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Posted: Jun 2, 2008 06:23

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Parent Talking Points On Miller Legislation

Jan Moss Courtney
Executive Director

May 30, 2008

Dear Families, Friends & Alumni of Residential Treatment Programs,

In the last weeks you may have received letters or emails asking you to call and write your Representative regarding HR 5876* which was approved by the House Education Committee and will be going before the House as early as this week. Many of you have already done so, and we want to thank you for your support and endorsement of the programs which have helped to change so many of our lives. These requests have provided guidelines and talking points regarding the potential impact of this legislation on therapeutic programs, but how this Bill could impact parents, families and the treatment we've sought for our children may still be confusing to some of you. Our intent is to provide talking points regarding this Bill and the potential impact on us!

*CLARIFICATION: There has been confusion with HR 5876 because the title of the bill is "Stop Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act of 2008". While we all support stopping child abuse, the title is somewhat deceptive and doesn't necessarily reflect the content of the actual bill. Please see the talking points below which outline parent's concerns with this bill.


  • The Miller hearings provided a biased and distorted picture of what many, many families experience with private residential treatment programs, as Miller refused to include alumni and family witnesses for whom these programs were the catalyst for healing. Basing federal legislation on such distortion has potential to seriously damage and compromise this critical level of care.

  • Many families have children in state-run or government-run programs. This bill does not protect these children. The Government Accountability Office found significant oversight lapses and exemptions from licensing in these programs which include state run correctional facilities such as military and boot camp style programs, foster care, group homes, and publicly run programs where evidence suggests the incidence of abuse and neglect is higher.

  • This Bill gives telephone access to children who have already demonstrated an inability to make healthy, appropriate choices. Allowing this creates great potential to corrupt treatment and allow communication with unsafe contacts.

  • This Bill allows new access to federal courts in the form of unlimited punitive damages and unlimited attorney's fees and costs. While access to courts should be allowed, this drastic increase of liability may cause liability insurance to be either unobtainable or prohibitively expensive, which could effectively eliminate the residential treatment option of care for our children.

  • This Bill provides authority for Health and Human Services to make any new standards they deem appropriate for the general health and safety of our children. Well intentioned, but ill-thought through legislation has already thrown the parent out with the bath water in many laws effecting our ability as parents to make decisions in the best interest of our children. All standards and regulations should be very clearly thought through, spelled out, and our input given significant regard.

  • This Bill creates a massive federal bureaucracy which duplicates and possibly intrudes upon the state. Not only would this be an enormous expense and confusing in regards to primary jurisdiction over specific allegations, but as a parent it could confuse and impact our ability to seek out and implement the help we need for our children.

We support efforts to provide unbiased, informed, responsibly researched, well thought through and constructed legislation to protect children from abuse and neglect in EVERY residential setting. However, as written we oppose HR 5876.

Be a part of our phone campaign!

(You can call many times, even daily and they will log all of your calls)

Use the Capitol Hill switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or go to to find contact information for your representative in the House.

The phone campaign is the first priority, however,
if you can, following up with a letter would be extremely valuable.

You can write your House Representative and/or U.S. Senators expressing your opinion of HR 5876 and sharing your family's positive personal experience with residential programs (wilderness and aftercare).

Thank you for making your voice heard in Washington!

Donelyn Gamble
Alumni Parent

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