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Wed Nov 14, 2012, 11:54 AM

Investigative Report Reveals Some Religious Reform Schools Are Havens for Child Abuse


By Maia Szalavitz
Nov. 13, 2012

A drill instructor prays with a boy during a church service at Florida's Gateway Christian Military Academy on Oct. 5, 2012

An investigation reveals extensive child abuse in youth programs in Florida.

They’re advertised as “boarding schools” or “Christian” children’s homes in Florida, but a yearlong investigation published in the Tampa Bay Times reveals lax oversight on dozens of youth programs, some of which had been shut down for abuse in other states and have continued to operate for decades.

In Florida, such unlicensed religious homes can operate outside state child-protection laws thanks to an exemption that protects religious practices. Some are structured more like military camps, while other boarding-school programs emphasize the “emotional growth” aspect of their mission, claiming to help teens with everything from defiance to depression to drug problems. Hundreds of students register at these schools each year, enrolled by desperate parents eager to pay $20,000 or more in tuition to put their children back on the “right” path — away from drugs, crime and even homosexuality.

The religious exemption protects the programs from inspections by the state’s department of children and families, which means students can be imprisoned or shackled and, unlike with licensed youth programs, can be denied contact with their parents and prevented from accessing child-abuse hotlines. Regulatory authority over these religious programs lies almost entirely in the hands of the Florida Association of Christian Child Caring Agencies (FACCA). And these programs flourish in other states as well, since no national regulations exist to oversee such facilities for teens.

Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2012/11/13/investigative-report-reveals-some-religious-reform-schools-are-havens-for-child-abuse/#ixzz2CDFuFdt1

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