The following is a letter from NATSAP to Shay Bilchik, President
and CEO, Child Welfare League of America, 440 First Street NW,
Washington, DC 20001.
Dear Mr. Bilchik,
The National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs
and our members are concerned about your letter of August 11,
2005 to the Members of Congress regarding therapeutic boarding
schools. While we appreciate the intent of your letter, we are
concerned of the impact it may have on those programs and schools
who are doing excellent work.
Your letter to the editor of the Boston Globe on “brat camps”
states your call to action does not question “the safety or therapeutic
effectiveness of hundreds of topnotch programs that abide by state
licensing and accreditation standards guiding residential and
therapeutic services for children.”
Both letters place emphasis on the recent “Brat Camp” television
show and the influence it may have on parents placing their child
in an unlicensed residential program and camp. We appreciate this
concern, but feel an important piece of information was overlooked
following that statement. We believe it would have been important
to note that the program featured on “Brat Camp” is licensed by
the State of Oregon Department of Health and Human Services to
operate a wilderness therapy program. This license regulates health,
safety and operation at the program and is reviewed by mental
health professionals as well as officials from that state.
The majority of the programs that serve young people are regulated
and overseen by a licensing or accrediting agency, and all one
hundred and fifty programs that are members of NATSAP ascribe
to codes of ethics and practice standards that place the utmost
importance on quality treatment and child welfare. Your focus
on the small minority of programs that are not overseen is harmful,
not only to the regulated programs, but to the parents seeking
a real solution for a child that needs help beyond that which
they can provide.
Troubled children and families have profound and meaningful issues
and the children frequently engage in very risky behaviors. They
need the longer term residential services offered by our member
programs. These troubled adolescents are not being whimsically
placed in programs by irresponsible parents, but rather are being
placed in our programs because the solutions offered by public
education and managed psychiatric care are grossly inadequate
Recent articles have appeared stating that the private residential
care of adolescents has become a multi-billion dollar industry.
We do not have the financial facts to substantiate these statements,
but even if it is true, this emphasis detracts from the real need
for providing social services and education to reduce the necessity
to send a child to one of our member’s program.
Since we were founded in 1999, our primary focus has been to
establish Ethical Principles and Principles of Good Practice that
we expect our members to follow. We continue to add to and review
these principles and recently ratified principles of good practice
for therapeutic boarding schools that focuses on standards of
academics. We are continuing to expand on the standards for academics
as they apply to residential treatment centers, outdoor therapeutic
programs, etc. Also ratified were the Behavioral Support Management
Guidelines for Therapeutic Schools, Therapeutic Programs and Outdoor
Behavioral Health Programs. These standards can be reviewed on
where they are listed. While we have not reviewed the Child Welfare
League’s Standards of Excellence for Residential Services in detail,
we believe you will find the majority of your standards embedded
in our standards.
We also inform our members as new guidelines are developed by
other organizations and recently advised our members of the American
Psychiatric Association (APA), American Psychiatric Nurses Association
(APNA), National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems (NAPHS),
and the American Hospital Association (AHA) Section for Psychiatric
and Substance Abuse Services publication on Success Stories and
Ideas for Reducing Restraint/Seclusion.
Our members are licensed or accredited either by a state licensing
board or by a national or regional accreditation agency. The national
accrediting agencies include the Joint Commission on Accreditation
of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), the Commission on Accreditation
of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), and the Council on Accreditation
The staff consists of psychiatrists and licensed psychologists,
social workers, marriage and family therapists, clinical social
workers, etc. most of whom hold either a doctorate or masters
in their field.
As you can see there has been, and will continue to be, a commitment
to strengthen the integrity, ethics and principles in this industry.
We are not “boot camps”, but a group of educated, committed and
caring individuals that are dedicated to providing a safe environment
for young people to heal and to prepare them for leading happy,
healthy and productive lives.