Special Report: The Troubled Teen Industry and Breaking Code Silence

A decorative image with a black background, blue and green flowers on the left that says The Mission Within Special Report.

[Content Note: Today’s post deals with a very serious topic, and to be specific, the Troubled Teen Industry. With this comes mention of abuses against kids. If this is something you need to take into consideration, and you’re not in the headspace to hear about this, definitely give this post a miss, and go check out some of my other stuff. No hard feelings, we can kick it together again some other time. However, if you decide to move forward with this post, and it brings up some difficult and upsetting feelings for you, I encourage you to reach out to the people at the Crisis Text Line. I can personally vouch for them.]

In recent years, you may have come across mention of certain so-called boarding schools operating out of certain states, and some super-unsavory, not to mention heinous af doings going on behind closed doors at the hands of some staff members toward students. Or you may have seen things on TV back in the day where so-called “bad” kids acting out would get sent to schools like this as a “scared straight” deal or whatever. Maybe you read something about how this one girl got kidnapped and sent to a school in another country.

True story. since this is sadly a thing where these so-called “schools” are concerned. The kid this happened to in the link matches something I read in YM back in high school about a girl this happened to, and the school was in Mexico, where there’s little to no repercussions for this crap. She was 19 when her story appeared in the magazine, and IIRC, it happened when she was a sophomore or junior in high school.

This has been happening for a long time, and I feel like anyone who kidnaps these kids is complicit in whatever happens to them at these “schools.”

Or you may have seen that episode of “Dr.” Phil about Bhad Bhabie, who got sent to one of these schools, and Bhad Bhabie has since gone public w/ her story about what happened to her while she was there. I won’t name the school, b/c I don’t wanna sully this blog w/ mention of that dump.

Say what you will about Bhad Bhabie. I feel like she deserves a ton of credit for her activism against these shithole “schools,” and “Dr.” Phil’s connection w/ them. Bhad Bhabie wasn’t the first one sent to these schools from the show, and lucky for us, it was Bhad Bhabie and another former guest on the show who influenced the show’s decision to quit sending kids to the so-called “school,” and to quit endorsing it. [NOTE: I use “Dr.” instead of Dr. b/c Phil McGraw’s license to practice lapsed in 2006.]

This is what’s known as the Troubled Teen Industry, a conglomerate of agencies and their spinoffs. One commonality among them is that there’s very little (if any!) oversight in terms of checks and balances that licensed, credentialed, established mental health facilities have. According to this video from therapist Mickey Atkins (luv ya, girl!) there’s a lotta loopholes these sick-ass agencies like to exploit so they can continue their operations. If one gets shut down, more pop up.

It’s like the Hydra from Hercules, or more like turds that won’t flush.

Mickey also touches on the slick marketing tactics these rotten dumpster fires use in order to get parents and caregivers who are at the end of their ropes to buy into what they’re selling. In many instances, these parents and caregivers genuinely have no idea what they’re getting their kids into, and the Powers that Be from these agencies will convince them that the kids are liars and whatever. This serves to further isolate the kids, who are probably like a million miles from home by the time they get to the site.

I would also like to add that by convincing the parents and caregivers that the kids are liars, this, that, and the next are also pitting the kids and the parents and caregivers against each other, which is triangulation at its finest. It’s also taking a kid’s support system (if they had one) away from them, and that’s isolation, another tactic among abusers.

I can’t think of a bigger betrayal against a kid than that, tbh.

I used to read Reddit back in the day, and the subreddit about the Troubled Teen Industry was one of many I followed. Many of the stories there describe staff members behaving in heinously abusive ways against the original posters. Some of these posters described instances of physical and sexual abuse from the staffers. Some of the posts go into detail, but for the sake of this post, I won’t.

Some of them even got threatening letters from the Powers that Be at the agencies they were subjected to in order to silence them.

Some of them have even named their abusers, and as much as I hate to say it, some of their abusers are on LinkedIn. I won’t name them since it’s not my place or my story to speak to, and none of them are in my network anyways. After the stories I saw, these consent violating, abusive asswads won’t ever be.

But, back to the part where I talked about how these shitholes are unlicensed. I should also mention that some are licensed, but operate on just this side of the law to where they fly under the radar of Troubled Teen Industry watchdog and survivor advocacy groups. How sneaky is that shiz? No names mentioned, but there are some agencies that seemingly condone staffers behaving abusively toward residents, even though they’re technically licensed and credentialed.

Shock of shocks, they’ve had lawsuits galore as a result of their crappy actions. Tell me again how these janky agencies are even still in business? Make it make sense, ffs!

In response to the agencies in this industry, as well as those neighboring the industry just enough to fly under the radar, there’s survivor advocacy groups, message boards, and watchdog organizations where survivors can band together, share their stories, and help start the process of moving forward after an abusive experience like that.

Mickey even said in her video that recovering from abusive experiences like what these rotten agencies dish out is an uphill battle that can go on for years. I don’t doubt it for an instant. Moving forward from any kind of abuse is hard.

This post was a year in the making. I’ve never been to one of these agencies. Had my station in life been different, it’s hard to say whether or not it may have been an equally different story. I’m merely writing this as a long-time concerned citizen w/ a platform. Since I have a platform, it is my duty of care to you as a reader. If you’ve been subjected to any agency in or neighboring the Troubled Teen Industry, I want you to know that I’m so sorry you went through that. If nobody listened to you, I’m sorry they chose not to listen to you. You deserved so much better than what the staff members subjected you to. You deserved better all along, no matter what they said.

Like Mickey said, pretty much any local agency and any local resources are better than these haunted house ass-fucking rat holes and their adjacent counterparts that operate on just this side of the law to skate by the regulatory oversight. These useless agencies deserve to go outta business, and if it were up to me, I’d shut em all down in a New York minute, yesterday.

I see you. I hear you. I believe you. Y’all matter to me, and so do your stories. Over to you, readers. Have you heard of the Troubled Teen Industry, or the survivor groups and watchdog groups like Breaking Code Silence? Have you been to a facility like this? Know someone who was? Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts and takeaways, so drop it all like it’s hot below, and let’s talk.

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