Wednesday, October 10, 2007

GAO reports on private boot camps

Eun Kyung Kim
News Journal Washington bureau

WASHINGTON - The types of abuse reported from private boot camps and wilderness programs for troubled teens would send parents in private households to jail, yet very rarely has anyone in such treatment centers served prison time for similar actions, House lawmakers were told Wednesday.

Untrained staff and reckless management at such camps have led to thousands of allegations of abuse, some of which resulted in death, said Greg Kutz, who headed a congressional investigation into the centers for the Government Accountability Office.

The GAO logged 1,619 incidents of abuse in 2005 alone.

For its report to Congress, it investigated 10 closed cases where teens died after enrolling in one of the programs.

The Martin Lee Anderson case currently under the microscope in Florida was not one of the cases because the GAO focused its probe into private facilities.

You might assume I was talking about human rights violations in third world countries. Kutz told members of the House Education and Labor Committee after describing some of the alleged abuses his investigators found.

Only one of the 10 cases studied resulted in anyone being found criminally liable and sentenced to serve prison time. In all other cases, camp managers and staff members served community service or were released without penalty.

If those of us who are mandated reporters of suspected child abuse were to learn of this type of treatment occurring in a family?s home, we would be required to file a suspected child abuse report so that the concerns could be investigated,? said Allison Pinto, a child psychologist and an assistant professor at the University of South Florida.

We must consider the reports of mistreatment and abuse occurring in residential facility just as seriously.

On the Web GAO report on residential treatment programs

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