Have you been keeping up with the Miller Bill? Did you know that as of May 15 HR 5876 otherwise known as the Miller Bill has successfully emerged from mark-up and approval by the House Education and Labor Committee. In case you have not been following this is not good news.

The National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs has been working hard to keep everyone in the industry apprised of the developments of the Miller Bill and work to bring about a better legislative resolution to take to Congress. The following summary of NATSAP's position on the Miller Bill is for your review:

While NATSAP strongly supports the intent of this Bill – to prevent child abuse and neglect in residential programs – NATSAP believes the Bill is flawed and will not be effective or efficient in fulfilling this intent. The Bill is flawed because it fails to protect children in state-run programs and because it creates an entirely new federal bureaucracy that will duplicate current state-led child abuse and neglect enforcement programs and state licensing programs. The Bill sponsors litigation against programs because it has no limits on attorney’s fees and punitive damage awards, and creates strict liability for standards that have not yet been drafted.

In addition to their summation NATSAP has made a call to action throughout the industry and needs the help of everyone.

NATSAP is asking everyone to please contact their Congressman immediately regarding your concerns on HR 5876, the Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act of 2008. Don't wait do it now.

Ask your representative to add language supporting the application of this Bill to all programs, including state operated ones. Ask your representative to maintain state responsibility for licensing and enforcement. Any federal law should be limited to supporting, not duplicating, these existing state enforcement and licensing programs. Ask your representative to strike sections of the Bill allowing new access to federal courts and unlimited attorney’s fees and punitive damage awards.You can contact your Representative or call their staff in Washington, D.C., using the Capital Hill switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Or go to https://forms.house.gov/wyr/welcome.shtml to find contact information for your Representative.

Jan Moss Courtney, Executive Director of NATSAP has requested that the following letter be shared with you:

May 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.

TALKING POINTS

  • 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!

PLEASE PUT IN MULTIPLE CALLS TO YOUR REPRESENTATIVES!
You can call many times, even daily and they will log all of your calls.

CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE OR THEIR STAFF
Use the Capitol Hill switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or go to https://forms.house.gov/wyr/welcome.shtmlto find contact information for your representative in the House.  

FOLLOW UP BY WRITING A LETTER
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 Repre
sentative 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!

Sincerely,

Donelyn Gamble
Alumni Parent