Children living in congregate care facilities represent some of our nation’s most vulnerable youth and deserve special protections. Over 120,000 youth are pipelined into residential placements each year through their local school district’s individualized education programs, the juvenile justice system, the foster care system, mental health service providers, private parental placement and even refugee resettlement programs. Many of these youth have prior trauma histories before placement, issues only exacerbated by extended separation from peers, families and communities once placed in congregate care settings.
Our current child abuse prevention and protection laws are inadequate to address the unique needs of children in congregate care. The congregate care industry receives an estimated $52 billion dollars annually of public funds to “reform” youth, yet operates without meaningful oversight. Youth residing in congregate care facilities are often denied access to legal counsel, advocacy, and their most basic rights to personal safety and satisfactory living conditions.
Although data on institutional child abuse is limited, its impact is demonstrated through the thousands of ‘survivor stories’ shared with Breaking Code Silence. These stories reveal the routine violation of the civil and human rights of minors in congregate care facilities, with limited mechanisms for victims to report their experiences or seek justice.