Earlier this week, socialite Paris Hilton called on President Joe Biden and Congress to begin regulating congregate care facilities for teens. Recently, Hilton has become an advocate for teens in congregate care facilities., sharing her experience and taking action. There has been no government action taken against these facilities in over a decade.
Over the summer, Hilton came forward with her story of abuse just weeks before her documentary came out. She told People the story of the trauma she endured at Provo Canyon School, where she attended for 11 months. As a young teen living in New York City, she got into trouble with her parents, who decided to send her to a Utah boarding school that would address her behavior by “focus[ing] on behavioral and mental development” (People). However, she faced a parent approved kidnapping to get there, which was followed by long-term abuse while she lived there.
This week, she wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post about her experience. “When I was 16 years old, I was awakened one night by two men with handcuffs. They asked if I wanted to go ‘the easy way or the hard way’ before carrying me from my home as I screamed for help. I had no idea why or where I was being taken against my will. I soon learned I was being sent to hell,” she wrote. She called the “solutions” her and other parents thought they found for rebellious children “misleading marketing” to get kids into the “troubled teen industry”. She elaborates in her documentary, which came out last month.
In 2008, a report was published called the, “2008 Government Accountability Office report ‘Residential Programs: Selected Cases of Death, Abuse, and Deceptive Marketing”. It found that there was “‘ineffective management and operating practices, in addition to untrained staff, contributed to the death and abuse of youth,”. However, no action was or has been taken, meaning that facilities that aren’t funded by Medicaid don’t have funding requirements.
“Congress and President Biden need to enact a basic federal ‘bill of rights’ for youths in congregate care,” she wrote. “Every child placed in these facilities should have a right to a safe, humane environment, free from threats and practices of solitary confinement, and physical or chemical restraint at the whim of staff.”