen to a facility.


CAICA Editorial Board