My name is Jason Ross and I am a member of the Board of Directors at the Community Alliance for Ethical Treatment of Youth (CAFETY) and a member of CAFETY-NY Chapter. Cafety works to increase awareness about residential programs that use coercive practices and operate under a philosophy that undermines the dignity of youth. I am writing to you because I was deeply concerned about an advertisement in your latest magazine showing a half page promotion for the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in Canton, Massachusetts.
I am very concerned because JRC has been a place where people with disabilities are subjected to electrical shock as a means of pain-compliance as well as what we feel is unethical use of mechanical and chemical restraint and other harmful practices.
At Cafety, we know that the state-of-the-science in the treatment of behavioral disorders has moved beyond the archaic ‘facility-based’ approach that has been found to be so inherently coercive in nature. Instead, evidence based practices like Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) are becoming the set standard in most parts of the country and we support this trend. PBIS and other community based support programs allow youth with even the most ‘severe’ disabilities to live safely at home with their families where their parents can protect them from such disregard for personal dignity. It is vitally important for children and teenagers to feel included with the rest of their peers. A lot of the youth who end up admitted to JRC are nonverbal and have multi-sensory issues. Their growth and development requires quality support from the teachers, personal care staff and parents wrapped around them.
Also, personally, let me just add that there are some parents who submit to opinions and social pressure that says their children need to be “normal” in how they look, sound and behave. The out-of-touch congregate care facilities for youth like JRC that still do exist, feed into this feeling for the sake of keeping their institutions as full as possible. Instead of teaching parents to understand and embrace who their children are and helping them to find supports in the community, the professionals who work for the facilities convince them that confinement in the institution is the sole option for their children.
At Cafety, we believe it is only logical to point out that aversive, coercive and physically painful practices cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and many other physical and mental health issues later in life. They do not ‘treat’ a disorder, but instead make life worse for those who are subjected to them. Please support our mission to replace facilities like JRC with community based alternatives that really do help youth with disabilities to cope, adapt and succeed.
I did not receive a response from the magazine, so I decided to post it on DMC. Hopefully, this letter will inform everyone about what Residential Treatment Placement centers do to the youth. Also, a phone call to the magazine may need to be done.