Congregate Care Accountability Act

Congregate Care Accountability Act


Congregate care and the problems in the “Troubled Teen” industry with Dr. Athena Kolbe and Dr. Vanessa Hughes of Breaking Code Silence, a social movement organized by activists and survivors of institutional child abuse.

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Melanie: Hey, y'all, it is December 5, 2021. I'm your moderator, Melanie Dione, and this is Resistbot Live. Welcome. This is our Tween show. This is our 10th show and I'm very excited to be here. Very excited for all of you to be here. We are talking about a very important topic. All of our topics are important, but one that does not get a lot of air time, and this is the Accountability for Congregate Care Act and its need for support. So this is going to be another one of our really important listening and learning opportunities. We're here every Sunday. 01:00 p.m. You can follow us on Facebook. You can follow us on Twitter. You can subscribe to us on Twitch and YouTube every Sunday, and you can also subscribe to our podcast Resistbot Live. Wherever you can find your favorite podcast, that's where you'll find us. We'll also have a Q&A period for any of you who want to get in those comments and keep the conversation going. So we welcome that. Congregate Care. This is a $52 billion industry with very little oversight and it's linked to greater problems with youth that are in what they call the troubled teen industry. So we're going to talk about that, the problems that accompany it and what is in the bill that needs your support that needs support from our representatives so that we can hold accountable the people who are caring for our young folks. So I am going to start bringing up our regular panelists first, we have the wonderful Athena Fulay. Hey, Athena, welcome.

Athena F.: Hello. Good morning. Afternoon. Evening to everybody. Good to be here. How are you doing Mel?

Melanie: I'm doing great. Good to see you. As usual, we are going to have you manning the comments.

Athena F: Yeah, I will be staffing the comments today. So I look forward to hearing from our audience if anyone has questions for our panelists later on or just some thoughts to share about congregate care in this country. It's such a large industry that, as you mentioned, has little to no oversight. So why, as Americans, we should care about this issue and what we can do to ensure that the interests of all Americans, the youth, and systems are working for those who need it the most.

Melanie: There are so many episodes where we have where we're just in that learning process because we don't know enough. And this is definitely one of those things I am going to bring up next. Christine Lu. Hey, Christine. Good morning. All the way on the West Coast. How are you?

Christine: Hello. Good morning. Good. Thank you. So for me, we were talking about this earlier this week, so I went into my international deep dive side and what was interesting is I couldn't find a lot of information on how other countries, I probably also didn't research as deeply as they should have are doing it, but one overarching theme that I did come across in countries such as Asia or emerging countries. They do look to the US for models. And so I'm really interested in learning more today about what the impact of this conversation and the Accountability Act has, because again, from the lens of someone looking overseas, we often forget we have a whole lot of other countries looking to the US as potential models of what to do or maybe what not to do. So that'll be interesting. And that's the lens I bring.

Melanie: Based on what we've learned, looking at what we do as a model is moderately terrifying when you look at some of the issues young folks face. So yeah, I look forward to seeing what comes from this conversation as well. And we have Susan Stutz. Hello, Susan.

Susan: Hi, everyone. How are you?

Melanie: Great.

Susan: So we've got one petition out there. We all had either a troubled childhood or we know somebody who did. And so any one of us, I think, or anyone that we know we could see them falling into this congregate care trap just based on your own experiences or those that you know of the people you grew up with. This is a hugely important topic, and we have a petition that's brought to us by the folks at Breaking Code Silence. And the call sign for that petition is P as in Peter, I, F as in Frank, D as in David, F as in Frank, R as in Robert. Alternatively, you can send ACCA to Resistbot, and by using the call sign or sending ACCA to 50409, you can sign on to this petition. And what this petition is looking for is for us to lobby our representatives, our legislatures, to one, hop on board and co-sponsor the Accountability for Congregate Care Act. We're looking for broad support on this act. The other thing is, once it's introduced to help get it across the finish line. Very broadly, this act would legally define what constitutes child abuse or neglect in an institutional setting. It establishes a bill of rights for the young people who are in these facilities. I read an article by a young lady who writes for The New Yorker, and the article talks about how the young lady at the facility had to sign a waiver of her civil rights. And so this act would establish some rights for her and then also provide funding for various programs and training all the way from our mental health professionals through to the judiciary. When these young people make it in front of the court. So we encourage you to send the call sign or ACCA to 50409 and sign on and start lobbying your representatives to support and then pass this crucial act.

Melanie: It's coming into our consciousness more recently, mostly because celebrities are starting to get behind this. The way it's becoming the larger conversations that Paris Hilton had on her experiences of abuse while in a congregate-care facility. And right now with the bill that's being pushed forward, we have Rokana, who is the only person right now sponsoring this bill. And it definitely needs co-sponsors, because this is something when you look at just the privatization of industries like this, there's always space for abuses, and when there are spaces for abuses, there needs to be accountability. And so we're lucky enough this week to have the representative of the authors of this actual petition with us this week from Breaking Code Silence, we have Dr. Athena Kolbe and Dr. Vanessa Hughes with us. Welcome.

Dr. Athena Kolbe: Hi.

Dr. Vanessa Hughes: Hello. Thank you.

Melanie: I'm hoping that one of you could explain number one, each of your roles and also what the greater objective of Breaking Code silence is how it came about and what the greater objective is.

Dr. Hughes: Sure, I'm the interim organizational director with Breaking Code Silence, and my primary role is really to create an infrastructure that can really allow the different divisions that we have operating to really reform this industry operates smoothly. I'll pass it to Dr. Kolbe.

Dr. Kolbe: All right. My name is Athena Kolbe and I have to say that I'm thrilled to be on a podcast with somebody else named Athena. This is the first time this has ever happened to me. I'm a professor at the University of North Carolina. I teach social work, and I'm also a survivor of institutional abuse within a congregate-care facility with Dr. Hughes and a number of other survivors. We've been working on trying to reform and advocate both reform the troubled teen industry and hopefully eliminate it completely and also advocate for young people who are still in care. So all of us experience various forms of abuse within congregant care, and we want to be able to have a voice for young people who are still in care and also to have a voice within the process of creating policy around this, which is why the Accountability for Congregate Care Act is so important because it was written actually not by us but by other survivors within our team. And it represents a huge step forward for young people and for promoting the human rights of young people who are deprived of their Liberty and of their voice in congregate care.

Melanie: When we talk about what that is, because I think there are a lot of us that don't understand the complete scope of what is involved in congregate care and how we get there. I mean, we've all watched shows like Maury and Out Of Control Teens. And even I've known kids who they would get in trouble and we'd hear about their families sending them to farms and places like that, but don't know what the actual makeup of that is. So can you talk a little bit about how or why a young person would be placed in a congregate-care facility and also what age group we're focusing on.

Dr. Kolbe: Yeah. So there's about 120,000 or more young people in congregate care in the United States every year. So right now, there's over 100,000 children in the US in congregate care and by children, we mean generally people of school age and through high school age. So school-age would be starting about, like seven or eight years old through about high school age. Although most kids in congregate care facilities tend to be middle school or high school age, chances are, you probably know, at least one person, probably more who've been in congregate care. I teach both undergraduate and graduate students, and I'm surprised every year by how many of my students are survivors of congregate care facilities. Kids can come into a congregate care facility. And by the way, when we say congregate care, we just mean a facility where young people are living in a group living situation with people other than their actual family members. So we're not talking about, like going to live with your grandmother after your parents die or something like that. We're talking about things like therapeutic boarding schools, behavior modification programs, foster care facilities, youth justice or juvenile justice facilities or detention centers, residential treatment programs or centers or facilities, wilderness or outdoor, quote, unquote therapeutic programs or interventions, boot camps. These might also be programs that are designed to sort of simulate the experience of military training or Correctional kind of training or regimes, and also boarding schools for kids with disabilities. So we're not referring to necessarily kids who are in short term like a psychiatric hospital because those are licensed differently. These are programs where kids are in for a little bit longer than just a couple of days, usually weeks, months, years. For some of us, it was many years. The programs are designed to provide residential care in a group setting and you're cared for by somebody other than your parents. So people staff who are hired to care for you. And I use the term “care” very loosely in that respect, since most of the treatment that people receive is actually not what we would consider human standard of care. And I think most people would be horrified if they knew exactly how it happens. So in terms of how kids end up there, it's a variety of different paths because kids can be sent to a congregate-care facility because they have a disability. They might be neurodivergent, like, maybe on the autism spectrum, they might have had a head injury or have a learning disability like dyslexia or ADHD. They might also have some sort of family difficulty parents who maybe have problems with drugs and alcohol or the child is in foster care, and they're getting older. And so maybe they're too old for a traditional foster home, and they're running out of places to put the kids. And so sometimes they run out of bed space, running out of beds, and they don't have a place to put the kids. And so they could end up in a congregate-care facility. Sometimes it's because the child has, like you mentioned earlier, maybe done something, there's some sort of behavioral thing, like the kid smoked pot or ran away from home or was doing poorly in school or something like that. We all have our own stories of how we ended up in care for a lot of us. The commonality is that there was somebody who either there wasn't a place for us to be, and we were already within a system, either in the special education system, the criminal justice system, the foster care system, some sort of or the mental health system or the other thing that a lot of us have that we found that we've had in common is that a lot of us had parents that were just broken. Parents and families that had problems and they couldn't really cope with having teenagers. And I can say as having parented a teenager, it's very difficult. So I could understand that from a parent's perspective and that the solution that was presented to some of our families was that this was a good option. Who's most at risk, kids from all the different vulnerable groups that you would think are most at risk for everything else. Kids with disabilities, kids with mental health problems, kids in foster care, gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans kids. The program that I went to specifically was for treating kids for being gay and treating people for gender identity disorder. I would say probably about half the kids were there because they were gay. So that's a pretty common reason that kids could be sent to a congregate care facility. And also kids who are low-income, people of color, and Native American kids actually have very high rates of being placed in congregate care, which is kind of scary when we think about the history of the Native American boarding schools in the United States.

Melanie: It's amazing because everything that you brought up, we've had guests here before our last episode was about the many injustices faced by our Indigenous population, our Indigenous neighbors, including how their how young people are treated. We had Valissa Thompson in our first week who talked about whenever we're looking at a system, a breakdown in the system, there is always an angle where disabled people are at risk are at high risk. So you really hit a lot of the high points of things that we've discussed in the past. When we talk about what it's like to take kids out of the family setting. And a few of us on our regular panel are moms and have parented or are parenting teenagers. And it is I mean, they're going through changes. It is a lot. I was a teenager and I know I had a lot of big feelings. So if there's an understanding of how difficult it can be in these formative years. Can we dig a little bit into the impacts that pulling kids out of the family setting has had on young people who go into these congregate-care facilities, as opposed to those who kind of stay in the family environment?

Dr. Hughes: Yeah. So what we see in our survivor population is a high prevalence of PTSD, substance use disorders, domestic violence, homelessness, chronic medical conditions. So we see a higher prevalence of a lot of the bad things and a lower likelihood that survivors of institutional abuse are going to have access to the good things. What we see in research is for a treatment protocol to be effective, there needs to be attachment and connection and safe relationships. So pulling a child out of their home and out of their community and placing them in a strange location with people who they don't know with little access to their families with their support system, is not the foundational element that is essential for any kind of effective care. So what we see is there are issues in a family that often leads to a child being placed in the first place, and then there's the trauma that's experienced in the facility and then returning home. Often the issues are within the family and the family is not getting any help and support. They're sending a child away. So the child comes back to effectively the same environment that they left, and the environment hasn't really had the opportunity to have the support that is necessary to address any of the issues with connection and attachment and relationship within that initial dynamic. So we end up with an issue that is not resolved and compounded and returning back to a community that continues to not have the resources available to fix the kind of initial problem.

Dr. Kolbe: If you think about it, you have a family that's broken. One thing that happens within the trouble team industry is that these are primarily for-profit organizations that are making money off of creating residential care facilities. And so they have an incentive to target the child as the source of the family problem. And so the child is identified as the target problem within the family. And so the child has been separated forcefully, sometimes very painfully, from their family, from everybody. They're put in a very punitive environment in many cases, worse than prison. I mean, for a lot of us, we would have preferred to have been in a juvenile justice facility rather than in the program that we were in, because at least then we would have had the right to maybe talk to an attorney or to eat or sleep or have the right to have clothing or maybe not be locked in a little room for weeks at a time. So for a lot of kids, they're identified as the problem. And then Dr. Hughes is correct, you send a kid back, and then when the problem hasn't been resolved with the family themselves. The family is still broken, and they still don't have the resources in their own community to deal with whatever created this to begin with.

Melanie: And one of the things when you brought up that it's an industry, it's a $52 billion industry, which is just absolutely mind-blowing. And when you pointed out that these aren't psychiatric facilities, these aren't Correctional facilities. Those facilities have standards of care. They have certain guidelines and rights that they follow. So even if those things get bent or broken, there's a certain consequence, at the very least, should follow. These congregate-care facilities don't seem to have that or not at the level of accountability that some of these other facilities, the other facilities that you mentioned would have.

Dr.Kolbe: Yeah some of these are actually, just a point of correction, some of them are these congregate care facilities are Correctional facilities, or they are licensed or listed as a psychiatric facility, but they don't have the highest level of licensure that you would if you were a hospital. So, like a hospital would be JACHO accredited. And so they have minimal standards like they have to actually feed the children. They have to have a certain number of staff per child ratio. This does not have to be followed with other congregate care facilities. And some of these are juvenile justice facilities. So these are kids who've been adjudicated, maybe ran away from a group home or something like that, and they're in the juvenile justice system. So it is supposed to be treatment for them. But it's not actually.

Dr. Hughes: And I would also add that there are overseeing bodies that are tasked with following up and holding these facilities accountable. But what we see is because there are so many different facilities or organizations that are overseeing. By the time you apportion out the different infraction to the appropriate overseeing agency, it has been so titrated that it's not really going to have the impact to really hold any kind of accountability. What we also see is these different agencies really pointing the finger at their colleagues. Right. So we see licensing nodding it over to DHS or DHS, pointing to DOPL. The accountability and the enforcement really dissipates. And the result is that this continues and there's not the oversight that's really necessary to enforce the laws that are currently in place.

Melanie: So whatever accountability that there is, it's not nearly enough. So let's talk about Accountability for Congregate Care Act and get into the objective of what this looks like the actual meat and potatoes of the bill. What is the objective of the bill itself?

Dr. Hughes: I think overall, creating a bill of rights for children that are in these facilities and really ensuring that there is oversight to really create a national standard and national way to enforce the standard of care that's required. As I said, there currently is nothing that is kind of nationally recognized in a way that maintains any kind of effectiveness. So the bill really ensures that there's going to be a national standard that States are no longer going to be responsible for each of these pieces. We've seen that for decades, and it hasn't been effective. The current approach has, in our opinion, failed to protect children who are in congregate care. The primary response of this bill would be to create that Bill of Rights and ensure enforcement of these rights.

Melanie: One thing we know about America right now, incarceration is big business, huge business. And so this is part of what we're looking at. This profit geared industry when we're talking about human beings, it's terrifying. Having to legislate that you should be able to feed a child is something that should not have to be legislated to you. But here we are with this. I think we have some questions from the audience. Athena, is that right?

Athena F: The first question was from Paula on Facebook when Susan was reading a description earlier about some of the issues that are happening. There was a mention of a waiver of civil rights that was required to be in congregate care. And if anybody knew either our panelists, under what sort of circumstances would it require that these children and people checking into congregate care would need to waive their civil rights?

Dr. Kolbe: Well young people in congregate care don't actually have civil rights. There's no real enforcement of any kind of rights and human rights, civil rights of any sort at this point, which hopefully would change with passage of Accountability for Congregate Care Act. But parents have the right to sign over their child to a facility and to give the facility permission to act in lieu of the parent. And in some cases, that can mean transporting a child across state lines to do things that would be illegal if the parent did them at home. So, for instance, I'm from California, and I was sent by my school district, funded to be sent to Utah, and I was sent there specifically because my mother wanted a form of treatment for me that was illegal in the state of California. And so she was able to then sign over, even though I was a teenager, I was 15 years old. She was able to sign over custody of me, and I effectively lost all rights, including the few rights that I would have had in my own home state. I don't know specifically about a particular waiver that people signed in a facility, but I could imagine that since most of the facilities require young people's parents to sign or their legal Guardian to sign over custody of them or if they're in the foster care system or juvenile justice system, their social worker then would sign over custody or the judge would sign over custody to them. They're basically losing all rights, like we didn't have the right to use the phone. Well internet didn't exist when I was there, it did exist but it wasn't really as popular, but we didn't have the right to use the phone or write letters, receive mail, have visitors, talk to an attorney. I had an attorney before I was locked up, and I wasn't allowed to talk to her or see her at all. We weren't allowed to talk to anybody outside the facility to complain about our treatment, and we also weren't allowed to use the phone at all to complain about there was sexual abuse in our facility, and there was no way for us to contact the state to complain about that the child abuse hotline. We weren't allowed to talk to them, and we also weren't allowed to read books or magazines or watch the news or TV or see newspapers or anything like that. We didn't even know what was going on in the outside world. We didn't leave. We were locked inside for the whole time. We were there.

Athena F: That's very important information to know. I think you needed Mel. We had one more comment also from Facebook and Paula, this idea that you mentioned that it's a bare minimum in terms of what's required of these facilities. And in the state of Florida, it seems at least licensure and qualification is required to open a kind of facility. Can you talk a little bit about more of what that bare minimum is because I think our audience will be very interested to hear about how little it seems one that there's this kind of oversight for this. But what does it look like, who can basically claim to open something like this and facilitate this kind of service?
Dr. Hughes: Yes, I think that's one of the primary issues is because it varies so much state to state, and because I guess the coding of the facility varies so much, you can have a facility that opens up without any license providers, and that can be done under a religious exemption. I can open up a farm and tell parents that I'm offering coaching and counseling that's not therapy or some of the other kinds of ways that these facilities have been able to kind of skirt any kind of regulation. I think that's one of the primary problems is because people can operate outside of the mainstream system. We have the lack of regulation and oversight.

Melanie: So when we get back into the bill and what this would remedy, would there be some sort of bill of rights or standard? And what would some of those standards be that are in the bill that needs our support that needs sponsors.

Dr. Hughes: So one of the things that is actually most touching for me in reading this bill and one of the primary authors of this bill, Caroline Cole. She was speaking on this several weeks ago, and she said something that really resonated with me in light of the bill. And she says that the abuse is the treatment. And coming to this bill from that understanding that what we experienced as treatment was abuse and what is being prescribed in these facilities is abusive. The bill of right for the child's physical wellbeing, the right to not be harmed, the right to have emotional well-being. The right for essential needs to be met, the right to be able to be free from abusive and humiliating experiences from adults and fellow children. What is written in this bill seems like it should be a given. I would offer it's an embarrassment for me as an American that we are drafting legislation that has to explicitly state that we will protect children and ensure that their essential needs are met, that we need to have care that is trauma-informed, culturally informed. The essentials of this Bill of Rights are very basic, very basic human rights. And these are often rights that are offered to prisoners in the context of combat, and we are needing to explicitly state that they be offered to children in the United States in the year 202.

Melanie: Unreal. I know we have a question from Susan. Our panel is Susan.

Susan: Hi, thank you. My understanding is that one of the ways that these programs, these facilities are successful is that they also convince the parents that if the child calls home and complaints of abuse or tells them of the horrible things that are going on, the facility has the parents convinced that the children are lying, they're not to be believed that those things are not happening. Do you find that to be true across the board in the majority, or is that minimal?

Dr.Hughes: No. And I think that that is part of what has really enabled this industry to continue. So then we start out with parents who are desperate who are, I would believe, genuinely concerned for the most part, right. There definitely are parents that would not fall into this category. But if we start with parents who are worried about their child and who are feeling ill-equipped and desperate, and then they go and they try to seek support and that support is telling them your child needs to come here immediately or they are going to end up dead or homeless on the streets. So parents put their child in these placements and the child is begging to be sent home and starting to report the experiences. Now we live in a country where we believe that we have rights and that kids are safe and that if somebody does something wrong, that there's somebody to report it to and that reporting body will come and fix it and ensure that people are safe. So from that context, to hear a child who is reporting things that we believe doesn't take place in our country is very dissonant to the world view that a lot of these parents have my experience. When I was in my facility, I was in a facility in Leverkin, Utah, that has been shut down. But we had to have all of our letters reviewed and signed the envelope before I was able to go and be mailed and staff would ensure that what we were writing was not “manipulative”. And so if we would write and we would describe some of the experiences that took place, that would be seen as manipulation and we would be consequenced for that. Additionally, parents were told kids say the wildest things they may say this and this and that's just because they want to go home and get back into these behaviors. I was on pass with my parents when I was in this facility and I tried to share with my mom what was going on and my mom stood up from the restaurant, pulled me, got in the car and took me back to my facility and she left. And so my pass was cut short by two days because I tried to express this to my mom and this is a very common experience for survivors, and it's cross facilities. It's cross-generation, and it's a very common tactic. Additionally, a lot of these facilities have, I don't know, like a sort of return policy that if a child goes home and starts to return to behaviors or act out or engage in X, Y and Z, but the parent is able to send them back to the facility for a certain period of time without charging the parents. Now, as a child coming home from these facilities, knowing that that's hanging over your head, we all know what's going to happen to us if we get sent back. So it really promotes silence on the part of these survivors. And a way to maintain safety after leaving is to abide by that code. Right? The code of silence.

Susan: I also understand that I saw an interview the other day with Misha Oshaerobic. I hope I'm pronouncing their name correctly. They spoke about the Lord of Flies culture that is created in these facilities and how Doctor Athena said earlier humans value relationships. We need relationships with other people. What does that do to a child in these facilities where they cannot create those bonds with the other children that are there because they're so keyed up to be alert, looking for violations and things like that.

Dr.Kolbe: It is very Lord of the Flies in a lot of facilities. It can be brutal. I think one of the difficulties is that they call this milieu therapy. By the way, there's an actual term for it that's the code term for it in the industry is milieu therapy, which basically means creating a milieu or an environment which promotes compliance with program expectations. In the case of troubled teen industry programs and congregate care facilities a lot of the time. If there's a level system, the way that the kids would move up in levels and eventually get out and get home would be by both being compliant themselves and also by showing that they've bought into the program by turning other kids in. Most of the programs have rules that are very strict down to like the tiniest little thing, tiny little minutia kind of rules. And so it's very easy to find their rules that are designed to basically catch people at being bad instead of helping them be successful. And so the way that a kid would get ahead is by turning in other kids and by, quote, unquote confronting them in the therapeutic environment or the milieu of the program. And that's also the way that the program saves money. They make money by having children play the role of staff, by policing each other and policing themselves. And in many programs they have the kids are responsible for disciplining other kids for restraining and other children, or keeping children in seclusion or punishing other children. And this, of course, then cuts down on the needed staff to child ratio within the program and saves the program money. And it can be in terms of the environment itself can be incredibly brutal and incredibly cruel. I think that depending on the program that people were in, many of us survivors did and said and acted in ways when we were in the program towards each other that we have immense regret about, because that was the only way to survive, and it puts you in a position where you become a person you don't want to be, you become compliant to their program, you become what they want you to be. But it is not a good person, and it's not a person that reflects the kind of values that I would hope that our parents would want for us

Melanie: And to pull this back because we have there's this bill, there's this accountability act that we are trying to get sponsored. Can we just talk a bit before we lead out? Can we talk a bit about what is needed from us as neighbors? What can we do? Who should we write in addition to the petitions, what can we do from our standpoint, not only for this show but going forward.

Dr.Hughes: Because so many of these facilities tend to be in rural communities. Again, this $52 billion industry comes in and provides jobs for these smaller communities and establishes relationships kind of throughout the ranks of the police departments and social services. I think what is important on multiple levels. First, for everybody to be aware of the facilities that are in their communities on our website, we do have a map of these facilities that everybody is invited to look at and kind of see what is in their community. We also have a developing database that really shows some of the experiences that survivors have had in these facilities. News reports, any kind of investigations. So I think the first thing would be for everybody to be aware of what is happening in their own community, and Secondly, to be aware of the resources that are present or are lacking in their community. Secondly, with respect to our bill, really encouraging lawmakers to support this bill. This is again, a very basic bill for protection for children, and to really investigate any lawmakers who are pushing back. What is happening, what is taking place? What are the reasons that any lawmaker would say, no, we don't want to protect children. What's behind that? And to really do research into why any individual or any community would be opposed to a bill like this. Those resources can be available on our website, BreakingCodeSilence.Org. Again, being aware of what's going on in your own community and understanding your local and state representatives, what is their position and why.

Melanie: I have one more question for you, and it's going back to something you said earlier about how a lot of these agencies, when it comes to accountability, they're passing the ball because it's nobody's fault. Will the bill address that to streamline the accountability? So that when there are abuses, there's a path of what complaints and what issues goes where and how they are disciplined and handled.

Dr.Hughes: Yeah. So it would support a standard for a joint Commission that would be interdisciplinary that would be able to research, investigate, enforce, and to shut down facilities that are unable to meet the basic standards of this bill.
Melanie: And from the support. Susan, can you give us the information on the petition one more time before we leave out?

Susan: Sure. Again, it's called the Please Support and co-sponsor the Accountability for Congregate Care Act 2021. And the call sign for that petition is P as in Peter, I, F As in Frank, D as in David, F as in Frank, R as in Resistbot. And if you send that call sign with the word sign in front of it to 50409, you can sign on to this petition, send it to your legislatures, asking for them to co-sponsor and help get this act over the finish line. You also have the opportunity to encourage your friends and family to sign on to the petition as well

Melanie: As usual we have another episode where this isn't the end. This is really just the beginning. So can you thank you, first of all, Dr. Athena, Vanessa, for joining us today and for sharing your own personal stories, because I know that's very difficult to have to kind of just open yourself up, and we appreciate that rather than just getting past it, you are taking the lead in making sure that other young people don't have to go through this. So before we go, can you let us know where we can find you, where we can find your organization, the best ways that we can support, whether it's through financial donations or whatever. Can you give us that information again, please?

Dr. Hughes: Sure. So our website is There are definitely places to donate to support the work we do. Breaking Code Silence has multiple divisions. We have a research division that is working on academic and investigative research. We are collecting information that has historically been spread across all these different overseen bodies and really trying to concentrate it into one location. Advocacy to help survivors report their stories to the appropriate overseeing bodies. We support parents who have children in these facilities, awareness to provide education to different professionals and our legislative team that is spearheaded by Caroline Cole and really making a difference in the legislative landscape in both our federal and state regions. So we are available. There's different opportunities to learn more, to connect with different members of leadership throughout our organization.

Melanie: Thank you so much. We appreciate you being here. As I tell everybody, please don't be a stranger, because this is a conversation that's going to be continuing as we get more signers as the bill gets more traction. This is going to be an ongoing conversation because we live in a carceral state, so there will always be a new way where we have to find out and our young people are vulnerable in these situations. So thank you both again for joining us for this episode. And I am going to talk to my other panelist friends so they can tell us where they can find you what your eye is on this week and lead us out. Christine.

Christine: Hey there. I have nothing to share and promote. My mind is still on this conversation. I think it's so heavy, but I learned a lot and what was coming up for me was a personal anecdote of mine. My son, he actually attended a boarding school for four years, middle school to 8th grade as a single mom and traveling a lot. It was something that fit for him, and it worked. But as I'm hearing about this, it just barely scratches the surface of what did I not know? And what should I have researched or been more aware of overall in this space, and that's where I'm at right now. Thank you.

Melanie: Thanks so much for joining us again. Athena.

Athena: Hi. Thank you very much to our panelists. It was very eye-opening, I think, as we continue to just look at how these systems are not working for those who needed to be working for them, the youth and these children, they are the future. Hope it's not too cliche. And the idea that we're creating these systems to exactly what you said, incarcerate them or to somehow control them and separate them without more people knowing about it. Is this disturbing and troubling? I'm thinking with the holidays coming up my mind, several things here in Washington, D. C. We're having sort of repeat performances from this unite the right folks asking for justice for the January 6 insurrectionist. So a lot of my attention has been focused around this continuing struggle against white supremacy in this country. After today's discussion, I'm really thinking more and more about children over the holidays. The children of those whose parents are not well, the children of those whose parents are incarcerated and the ones who are just going to continually feel left behind and marginalized and sort of othered this holiday season. So I just encourage everybody to look up resources and things in your community that can potentially make the holidays a little bit easier for the children that might not have the resources or the access to things that your own immediate family and community might. So that's where I am. Thanks.

Melanie: Thanks Athena. We know you'll keep us in the loop because one thing we know about white supremacists, they do not get tired ever. So we appreciate you. And thank you again for joining us this week. Susan.

Susan: Hi. Well, listening to all of those experiences just feels so heavy on my heart. I learned so much today in terms of where I'm at and what I'm watching. Some of you out there know about the troubles we're having in Florida with Amendment Four and rights restoration for returning citizens. And so I have been looking up and following for a while. TheFloridaRights RestorationCoalition.Org. They're doing some really good work in trying to get the will of the voters here in Florida to actually become reality and have returning citizens voting rights restored to them. So I encourage you to check out their website. It's They have ways for you to volunteer and assist in the work in trying to get restoring citizens voting rights restored to them.

Melanie: Thank you so much, Susan. That is amazing. And as we know, especially now necessary work. So we appreciate it. And we appreciate you. Thank you for joining us this week again.

Susan: Thank you.

Melanie: And folks, that is our show. Thank you so much for joining us once again, whenever we're dealing with oppression, whenever we're dealing with marginalized people, I like to quote Professor Buzzkill, it's worse than you think. And this is just one of those situations where it's worse than you think. And it is worthy of doing a deep dive reading these articles, reading information and supporting this bill. So we thank you so much for joining us. You can catch us if you're not here, you can catch our podcast. This podcast will go up on Tuesday, and also we're going into space. So on Tuesday night at 7:30 Eastern, we will be hosting a Twitter space to continue this conversation a little bit and make sure that you join us. It'll just be about 30 minutes just to if there are any questions that maybe you need cleared up to get greater understanding, because more than anything else, we want support for this bill. As Athena said, our kids are our future. It's not even a cliche. How we treat them is going to inform how they treat who comes behind them. So this is important that we set a new standard. So thank you again. Join us next week. We are going to have an amazing show where we'll be talking about sanctuary cities. Again. We've talked about immigration before. These conversations are not going anywhere, and neither are we. So next week we'll be talking about Sanctuary Cities next Sunday, 01:00 P.m. Please join us. If you want to learn more about Resistbot how you can support how you can volunteer, how you can Donate go to Resist dot bot. Find us where any of your favorite podcasts are Tuesday. Join us on Spaces and until next week we'll see you!

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