Donate

These reports represent hundreds of hours of research by the Unsilenced Investigative Research Team. As you review this report, please consider donating. Your contribution will help us continue our work advocating for survivors and youth. Every donation makes an impact, no matter the size. Thank you for your support!

Donate

Completed by:

The Unsilenced Investigative Research Team

The Troubled Teen Industry in Alabama

Impact Report

2022

Impact Report

2022

Introduction

The ‘troubled teen’ industry is a network of residential programs that claim to provide treatment for the behavioral and developmental needs of youth. The industry’s lack of transparency and accountability has led to widespread abuse of youth, resulting in hospitalizations, prolonged trauma and death.

Today, there are an estimated 120,000 – 200,000 minors in residential programs across the United States. These youth are placed each year by state child welfare agencies, juvenile justice courts, mental health providers, refugee resettlement agencies, school districts’ individualized education programs, and by parents.

Many of these youth have trauma histories, which are only exacerbated by being removed from their communities and institutionalized. Youth with lived experience describe these programs as being carceral, harsh, and abusive.

An estimated $23 billion dollars of public funds annually are used to place youth in residential programs. Daily rates for residential treatment ranges from $250-$800, costing up to $292,000 per year, per child.

It is overwhelmingly clear that our communities and agencies are over-relying on residential placements that are negatively impacting the youth they serve.

Introduction

The ‘troubled teen’ industry is a network of residential programs that claim to provide treatment for the behavioral and developmental needs of youth. The industry’s lack of transparency and accountability has led to widespread abuse of youth, resulting in hospitalizations, prolonged trauma and death.

Today, there are an estimated 120,000 – 200,000 minors in residential programs across the United States. These youth are placed each year by state child welfare agencies, juvenile justice courts, mental health providers, refugee resettlement agencies, school districts’ individualized education programs, and by parents.

Many of these youth have trauma histories, which are only exacerbated by being removed from their communities and institutionalized. Youth with lived experience describe these programs as being carceral, harsh, and abusive.

An estimated $23 billion dollars of public funds annually are used to place youth in residential programs. Daily rates for residential treatment ranges from $250-$800, costing up to $292,000 per year, per child.

It is overwhelmingly clear that our communities and agencies are over-relying on residential placements that are negatively impacting the youth they serve.

Alabama Statistics

$68+

Million Dollars

Alabama spends every year placing youth in Residential Facilities despite evidence indicating that these facilities are ineffective.

3,132

Foster Care Youth

placed in residential facilities through Child Welfare programs in 2019.

798

Juvenile Justice Youth

placed in residential facilities through Juvenile Justice programs in 2019.

  • 444 minors were committed as part of a court-ordered disposition
  • 306 minors detained while awaiting a court hearing, adjudication, disposition, or placement elsewhere
  • 45 minors were voluntarily admitted to a residential facility in lieu of adjudication as part of a diversion agreement

Alabama Statistics

$68+

Million Dollars

Alabama spends every year placing youth in Residential Facilities despite evidence indicating that these facilities are ineffective.

3,132

Foster Care Youth

placed in residential facilities through Child Welfare programs in 2019.

798

Juvenile Justice Youth

placed in residential facilities through Juvenile Justice programs in 2019.

  • 444 minors were committed as part of a court-ordered disposition
  • 306 minors detained while awaiting a court hearing, adjudication, disposition, or placement elsewhere
  • 45 minors were voluntarily admitted to a residential facility in lieu of adjudication as part of a diversion agreement

An Alabama Problem

A team of researchers reviewed 230 studies of residential treatment facilities from around the nation and found there was no evidence that they were effective.

In 2019, Alabama was home to 1,088,306 minors, including 5,756 minors in foster care.

Alabama requires Residential Facilities serving minors to obtain a license but does not provide adequate oversight.

Alabama sends minors out-of-state despite evidence indicating youth are best served in their communities. 

Alabama lacks the necessary community resources to keep minors out of residential facilities.

Despite the requirement to register, there is not a list of providers available to the public.

  • January 2018, the department shall register any religious, faith-based, or church nonprofit, other nonprofit, or for-profit affiliated youth residential facility, youth social rehabilitation facility, community treatment facility for youths, youth transitional care facility, long term youth residential facility, private alternative boarding school, private alternative outdoor program, and any organization entrusted with the residential care of children in any organizational form or combination defined by this section, whenever children are housed at the facility or location of the program for a period of more than 24 hours