Residential treatment facilities (RTF) for children and teens is a billion-dollar industry. Programs that go by names like therapeutic residential treatment, therapeutic boarding schools, teen wilderness programs, juvenile boot camp programs or other similar monikers have a troubling problem with physical assaults – both from staff and from other residents. When these incidents of violence continue unchecked, the facility should be responsible for harm caused to your child.
The Salt Lake Tribune published an expose of what it calls “Utah’s troubled teen industry” last August, analyzing the 64 RTFs in the state, as well as the alarming number of reported physical and sexual assaults. They found that, for just one facility, police were called 29 times over a four-year period to investigate sex crimes (more than four times the average at youth RTFs in Utah), and 26 calls for violent crimes.
Marcia Lowry, executive director of A Better Childhood, puts the blame toward undertrained staff at residential treatment facilities who don’t know how to properly deal with kids with behavioral issues. “It’s a really dangerous place to put kids,” she said, “particularly dangerous when you have kids who already have problems. In the absence of good programming, the kids explode.”
When staff physically abuses children
Under no circumstances should RTF staff ever harm your child. Often, if a staff member loses their temper and physically strikes or assaults a child in their care, they may try to defend themselves by claiming they were attempting to restrain them because the child was a danger to themselves or others. These types of excuses are just that – excuses to cover up the truth.
Even when a resident requires physical restraint, it is an extreme and last-chance measure and should only be employed by a trained professional, as well as noted in your child’s records. You should not find out by noticing bruises or injuries on your child – if you discover it in this manner, chances are your child was not properly restrained, but was injured due to someone’s improper aggression.
Signs of physical abuse
Because many of these types of residential treatment facilities can be miles, or even many states, away from home, it can be impossible to see and monitor your child every day. However, there are a few red flags to stay aware of regarding abuse:
- Attempts to run away from the facility
- Calls between you and your child are monitored
- Changes in your child’s behavior, like anger, hostility, or depression
- Injuries that don’t match the given explanation
- The facility doesn’t allow you or other family members to visit
- The facility encourages you not to believe allegations of abuse
- The RTF fails to immediately contact you when your child is injured or sick
- Unexplained injuries, like bruises, cuts, or fractured bones
- Unusual health complaints, like sudden headaches or stomachaches
As attorneys, we want to know why abuse is so rampant at these facilities. Some of the major causes of physical abuse, sexual assault, and neglect at residential treatment facilities include negligent hiring, training, and supervision of staff. These facilities and their governing boards must be held responsible for the actions of their staff, and when abusive behavior goes unchecked, it is crucial someone steps in and brings them to justice.
If you suspect your child has suffered abuse at a residential treatment facility, remember these four action items:
- Report it
- Document it
- Remove your child
- Seek medical treatment
Then, talk to the child abuse and neglect attorneys at McGowan, Hood & Felder, LLC for aggressive representation. We will follow up and follow through on your concerns. To schedule a free consultation with one of our South Carolina injury attorneys, call 803-327-7800, or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact page.
Randy is the former President of the South Carolina Association for Justice. He has been certified by the American Board of Professional Liability as a specialist in Medical Malpractice Law which is recognized by the South Carolina Bar. Randy has also been awarded the distinction of being a “Super Lawyer” 10 times in the last decade. He has over 25 years of experience helping injured people fight back against corporations, hospitals and wrong-doers.
Read more about S. Randall Hood