H.R. 911: Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act of 2009

H.R. 911

Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act of 2009

Sponsor
Rep. George Miller

Date
February 23, 2009 (111th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Sarah Makin

Floor Situation

H.R. 911 is being considered on the floor under suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage. This legislation was introduced by Representative George Miller (D-CA) on February 9, 2009.

Note: H.R. 5876, "Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act of 2008", was considered on the floor on June 24, 2008, but was pulled by the Majority prior to a vote on the motion to recommit, which would have required parental notification before any prescription drugs, including contraception, were expensed to a child in a covered program.  On June 25, 2008, a newer version of the bill, H.R. 6358, passed under suspension of the rules by a vote of 318-103 but did NOT incorporate the language of the motion to recommit.  H.R. 911 is identical to the House passed H.R. 6358, and still does not contain the parental notification language.

Bill Summary

H.R. 911 directs the Assistant Secretary for Children and Families of the Department of Health and Human Service to require each location of a covered program to meet minimum standards, within 180 days of enactment the Act. 

Note: Under this provision, "covered program" refers to residential programs for children with emotional, behavioral, substance abuse or mental health problems. 

These minimum standards include:

  • The prohibition of child abuse and neglect;
  • The prohibition of disciplinary techniques involving the withholding of food, water, clothing, shelter or necessary medical care;
  • The protection of children from physical restraints and seclusion;
  • The prohibition of abuse designed to humiliate or degrade a child;
  • Reasonable access to outside communications;
  • Each staff member, including volunteers, is required to become familiar with what constitutes child abuse and neglect according to State law;
  • Full disclosure, in writing, of staff qualifications and their roles and responsibilities;
  • Each staff member must submit to a criminal history check, including a name-based search of the National Sex Offender Registry;
  • Policies and procedures for the provision of emergency medical care; and
  • Procedures for notifying parents or legal guardians of any investigation of child abuse and neglect, or violation of health and safety standards.

H.R. 911 directs the Assistant Secretary to implement, within 180 days of enactment, an on-going review process for investigating reports of child abuse and neglect at covered programs.  The bill does not include a provision from previous versions which would have required that every two years residential programs be inspected for compliance with the regulations of this Act.

H.R. 911 requires the Assistant Secretary to create regulations establishing civil penalties for violations of the minimum standards in the Act.  Penalties for the owner or operator of a covered program may not exceed $50,000.

The bill also requires the establishment of a national toll-free telephone hotline to receive complaints of child abuse and neglect at covered programs, and requires the Assistant Secretary to establish a process to ensure that complaints received by the hotline are promptly reviewed by persons with appropriate expertise.  H.R. 911 requires the establishment of a publicly accessible website that provides information regarding covered program compliance with state child abuse licensing requirements.

H.R. 911 requires the Assistant Secretary to refer any violation of the minimum standards to the Attorney General for appropriate action.  The Attorney General is authorized to file such a complaint on his or her own initiative, regardless of whether such a referral has been made. 

H.R. 911 requires an annual report to Congress on the activities carried out under this Act, including a summary of review findings and State progress in meeting the requirements of the Act. 

H.R. 911 amends the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (P.L. 93-247) to establish additional eligibility requirements for grants to states to prevent child abuse and neglect at residential programs.  States are required to develop policies and procedures to prevent child abuse and neglect at covered programs consistent with the standards specified in H.R. 6358.  In addition, states must develop policies and procedures to report to the appropriate protection and advocacy system any case of the death of an individual under the supervision of a covered program not later than 48 hours after the State is informed of such death.

The bill also amends the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (P.L. 93-247) to authorize $235 million per year for fiscal years 2010-2014 for the state grants.  Current law authorizes such sums as are necessary for this purpose.

H.R. 911 authorizes the appropriation of $15 million for each of the fiscal years 2010-2014 for the purposes of the Act, excluding the above sums for the state grants.

Background

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (P.L. 93-247), or CAPTA, was codified in 1974.  CAPTA provides federal funding to states in support of prevention, assessment, investigation, prosecution, and treatment activities related to child abuse and neglect.  The law also provides grants to public agencies and nonprofit organizations for demonstration programs and projects.

Since the 1990s, hundreds of residential treatment programs for troubled children have been established by U.S. entities.  These programs include, among others, those which provide a wilderness or outdoor experience, as well as boot-camps that simulate military training.  It is estimated that thousands of American children are enrolled in such juvenile programs, although an exact number is yet unknown. 

There are reports of child fatalities and cases of child abuse and neglect at residential programs.  In 2005, the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System found that 34 states reported 1,503 incidents of youth maltreatment by residential program staff.

Cost

There is no Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score available for this bill, but CBO estimated that last year's bill would cost $805 million over a five year period.