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What you can do

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  • Listen to victims. Thousands of kids who went through abusive programs have spoken out, but their voices have been drowned out. Have the courage to hear the uncomfortable truth–especially if you are a parent who made this horrible mistake.

 

  • Spread the word. The TTI thrives because no one is paying attention. It will change its name, relabel its methods (it no longer uses the phrases “tough love,” for instance), and retreat into euphemisms, but programs like Straight, Inc in the 1980s, KIDS in the 1990s, The Family in the 2000s, Circle of Hope in the 2010s, and the Agape Boys School in the 2020s prove that this “methodology” is extremely harmful and destroys families, rather than repairing them.

 

  • Stop the consultants. Parents are often directed to the TTI by behavioral consultants, therapists, and professionals like school counselors, some of whom secretly receive referral payments. These payments should be illegal; counselors should be held accountable if they recommend abusive programs and lose their license.

  • Lobby states to stop farming out children to third-party contractors. Thousands of kids end up in the TTI because of the death or imprisonment of their guardians, problems in foster care, misguided drug intervention programs, or as an alternative to prison. Prisons are a safer option than the TTI. Public schools dump “problem students” in these programs so they can meet state-mandated requirements. We must stop states and local governments from burying kids this way. At the very least, the entities that place them should be required to provide oversight and perform follow-up evaluations.

 

  • Require oversight. TTI programs are rarely subjected to any sort of government or public oversight. Most states have few requirements or standards for “private schools,” as TTI programs label themselves, and no enforcement mechanism. In the few states that do monitor, TTI programs often use religious exemptions (despite most programs being standard for-profit companies) to avoid scrutiny.

 

  • Don’t Panic. By exaggerating risks to anxious parents, TTI programs position themselves as saviors. Vaping, drinking, depression, anger and sexual activity are disturbing and stressful, but they can be a normal phase of teenage life. If your child is suicidal or has a serious drug program, they need to go to a licensed program specializing in that type of care. Don’t worry, mom and dad: Parenting is hard, but you can handle this.

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