West Virginia News published this article February 2011. All rights belong to the author Jack Swint. It was part of 3 part feature of the industry.
Want Your Troubled Kid To Disappear In The Middle Of The Night
Part 2 of 3... Teen Transport Industry May Cause Infliction Of Emotional Distress By Jack Swint - Publisher
“Jonathan screamed, and then he was silent." What did that mean, she wondered? Was he reassured as they said he would be? Or did they do something to him. She couldn't take it any longer and opened the door. Just then she saw them - two large men, one small child - she looked hard and realized her son was in handcuffs. His head turned and their eyes met. She ran to him, sobbing, but Rob pulled her away. She was able to swipe her hand over his face as she yelled she was sorry and that she loved him.”… Mother of teen extracted from home at 3 am by paid teen transport agents.
The general public is becoming more aware of the facilities for troubled teens that have popped up across the country over the past decades. Residential programs such as therapeutic boarding schools, treatment centers, boot camps and wilderness programs work with these teens while taking them out of their immediate environment where peer pressure and other negative influences might interfere with the therapeutic process.
Many of the students who attend these specialized private boarding schools need the focus, individualized attention, and professional intervention offered by these programs.
Over the past few years, the media and US government has been thoroughly investigating the mounting number of complaints and accidents that have caused abuse and even death to the teens who are in these programs. Some facilities we have investigated, appear on the surface to be either following the mandated rules and guidelines, or are adjusting their curriculum to do so.
But, there has not been any real focus on how some of these kids physically, and emotionally, arrive to these treatment centers that can be thousands of miles from their home.
Personally delivering your child could be difficult for any parent, especially when they already know the environment and curriculum that their loved one is about to embark on. If you’re not emotionally up to having to take your son or daughter to one of these places, there is an expensive and sometimes dangerous alternative.
You can hire a “teen escort service” to come into your home at 3am in the morning, and extract your child, preferably while they are sleeping, out to an awaiting vehicle that transports them to the pre-destined treatment program across the country. And, the old saying... “you can go easy, or you can go hard,” does mean just that.
According to one child psychologist we spoke to, this type of ordeal to a teen can cause everlasting trauma that includes emotional distress and trust issues with the parent(s). For the parent, it crosses moral and legal issues that could include negligence, child abuse, false imprisonment and breach of fiduciary duty.
The Transport Process… Deceiving or a Needed Tool.
According to industries standards, here is a scenario of how these transport companies pick up and deliver your child...
Keep everything at home as normal as possible, do not tell your adolescent what you are planning. If you have other children in your home, keep their routines as normal as possible and above all, where they are concerned, do not take them into your confidence and let them know what you are planning.
Prior to picking up the teen, completed forms will include everything from personal information, to medical needs and emergency contact information. Signed releases by the parent(s) and payment.
Agents will arrive at the residence in the early morning hours (3 a.m)to insure that the youth is at home, and preferably in bed asleep. The parents meet the Agents at the front door with the clothes for the child to wear during the transport, any luggage, our paperwork, fee and contracts for the school, if applicable.
These items will be placed in the car. Parents then take the Agents back to the child's room, wake him/her up, and introduce the Agents and tell them that you love them and that the Agents are there to take them to school. The parents should then go to a part of the house as not to be seen by the child. This allows full attention of the child to the Agents. (And keeps emotions down in case the agents need to restrain the teen)
Restraints are within the staffs reach if the child is uncooperative. This consists of at least handcuffs and tear gas/pepper spray. Agents do instruct the child that if they are uncooperative, force can be used.
Agents will get the child dressed and take them directly out to the car. They are usually placed in the back seat with the child locks on and one Agent will sit beside them. At this time they will proceed to the destination as quickly as possible. They will usually call the parents as soon as they have delivered the child to the program.
It appears to be policy that the child have no outside contact until they arrive at the program. It is very important to remove them from the surroundings that they are comfortable in as quickly as possible, this makes them more dependant on the Agents and less likely of an attempt to run.
The alternative extraction is in broad daylight. According to Cori, “These guys came to my school and put me in handcuffs...They took me outside to the car and I could see all my friends with their faces against the window, watching these guys take me away. I was crying, saying I was being kidnapped. My mom said, ’No, its OK honey, it’s called goober-napping.” A slang term for kidnapping.
Who Are These Transport Agents
Agents come from various backgrounds including law enforcement, teachers, health professionals and other youth authority backgrounds, specializing in extreme behavior and substance abuse. They are suppose to be carefully recruited and undergo extensive training in areas of crisis management, verbal and non verbal communication techniques, personal safety and client control. All are required to be insured and bonded.
But, as with any industry, we also discovered that some companies will contract employees in other states that they have never met or trained. In a quick records search, we found media stories that included agents who not only have criminal histories, (including sexual abuse) but have also been arrested while transporting teens and charged with unlawful imprisonment and assault that was the result of one agent beating a child while they were handcuffed behind their back.
Psychological Concerns In The Transport Industry
If you’re going to use one of these services, here is some factual and helpful information about the psychological effects this may have on the child. On the parent. And on the overall relationship as a family?
According to a routine extraction, the parents are allowed to wake the child themselves and introduce the child to the escorts, then they have to leave the room while their kids have to strip down in front of strangers and get dressed. And, depending on how the process goes, the child could also be restrained and extracted under further duress.
We found some companies have a security policy of using handcuffs in every case regardless of their behavior. Children have reported they were handcuffed and/or pepper sprayed just for crying. Some don’t use restraints at all. One thing is for sure, if one of these agents shows up at your home, your loved one is going away. The easy way, or hard.
Psychologically, will the child forever feel abandoned or betrayed by the parent? Some legal authorities feel that these kids are actually being kidnapped; and no matter what they do, he or she will be removed from their home by strangers.
In one case, a transport agent reported back to 17 year old Valerie Ann Heron’s mother that the trip went smoothly. According to Heron's mother, the transport agent played his role well. "He made her feel comfortable with him. She trusted him. He talked to her about what to expect, where she was going," the mother also said. "She gave him a hug when she left him."
The day after that hug, Valerie rushed out of a second-floor classroom and jumped to her death off a 35-foot-high balcony.
Transporting a child can cost up to $6,000 depending on the amount of travel needed and incidental costs such as rental cars, motels etc. One company actually posts costs on their website (linked below) which offers flat rates.
The average pick up and drive to location plus airfare is $1,600. Driving only, $695.00 to $2,495.00. Private charter flights average $1,000 to $5,500. Credit cards are accepted, and Pay Pal too. All payments are due when the agents arrive at your home.
Also, according to reports, the cost of the transport can be included in the total package of an educational student loan.
Parents in the United States are able to hire escort companies to transport their troubled children from home to teen residential programs, wilderness therapy programs, boarding schools, boot camps and behavior modification programs.
The contract between the escort company and the parents include temporarily assigning parental rights and authority to the company for the duration of the transport from point A and point B. Though there are some escort companies that are legitimate and that do not abuse children, there are those that use less than appropriate tactics. The business is unregulated in the U.S.
The psychological and legal implications have not been addressed by state or federal governments. Taking in account the probable long lasting trauma from this type of transportation, to a facility that in itself is an environment that claims to restructure behavior to teens that are considered “troubled,” is troublesome.
Is it an easy way out for the parent who doesn’t want to have to endure the emotional strain on them of not only delivering up their child to one of these facilities, but also drive them there. It’s a tuff enough decision to send your kid to one of these last resort programs, but getting them there can be even worse. Especially if the person is unwilling to go.
These transporters come into your child’s safe environment, (home) and in most cases, are in bed asleep. Suddenly awakened, disoriented and scared. They are directed to strip down and re-dress in front of complete strangers who then escort them quickly out of their home (either restrained or not) and whisked away.
It appears that even if the transporter is professional in his or her job function, the child is going to still be traumatized just because of the “shock and awe” of it all. That is the concern that needs to be addressed. What will be the short and long term effect on the entire family?
This is nothing more than a reverse to the process families use in hiring trained men and women who extract children out of religious cults and back to the safety of their loved ones and home.
End Of Story….
Jack Swint – Publisher
West Virginia News