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The Troubled Teen Industry in Pennsylvania

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.

Pennsylvania Statistics

$415+

Million Dollars

Pennsylvania spent on sending youth to congregate care facilities in 2018

16,056

Children Under 12

placed in residential facilities through Child Welfare programs in 2019

1,566

Juvenile Justice Youth

placed in residential facilities through Juvenile Justice programs in 2019

  • 1,197 minors were committed to a residential facility as part of a court ordered disposition
  • 354 minors were detained in a residential facility while awaiting a court hearing, adjudication, disposition or placement elsewhere
  • 6 minors were voluntarily admitted to a residential facility in lieu of adjudication as part of a diversion agreement

Pennsylvania Statistics

$415+

Million Dollars

Pennsylvania spent on sending youth to congregate care facilities in 2018

16,056

Children Under 12

placed in residential facilities through Child Welfare programs in 2019

1,566

Juvenile Justice Youth

placed in residential facilities through Juvenile Justice programs in 2019

  • 1,197 minors were committed to a residential facility as part of a court ordered disposition
  • 354 minors were detained in a residential facility while awaiting a court hearing, adjudication, disposition or placement elsewhere
  • 6 minors were voluntarily admitted to a residential facility in lieu of adjudication as part of a diversion agreement

A Pennsylvania 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, Pennsylvania was home to 2,634,613 minors, including 16,056 minors in foster care.

Pennsylvania has 539 Licensed Residential Facilities with a total capacity for 9,249 minors 

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

  • 509 Private Residential Service Organizations with a capacity for 8,137 Minors
  • 18 Secure Detention Facilities with a capacity for 732 Minors
  • 8 Secure Care Facilities with a capacity for 216 Minors

Residential Facilities in Pennsylvania cost the State and Federal governments millions annually