Opinion: Youth in Pa. residential institutions are unsafe and denied quality education
Two recent reports on the plight of more than 3,700 children and youth living in residential facilities across Pennsylvania should provide a wake-up call to anyone who cares about children.
One, Unsafe and Uneducated: Indifference to Dangers in Pennsylvania’s Residential Child Welfare Facilities, written by the Education Law Center and Children’s Rights, details harrowing experiences of children in group homes, residential treatment facilities, and other Pennsylvania child welfare residential placements.
In the other, Broken Bridges: How Juvenile Placements Cut Off Youth from Communities and Successful Futures, youth advocates in a Juvenile Law Center program describe horrific treatment that young people endured in Pennsylvania juvenile justice facilities.
Both reports call for policy reforms – including dramatically reducing referrals to residential placements to keep youth safe from harm, connected to their support systems, and making progress in school.
Lack of adequate oversight by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services has resulted in children being put in harm’s way. Although 44 percent of residential facilities reviewed in the Unsafe and Uneducated report had repeat violations for physical or sexual abuse by staff or other children, the department continued allowing children to be placed in such facilities.