Every year thousands of young people are sent against their will to facilities designed to control their behavior. This network of private residential programs is known collectively as the “Troubled Teen” Industry and are marketed to parents who feel like they need to change their child’s behavior. These services claim to fix anything the parent thinks is a problem; being disrespectful, staying out late, drug use, entitlement, or playing too many video games can all fall under this category. The method of diagnosis is often a brief online questionnaire that is almost guaranteed to yield some kind of disorder. If the parents decide to heed the program’s advice, their children are trapped in highly unregulated and often secluded camps with no means of defense or outside contact.

NYRA has been fighting the Troubled Teen Industry for over a decade, but the problem has gotten even worse during COVID-19. Many of these facilities are refusing to shut down despite orders from a majority of the United States’ Government and Health Advisory Boards to close all non essential businesses.

The COVID-19 virus thrives in environments of crowded living spaces, engaging in group congregations, and refusing adequate access to maintain hygiene. Youth who are placed in these facilities are already at risk for trauma, injury or death because of the lack of state and federal oversight. With the active COVID-19 threat, this has now escalated to an extremely dangerous environment for the youth detained in these facilities.

With the increased threat to youth from the Troubled Teen Industry, the fight to end residential abuse has been revitalized. NYRA has collaborated with a coalition of advocacy groups to write this letter calling on Congress to shut down all private youth programs immediately. So far it has been cosigned by over 30 other organizations including NYRA’s former project the Community Alliance for the Ethical Treatment of Youth.

If you want to help us free the youth held in these programs you can download the letter and email it to your Representative and Senators. Check out our Working with Elected Officials page for more tips on getting in touch.

And if you’re part of an organization that would like to join the effort, you can fill out this form to sign onto the letter! Here are some of the organizations that have signed on so far:

We’re excited that this movement is gaining momentum again!