NATSAP Conference…

Today was our big moment representing CAFETY on stage with the likes of NATSAP, AACRC, NAPHS, CWLA, NATWC and NARA. It was a quick 15 minute presentation talking about ourselves as an organization, our mission, and what goals we are working on.

I spoke first and touched on how CAFETY got started back in 2006 when the input of survivors became an asset for another organization and morphed into a need for our own organization. CAFETY stands for the “Community Alliance For Ethical Treatment of Youth” and our aim is to create substantive cultural, policy and legislative change by advocating for youth protection, increasing awareness of problem programs, states that house them, and ensuring accountability and transparency of all residential treatment programs.

We incorporated in 2008 soon after giving Testimony before Congress about abuses experienced within the industry of residential treatment programs.

Next point was that we are finding through survey of our members that abuses are absolutely still taking place, also through press releases we see that kids are still in fact dying at these programs as well.

The call to action was to enact a transparent conflict reporting system so that children, families and staff had the opportunity to report on abuses or the breaking of ethical standards so that programs can be held accountable. Chris Noroski took over this topic making some brilliant points about how without these standards, any of the programs that do not follow the ethical standards bring into question the ethical standing of any of them. The importance of establishing a level of service and ethical standards will help the whole entire industry once they are true and enforced.

Kat Whitehead spoke about the need for some official definition of words used to describe these programs such as:

    Behavior Modification Programs
    Therapeutic Boarding Schools
    Psychiatric Hospitals
    Residential Treatment Centers
    Drug Rehabilitation Centers
    Boot Camps
    Religious Residential Programs
    Wilderness Camps

…so that families who are seeking this sort of option to help their troubled teen they are able to do so with the knowledge of what the words really mean, and ideally with some sort of license or stamp of approval that really means it is up to some code of ethical standards. There were multiple parents that stood up and validated this concern.

We are hearing from our members that there is still terrible things happening around the trauma of being escorted (threat of force, youth with diagnosed mental health issues being accepted into programs not qualified to treat that level of patient, restricted parental contact, no access to CPS or advocacy hotlines, no individualized plans only cookie cutter ‘therapy’ that doesn’t meet needs of youth, unqualified staff running said therapy groups, as well as restrictive environment without community access and inappropriate use of isolation and restraint. Also the symptoms of PTSD so common in survivors of residential treatment centers that too many of us are familar with.

So we made our case, and there were a few parents in the audience who thanked us for raising awareness. There were also of course some political actions of smiles in our face and whispers when they thought we couldn’t hear communicating clear discomfort at our presence. So goes these things though, we are in it to protect the youth and to find ways to ensure they are treated as humans, and properly respected so as to help them become responsible adults that will be just fine sooner rather than later.

Talks of a round table discussion with these organizations and more taking place later this year have started.

I’m happy to say though that we all did get to say our piece and these candid presentations are a step towards achieving the ultimate goal which is to help, not hurt, these kids who are already dealing with so much pain.

I hope that we will be in a world someday where the community around a troubled teen will be able to take the wraparound approach to handle the issue closer to home, treating the cause and not just the result of a situation taking place.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear use of “Youth Centered” treatment and changes being made to better meet the needs of youth in the programs. I do believe that everyone has the best intentions in mind.

It was my first time at one of these conferences and it was very interesting, I’d like to attend more of the other sessions next time and also make sure I have time to swim in the awesome pool if it is here again. Getting involved in Toastmasters to polish off my presentation skills would be a help too!!

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