The first federal inquiry into boot camps and wilderness programs for troubled teens cataloged 1,619 incidents of abuse in 33 states in 2005, says a congressional Government Accountability Office study reported by USA Today The report also looked at a sample of 10 deaths since 1990 and found untrained staff, inadequate food, or reckless operations were factors. In half of those cases, the teens died of dehydration or heat exhaustion.
There are no federal rules governing residential facilities for children, and some states do not license such programs. The findings will be presented to the House Committee on Education and Labor. Chairman George Miller (D-CA) said, “This nightmare has remained an open secret for years. Congress must act, and it must act swiftly.” He wants to encourage states to enact regulations. Investigators counted “thousands” of abuse allegations against the facilities. Tim Briceland-Betts of the Child Welfare League of America says abuses “typically occur in places that are not regulated. I’m glad to hear that they are working on this.”