The Community Alliance For the Ethical Treatment of Youth (CAFETY) was an advocacy group for people enrolled in residential treatment programs for at-risk teenagers. The group’s mission includes advocating for access to advocates, due process, alternatives to aversive behavioral interventions, and alternatives to restraints and seclusion for young people in treatment programs. CAFETY was founded in 2006 by Charles King and Kathryn Whitehead, with the goal: “to create a forum for youth advocacy and support designed to develop and shape youth-guided policies and practices with a specific emphasis on the ethical treatment of youth with behavioral, emotional, and mental health problems in institutional settings”. By July of that year, CAFETY had 118 members and 8 core group members from across the United States, including at least one medical professional.
From late 2007 through 2008, a broad coalition of grassroots efforts, prominent medical and psychological organizations that included members of CAFETY, provided testimony and support that led to the creation of the Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act of 2008 by the United States Congress Committee on Education and Labor.
In support of this effort, Jon Martin-Crawford, a member of the group’s Board of Directors and Kathryn Whitehead, the group’s Executive Director, appeared at a hearing before the United States Congress Committee on Education and Labor on April 24, 2008, where they described abusive practices they had experienced at the Family Foundation School and Mission Mountain School, both therapeutic boarding schools.
On February 19, 2009, CAFETY co-sponsored a press briefing on Capitol Hill in an effort to raise awareness of youth maltreatment in residential care.
CAFETY and its members also held a teens’ rights rally held in Gainesville, Florida. At the rally, Chris Noroski, vice president of CAFETY, stated that while he was at The Family Foundation School in Hancock, New York, he was mentally and physically abused, stating “For seven months of the time, I carried buckets of rocks back and forth”.
CAFETY, along with the American Psychological Association, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Therapy, and the American Bar Association was a major supporter of the bill H.R 911, “Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act”, which was introduced in the U.S. Congress in 2009 and passed in the House of Representatives, but was not acted upon in the Senate and did not become law.
CAFETY dissolved in 2014.