Off The Record: On Religion, Politics & Equality
First, the letter I delivered to Senator Sherrod Brown’s office last week:
July 11, 2010The Honorable Sherrod Brown United States Senate 713 Hart Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510
RE: Hearing request – H.R. 911 (Stop Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens act 2009) in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee
Dear Senator Brown:
My name is Andy Kopsa and I am a freelance writer. I came across H.R. 911 when researching a story about abuse at “Christian” boarding schools.
After my story was published, I was flooded with emails from survivors of these schools, many people now in their 40’s and 50’s living with the physical and emotional scars of their abusive experience. They were beaten, isolated, restrained and punished repeatedly all in the name of God. Local and federal officials did nothing.
I am bringing you today an open petition to urge the Senate HELP committee to schedule a hearing on H.R. 911. I also bring a letter from one of the survivors of the notoriously abusive New Bethany Home who is also one of your constituents, Ms. Cathy Givens of Akron. The petition is also signed by a handful of your fellow Ohioans.
Please review the attached letters, petition and article about the continuing abuses happening today to teens around our country. Many homes are still open, notably Hephzibah House in Indiana and Reclamation Ranch in Alabama.
Senator Burr, who is also on the HELP committee has shut down his constituent and survivor Teresa Frye, saying it isn’t a federal issue – see attached letter from Senator Burr. Please don’t shut us down. Help us get a hearing scheduled or help us understand why you can’t.Respectfully, Ms. Andy Kopsa
And a response:
Dear Ms. Kopsa:
Thank you for getting in touch with me about the Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act.
Many private residential programs for children, such as wilderness camps, boot camps, behavioral therapy facilities, and therapeutic boarding schools, are unregulated at the state level. As a result, physical, psychological, and sexual abuse of children at these facilities may occur unchecked. During the time period of 1994 to 2007, the Government Accountability Office has documented thousands of reports of child abuse and other alarming allegations at some of these private facilities.
This legislation was introduced in an effort to keep young people safe by creating national standards for these private residential programs. The legislation would also prevent false and deceptive advertising for these programs, establish monitoring guidelines for the facilities, and levy stiff penalties against residential programs that violate child abuse laws. Finally, the legislation would provide states with an opportunity to step in and monitor their own residential programs as long as their standards are at least as strong as the new national standards.
However, some Ohioans have expressed concern that the “tough love” programs that many of these facilities provide, and which parents have consented to, may be construed as “abuse” under the new guidelines. Some have also stated that these guidelines may supplant the role of parents in determining what behavioral treatment is best for their children.
This bill was introduced in the House of Representatives; however, it has not been introduced the Senate. Should the Senate examine this issue in the 111th Congress, I will carefully consider your views. Thank you again for contacting me.
United States Senator