Parents send their trouble children to Montana reform schools. The programs operate with little oversight.
Missoulian education reporter Lucy Tompkins began examining Montana's residential programs for troubled children a year ago. When she left the paper for a fellowship in the summer, Missoulian reporters Seaborn Larson and Cameron Evans joined the reporting effort, following Tompkins' lead.
It’s been nearly 15 years since 16-year-old Karlye Newman hanged herself with her sweatshirt in a bathroom at Spring Creek Lodge Academy near Thompson Falls.
A residential treatment program for troubled teenage girls in Sanders County has been sued three times in three months over allegations it misrepresented the qualifications of its staff and employed a man who groomed the young girls, sexually abusing at least one.
MARION — In January 2017, Ben Jackson arrived in Marion, Montana, where he would spend the last six weeks of his life. The blond, freckled 16-year-old had traveled from his hometown in Colorado to attend Montana Academy, a residential treatment program for struggling teens.
Not one of Montana's private residential programs for troubled teens has faced significant sanctions despite racking up 58 complaints since the state began licensing them 12 years ago.
In Montana, residential treatment programs can house troubled children and teens without any state oversight if the program claims a tie to a religious organization.
Former students at Montana’s residential schools complained about a lot of things in their interviews with the Missoulian: minutiae-laden “level” systems, physical exertion as punishment, lack of communication with their families.
Scan the lists of owners and administrators at state-licensed residential programs for troubled children in Montana and the same names appear again and again.
Therapeutic residential schools licensed by the Montana board of Private Alternative Adolescent Residential or Outdoor Programs. Descriptions are compiled from licensing records and websites. Unless otherwise listed, all are for-profit programs.
Montana’s failed attempts to beef up regulation of private, therapeutic programs for troubled teens parallel what has happened on the national level.
Last week the Missoulian published a series of news stories about private residential treatment programs for children — mostly teenagers — in Montana.
Gov. Steve Bullock said Thursday he supports shifting regulation of private residential treatment programs for troubled teens to the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services.
The Montana Legislature is considering a bill that seeks to protect vulnerable youth from sexual misconduct in private alternative adolescent treatment programs.
A leader of Montana's largest private residential program for troubled teens said Friday he's open to changes such as increased oversight, more transparency, and a swift response to complaints against programs operating in Montana.
Infrastructure. Aquatic invasive species. Education. Criminal justice reform. The 66th session of the Montana Legislature is currently riding the crest of an unprecedented wave of bill draft requests on a mind-boggling array of topics.
A former therapist at a private teen treatment program near Kalispell was convicted in 2018 of repeatedly raping a 16-year-old girl he was caring for in one-on-one sessions at a program in Utah.
The Missoulian Editorial Board has previously called for support for two bills awaiting action in the Legislature that would finally put in place long overdue protections for youth in private alternative treatment programs. Add to these an equally important measure, currently in the drafting process, that promises to ensure effective oversight of these programs.