Maia Szalavitz

Maia Szalavitz is a senior fellow at the media watchdog group STATS, and a journalist who covers health, science and public policy. She is the author of Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids.

Recent Articles

Getting Tough on Private Prisons for Teens

Residential programs for troubled teenagers tell parents they'll cure kids' behavior problems. But Congress may be cracking down after allegations of abuse and a GAO report that at least 10 teens have died in these facilities.

Members of Congress heard jarring testimony from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) last week about people who were denied medical care, starved, beaten, and "forced to eat vomit, lie in urine and feces, forced to use toothbrushes to clean toilets and then on their teeth." A latecomer to the proceedings might "think we were talking about human-rights abuses in Third World countries," said Rep. George Miller of California, who convened the hearing. In fact, Congress was for the first time discussing abuses in "tough love" residential programs for teenagers. These programs -- variously known as "boot camps," "emotional growth schools," "wilderness programs," and "therapeutic boarding schools" -- sell themselves to parents as a way of fighting teen drug use, behavioral problems, and various mental illnesses like depression, attention deficit disorder (ADD), even bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic depression). Some programs are public and are part of the juvenile justice...

Why Jesus is Not a Regulator

O ne of the primary goals of President George W. Bush's new White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives is "to eliminate unnecessary legislative, regulatory, and other bureaucratic barriers that impede effective faith-based and other community efforts to solve social problems." Bush has said that America needs more "faith-based treatment" for addiction and juvenile delinquency and that he would like to "promote alternative licensing regimes to recognize religious training as an alternative form of qualification." Bad idea. Even leaving aside the dubious constitutionality of government financial support for religious services, deregulation is a recipe for disaster. Recent experience shows why. Over the last 10 years, more than two dozen teenagers have died in so-called "tough love" rehabilitation facilities that use violent confrontation and exposure to primitive living conditions as a means to a cure. At least three girls in different facilities died from dehydration...