As a new year limped its way across the calendar in a climate of chaos, BCS volunteers across the country have been working relentlessly to provide a glimmer of hope. The progress made in Breaking Code Silence’s very first functional year has been astounding! Established just March 22, 2021, our incredible volunteers are so proud of their work on numerous projects and honored by the positive impacts being seen by survivors, professionals, and regulations of the TTI. A year of progress for an industry in desperate need of it! Let’s celebrate this organization’s hard-earned accomplishments!
Our research teams have been fighting to distinguish TTI survivors as a unique demographic in academic literature with the help of several university partners, namely UNCW, LLU, and UCLA. This comprehensive data collection project brings the life-long effects of the TTI to the mainstream research community. BCS collaborated with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington to analyze data collected from over 800 survivors of institutional child abuse. This project hosted 4 international researchers and broadened BCS outreach to touch parallel task forces around the globe.
Our BCS research team also compiled a comprehensive online library, providing streamlined access to dozens of research and investigative studies conducted from 2015 on, relating to the Troubled Teen Industry and its effects.
Organization representatives presented TTI-related content at several national and local academic conferences, as well as online platforms. This information has been able to reach varying graduate programs as prominent minds connect with extensive data and experience in the industry.
The reach of our research efforts is key as we collect further information and create statistics to back up our other teams’ ventures, calling all researchers of related subjects to contribute collaborations and/or studies for our developing database!
Breaking Code Silence legislation team has had a monumental year on the national stage. February 2021 marked the BCS testimony in Utah in support of Senate Bill 127, a groundbreaking piece of legislation signed by Governor Spencer Cox on March 22. This immediately affected many lives throughout the state, increasing transparency and oversight in youth residential treatment facilities. This marked the first reforms of the cruelly expansive Utah TTI in over 15 years.
March 2021 quickly followed up with another huge win, as Circle of Hope Survivors and other survivor advocacy groups succeeded in the passage of Missouri legislation to require state licensing of religiously founded residential programs.
Throughout April and May, BCS continued promoting SB 127 passage in Salt Lake, while celebrating several victories nationwide in TTI state legislation of California, Massachusetts, and Maine. Missouri state senate also passed state bill 23-9, providing regulations for previously unsupervised boarding schools.
In June, BCS aided in the Oregon passage of SB749, requiring all educational consultants to comply with governmental obligations and disclosures in the referrals of children to residential programs of the TTI. This same month marked 30 signatures of organizational support for Paris Hilton’s federal bill, the Accountability for Congregate Care Act of 2021.
July consisted of the legislative team’s participation in Congress’ Virtual Advocacy Day, lobbying our representatives for bipartisan criminal justice reform for children.
October culminated in a triumph years in the making when Breaking Code Silence, in partnership with Paris Hilton and Think of Us, joined together in Washington DC in support of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act (ACCA). The bill, drafted in RISE Justice Labs by BCS, was continuously revised throughout the year by numerous survivor community members and partners. Immeasurable effort resulted in an incredibly influential platform when this was presented on Capitol Hill. The ACCA will address systemic weaknesses across the Troubled Teen Industry and create a standard of care for all youth in congregate care. Specifically, the Act states that all individuals in congregate care have the right to physical well being, to social and emotional well being, to have their basic needs met, to have individualized and appropriate treatment, and to be free from abusive treatment.
In November, BCS joined other advocacy groups by signing an amicus brief in support of a stay of execution for Terrance Andrus. Eight amicus curiae briefs have been filed in support of Andrus, with arguments in his favor presented by advocates for children who have experienced poverty and violence, for mental health organizations, for civil rights groups, and for former prosecutors.
Our information and technology teams are continuously refining and updating the Breaking Code Silence website. This has become a main medium of spreading our message and increasing ease of access to information about the TTI. It’s a way to elevate survivor stories, raise awareness, post research, and advocate for current residents of the industry. @breakingcodesilenceofficial, along with other social media platforms, unites our community of over 3,500 survivors and allies to promote our advocacy.
BCS’s facility database is also a major development, compiling treatment centers, therapeutic boarding schools, and secular and faith-based programs operating in the past 100 years, with their abuse allegations, lawsuits, and parent/survivor testimonials. Systemizing consolidated information is pivotal in increasing accessibility, and therefore outreach.
The tech team submitted requests for complaints and reports on conduct within facilities from multiple overseeing bodies. BCS crafted and uploaded over 100 facility reports to the website to support professionals of the industry in protecting youth and to increase awareness of individual facilities’ actions.
The awareness team of Breaking Code Silence lifted survivor voices like never before this year through the publication of over 400 survivor stories, many of which were highlighted in Institutional Abuse Awareness Week.
On March 12, 2022 BCS partnered with Lifetime to release the film, Cruel Instruction, based on the true stories of students at Provo Canyon School. “Beyond the Headlines” featured survivors sharing their experiences in the industry, on national television, reaching diverse and mainstream audiences.
The awareness team provides resources for parents and guardians considering sending their children to a TTI facility regarding red flags for abuse, alternatives to residential treatment and/or out of state treatment, and partnering with other advocacy organizations to offer safe alternatives to keep youth in their communities. As shared with BCS members, we have recently helped 6 families stay together.
Breaking Code Silence was invited to speak at educational conferences for attorneys and social workers, participated in several podcasts, and provided multiple interviews to the press. BCS works on connecting other survivors and advocates to media outlets to amplify the message of survivors and dismantle the TTI.
Moving forward, Breaking Code Silence will continue spreading our message through podcasts, press, film, conferences, and other media. This year, we begin training programs to provide Continuing Education Units. We continue to develop more effective ways to increase public accessibility to TTI lawsuits and allegations, providing alternatives to decrease the overall amount of children sent into the industry for treatment. We look forward to adding to our online academic library and facility database. Researchers- we’re interested in your relevant studies and always open to publishing more! And we’ll always remember 2021 as the year of the creation of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act, as we look forward to the legislation’s progression and implementation.
What a jam-packed year! Talk about starting off with a bang! We are honored to witness the industry creep towards change right before our eyes, after decades of stagnancy and untold pain. This work has been more than rewarding, and we’re thrilled for the years to come. Keep up the hard work, BCS community!
We welcome new volunteers! We are intentionally create a healthy community that honors and holds space for all survivors. We are here to make this world a safer and more inclusive place for all, and we could not do it without this amazing community of survivors and advocates.