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 Nebraska

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.

Nebraska Statistics

$500

Per Day Per Child

Nebraska pays facilities on average and advocates report that the state spends up to $800 per day for children with complex needs.

1,633

Children Under 12

placed in residential facilities through Child Welfare programs in 2019

309

Juvenile Justice Youth

placed in residential facilities through Juvenile Justice programs in 2019

  • 180 minors were committed to a residential facility as part of a court ordered disposition
  • 123 minors were detained in a residential facility while awaiting a court hearing, adjudication, disposition or placement elsewhere

Nebraska Statistics

$500

Per Day Per Child

Nebraska pays facilities on average and advocates report that the state spends up to $800 per day for children with complex needs.

1,633

Children Under 12

placed in residential facilities through Child Welfare programs in 2019

309

Juvenile Justice Youth

placed in residential facilities through Juvenile Justice programs in 2019

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

An Nebraska 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, Nebraska was home to 476,074 minors, including 3,434 minors in foster care.

Nebraska has 43 Licensed Residential Facilities. 

The facility types with the highest capacity for housing minors in Nebraska are:

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

  • Nebraska sent between 39 and 74 such youths to other states every year from 2015 through 2021.
    • 2/3 were on juvenile probation,
    • 1/3 were in the child welfare system.
  • They were sent as far away as Tennessee and South Carolina and typically spent four to six months in those out-of-state facilities
  • The state paid $9.1 million for the care of such teens in 2019

Illustration by Spencer Holladay, USA Today Network; Getty Images