April 22, 2008
Your dog has more protection than your children, says Maia Szalavitz, a journalist who has investigated so-called "tough love" camps and residential programs supposedly aimed at helping troubled teens.

Congress will hold a second round of hearings Thursday on problems highlighted by Szalavitz and others. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, is chairing the probe of widespread abuse in the programs.

There have been at least 10 deaths of children held in teen wilderness programs, boot camps, emotional growth boarding schools, and other residential facilities. The first round of hearings last October prompted bipartisan outrage at industry abuses that committee members compared to human right abuses in third world countries.

Several victims portrayed in Szalavitz' book, "Help at Any Cost," are scheduled to testify at the hearing. She has called the "tough love" programs "an industry out of control and answerable to no one."

Most parents are unaware that in many states, dog kennels and nail salons are more highly regulated than the health and safety of children in so called 'tough love teen boot camp' institutions. Anyone, including ex-convicts, can open a program. No qualification or certification is required, Szalavitz said.

Szalavitz is a fellow of the Statistical Assessment Service (STATS), a not-for-profit Washington, DC, group that highlights the use and abuse of science and statistics in the media.