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Paris Hilton, advocates press for more oversight of abuse in foster care system

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A new report shows many states are not keeping track of reports of mistreatment at foster care facilities. The report, released Wednesday, June 26, by the Department of Health and Human Services Officer of Inspector General, shows these facilities are not tracking incidences of abuse, sexual abuse, or children being improperly restrained. 

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Investigators found about one-third of states don’t track when multiple abuses happen at a single facility or across facilities owned by the same company. It also found states are not sharing information about abuse, even when it happens at facilities owned by companies operating across the country. 

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Among those calling for more federal oversight is Paris Hilton, who appeared before the House Ways and Means Committee Wednesday, June 26, to advocate for the passage of the Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act

Hilton shared her experiences in youth care facilities, detailing emotional and physical abuse which she said left her with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“These programs promised healing, growth, and support, but instead did not allow me to speak, move freely, or even look out a window for two years,” Hilton said. “My parents were completely deceived, lied to, and manipulated by this for-profit industry about the inhumane treatment I was experiencing. So, can you only imagine the experience for youth who are placed by the state and don’t have people regularly checking in on them?” 

The Stop Institutional Child Abuse Act would create a federal work group on youth residential programs to support and implement best practices regarding the health and safety, care, treatment, and appropriate placement of kids in youth residential programs.  

Right now, states are responsible for nearly 50,000 children in these facilities and federal taxpayers spend billions every year on foster care for children nationwide. Much of that money is used to fund for-profit youth residential facilities – group care homes – that Hilton told members of Congress focus more on making money than hiring qualified workers. 

“What is more important?” Hilton asked them. “Protecting business profits, or protecting foster youth lives?” 

Several lawmakers on the committee agreed more federal oversight is needed at these facilities. 

The inspector general’s report recommended the Department of Health and Human Services should help states track abuses at facilities and ownership information, and create a location for states to share information about the problems occurring. HHS said it agreed with that recommendation, but it won’t require states to gather that information. 

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AN ALARMING NEW REPORT SHOWS MANY STATES ARE NOT KEEPING TRACK OF REPORTS OF MISTREATMENT AT FOSTER CARE FACILITIES. 

THE REPORT – RELEASED WEDNESDAY BY THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES INSPECTOR GENERAL – SHOWS THESE FACILITIES ARE NOT TRACKING INCIDENCES OF ABUSE, SEXUAL ABUSE, OR CHILDREN BEING IMPROPERLY RESTRAINED. 

INVESTIGATORS FOUND ABOUT ONE-THIRD OF STATES DON’T TRACK WHEN MULTIPLE ABUSES HAPPEN AT A SINGLE FACILITY… OR ACROSS FACILITIES OWNED BY THE SAME COMPANY.

IT ALSO FOUND STATES ARE NOT SHARING INFORMATION ABOUT ABUSE – EVEN WHEN IT HAPPENS AT FACILITIES OWNED BY COMPANIES OPERATING ACROSS THE COUNTRY. 

AMONG THOSE CALLING FOR MORE FEDERAL OVERSIGHT IS PARIS HILTON, WHO APPEARED BEFORE THE HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE WEDNESDAY TO ADVOCATE FOR THE PASSAGE OF THE STOP INSTITUTIONAL CHILD ABUSE ACT. 

PARIS HILTON | FOSTER YOUTH ADVOCATE 

“While my experience was not through the foster care system, I know from personal experience the harm that is caused by being in youth residential treatment facilities. When I was 16 years old, I was ripped from my bed in the middle of the night and transported across state lines to the first of four youth residential treatment facilities. These programs promised healing, growth, and support, but instead did not allow me to speak, move freely, or even look out a window for two years. I was force-fed medications and sexually abused by the staff. I was violently restrained and dragged down hallways, stripped naked and thrown into solitary confinement. My parents were completely deceived, lied to, and manipulated by this for-profit industry about the inhumane treatment I was experiencing. So, 28:22 can you only imagine the experience for youth who are placed by the state and don’t have people regularly checking in on them?” 

THE STOP INSITUTIONAL CHILD ABUSE ACT WOULD CREATE A FEDERAL WORK GROUP ON YOUTH RESIDENTIAL PROGRAMS TO SUPPORT AND IMPLEMENT BEST PRACTICES REGARDING THE HEALTH AND SAFETY, CARE, TREATMENT, AND APPROPRIATE PLACEMENT OF KIDS IN YOUTH RESIDENTIAL PROGRAMS.  

RIGHT NOW, STATES ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR NEARLY 50-THOUSAND CHILDREN IN THESE FACILITIES AND FEDERAL TAXPAYERS SPEND BILLIONS EVERY YEAR ON FOSTER CARE FOR CHILDREN NATIONWIDE. 

MUCH OF THAT MONEY IS USED TO FUND FOR-PROFIT YOUTH RESIDENTIAL FACILITIES – GROUP CARE HOMES – THAT HILTON TOLD MEMBERS OF CONGRESS FOCUS MORE ON MAKING MONEY THAN HIRING QUALIFIED WORKERS. 

PARIS HILTON | FOSTER YOUTH ADVOCATE 

“What is more important? Protecting business profits, or protecting foster youth lives?” 

SEVERAL LAWMAKERS ON THE COMMITTEE AGREED MORE FEDERAL OVERSIGHT IS NEEDED AT THESE FACILITIES. 

THE INSPECTOR GENERAL’S REPORT RECOMMENDED THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SHOULD HELP STATES TRACK ABUSES AT FACILITIES AND OWNERSHIP INFORMATION — AND CREATE A LOCATION FOR STATES TO SHARE INFORMATION ABOUT THE PROBLEMS OCCURRING. 

H-H-S SAID IT AGREED WITH THAT RECOMMENDATION – BUT IT WON’T *REQUIRE* STATES TO GATHER THAT INFORMATION.