Press Release


Bill addresses critical issues of abuse and neglect of teenagers in private residential programs

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Washington, June 24, 2008 | Annie Boehnke ((202) 225-1640) | comments

U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar passed an amendment today that would require the Assistant Secretary for Children and Families of the Department of Health and Human Services to report to Congress on the effectiveness of a national child abuse hotline. Congressman Cuellar’s amendment was included in the Manager’s Amendment in H.R. 5876, The Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act of 2008, which prohibits the physical and mental abuse of children in residential programs and mandates new disclosures on programs’ activities and marketing.


An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 teenagers attend private residential programs that are intended to help them with behavioral, emotional or mental health problems. Depending on the location by state, some programs are unregulated by government. Between 1994 and 2007, the Government Accountability Office found thousands of allegations of child abuse and neglect in residential programs, and because of the lack of standard regulations, reports of child abuse have frequently gone unexamined.


H.R. 5876 creates new government checks on residential programs by requiring the Assistant Secretary to conduct unannounced site inspections and gives the department authority to assess civil penalties up to $50,000 for each violation of law. As part of the bill, the Assistant Secretary must establish a national toll-free hotline to receive complaints of child abuse and neglect. Congressman Cuellar’s amendment requires the Assistant Secretary to report to Congress on the effectiveness of the hotline.


“It is critical not only to stop child abuse and neglect in private residential programs,” Congressman Cuellar said, “but to create checks on government to ensure our laws are effective. By requiring the Assistant Secretary to report on the efficacy of the child abuse hotline, Congress can assure the follow-up, and termination, of reported abuse.”


For more information on H.R. 5876, click here.





Congressman Henry Cuellar is a member of the House Homeland Security, Small Business,

and Agriculture Committees in the 110th Congress.  Accessibility to constituents, education, health care and economic development are his priorities. Congressman Cuellar is also a Senior Whip.

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