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red flags

the following items are known to increase the risk of child abuse at residential treatment programs. thank you to breakingcodesilence.org for this list.

  • The program recommends involuntary admittance

  • The program recommends forceful “transportation” or “escort” services

  • The program is not state-licensed or accredited for at least three components: educational, mental/behavioral health, and residential

  • The program uses a contract with terms that ask the parents to sign over their custodial rights or agree to not report child abuse

  • The program employs mostly uneducated or untrained staff to handle the majority of the day-to-day care of the children

  • The program uses high-pressured sales tactics urging parents to “act now” or else their child will be harmed

  • The program restricts family communication and parental rights

  • The program only allows monitored and/or limited telephone communication with parents

  • The program only allows monitored, limited, and/or censored written communication with parents

  • The program denies the child the ability to contact law enforcement or advocates to report abuses

  • The duration of the internment at the program is ambiguous – creating an indefinite detainment

  • Certain staff at the program receive bonuses or commissions for having a high headcount of children enrolled

  • The program unethically uses restraints (i.e. to punish a child, use without attempting de-escalation, and/or restraining them when they are not an imminent risk of harm to themselves or others)

  • The program uses restraints in a manner to hurt the child in the hopes they will comply (i.e. pressure points)

  • The program uses dangerous and unethical physical, chemical, or mechanical restraint methods such as prone restraints, pepper spray, etc

  • The program allows regular staff to have the discretion to use chemical restraints that are later “rubber-stamped” by a doctor and/or nurse

  • The program punishes the child by restricting social interaction, socially ostracizing them, and/or forced “silence”

  • The program requires children to initially “earn” the right to have normal social interactions (i.e. needing to be at a certain level in the program in order to have basic conversations with their peers)

  • The program requires prolonged isolation from society

  • The program punishes the child with forced labor

  • The program uses fear, shame, humiliation, and/or intimidation as part of their behavioral modification practices

  • The program punishes the child by forcing them to sit or lay in stressf positions

  • The program deprives the child of basic necessities such as food, water, sleep, and/or access to a bathroom

  • The program denies medical care (i.e. refusal to allow children to see a doctor or accusing them of attention seeking)

  • The program punishes the children by denying them access to school

  • The program structure has a peer hierarchy where children are responsible for punishing and restraining other children

  • The program uses isolation/seclusion/solitary confinement rooms

  • The program uses an overstructured routine for the children which allows little-to-no free time

  • The program uses attack therapy or group attack therapy on children

  • The program uses aversion therapy on children

  • The program provides conversion therapy or any “treatment” that claims to change a child’s sexual orientation

  • The program forces sexualized behavior/sexual abuse as part of “treatment”

  • The program sexual shames the child as part of “treatment”

  • The program’s school curriculum is textbook/self-study dependent – a lack of qualified teachers, tutors, and regular class structure

  • The school is nationally accredited, not regionally – regional accreditation is considered the gold standard for schools

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