Protecting Youth From Institutional Abuse Act is sent to Governor Brown
The California legislature has sent to Governor Jerry Brown a landmark bill to regulate the industry of residential programs that claim to help “troubled” youth, including those who are simply lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Only a few states regulate the “troubled teen” industry; Senate Bill 524 would be the most comprehensive of its kind, with no exemption for religious-based businesses.
Co-sponsored by the Los Angeles LGBT Center and Survivors of Institutional Abuse (SIA), SB 524—also known as the Protecting Youth from Institutional Abuse Act—would finally regulate an industry that’s notorious for abusing young people and for harming LGBT youth while trying to change their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“We’re so close to finally regulating an industry rife with institutions that masquerade as residential schools, camps, and wilderness programs to help troubled youth, but frequently abuse and even kill the kids they claim to ‘treat’,” said the Center’s Director of Policy & Community Building Dave Garcia. “For all youth, and particularly for the well-being of LGBT youth whose parents are frequently conned into sending their kids to these programs simply because they’re LGBT, we implore Governor Brown to quickly sign the Protecting Youth from Institutional Abuse Act.”
Senator Ricardo Lara joined the Center and SIA to announce the introduction of the act at a news conference hosted by the Center and SIA in March 2015, which is also when the two organizations announced the launch of their campaign to regulate the troubled teen industry in California and throughout the country.
“Under the veil of religious exemption, some facilities in California and abroad claim to help 'cure' LGBT kids through residential schools, camps, or wilderness programs,” said Senator Lara. “We know some of these camps are detrimental to the physical and mental health of our youth. SB 524 will set in place much needed reforms because without oversight, it is impossible to protect these kids."
We’re so close to finally regulating an industry rife with institutions that masquerade as residential schools, camps, and wilderness programs to help troubled youth, but frequently abuse and even kill the kids they claim to ‘treat’.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that in just one year (2005), 1,619 program employees—in 33 states—were involved in incidents of abuse. SIA reports the deaths of more than 300 people who are linked to these programs. Federal legislation is essential because it is common for programs forced to close in one state to reopen in another, often under a different name.
“This will be the single most significant and comprehensive piece of statewide legislation to protect youth from the abuses of the troubled teen industry,” said Jodi Hobbs, president of SIA, “but it’s not enough. Until we finally pass federal legislation to regulate this rogue industry in every state, the lives and well-being of youth remain at risk. Too many kids have died in these programs or have killed themselves later because of what they experienced. Those who survive often suffer life-long trauma. Governor Brown can stop this abuse in California. Then we need Congress to stop it across the country.”
In July 2015, U.S. Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA, 28th District) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL, 27th District) joined the Center, SIA, and Mental Health America at a Capitol Hill news conference to announce the introduction of HR 3060, the Stop Child Abuse in Residential Treatment Programs for Teens Act.
Learn more about the Protect Youth from Institutional Abuse campaign at PYIA.org and sign the online petitions to urge Governor Brown to sign SB 524 and for members of congress to pass HR 3060. The site also lists the growing number of organizations that have signed on as campaign supporters.