Today, there are an estimated 120,000 to 200,000 minors in congregate care facilities across the United States. These youth are pipelined into congregate care placements from the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, school districts’ individualized education programs, refugee resettlement agencies, mental health providers, and private parental placement. Many of these youths have prior trauma histories that are exacerbated by an extended separation from their community once they are placed in an institutional setting.
This industry receives an estimated $23 billion dollars of annual public funds to purportedly treat the behavioral and psychological needs of vulnerable youth, yet it operates without meaningful oversight. The industry’s lack of transparency and quality care has resulted in sexual assault, physical and medical neglect, and bodily assault, civil rights violations, hospitalizations, and hundreds of documented deaths. Youth are too often denied access to legal counsel, advocacy, and the most basic rights to personal safety and satisfactory living conditions.