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eNews July 2008
July ENews Update   


 H.R. 6358 - Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act of 2008

As many of you know, H.R. 6358 (Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act of 2008) has the potential to significantly affect the field of adventure therapy. For this edition, we've compiled a number of perspectives from a number of the field's stakeholders. If you have a perspective you'd like to share in next month's AEE eBlast, please submit it to membership@aee.org.

From Stephen Glass, Executive Director of Project D.A.R.E./Wendigo Lake Expeditions, Chair of TAPG

This bill passed in the House on June 25, 2008 and will go to the Senate later this year. It was pushed through the house with provisions that I believe will allow for good quality programs to operate without fear of going out of business. The amended version of the bill specifically added language to
1) include everyone (public and private programs, psychiatric hospitals and foster care group homes), 
2) prohibit unlimited punitive damages, and
3) mandate documentation on covered programs.
I believe the concerns that remain include whether there is enough opportunity for states to show they are taking steps to enforce standards and issues around liability remain. 

I believe there are two main concerns remaining about this issue:

1) "Yes, I am in favor of this legislation because it may improve advocacy, give visibility to our work and better document quaility control " 
2) "This type of legislation gives me anxiety because it appears to have been carelessly drafted and may be harmful to my program."

For me personally, I live and operate up in Canada and we are already regulated along the lines of this bill. I would advise to my American friends that passage of HR 6358 through the Senate will change things, but you can operate a quality program in a more controlled environment. However, I would suggest watching, and becoming involved if necessary, in what happens to help ensure that it will be crafted in a way not to put good programs out of business.
More information:


To see how your representative voted.
read the bill.

US Bureau of Land Management,  National Instruction Memorandum

From Paul Smith, President, Catherine Freer Wilderness Therapy Program

News linked to the Miller legislation include 1) the BLM's new policies directed at residential treatment and wilderness therapy programs and 2) the Federal Trade commission's warning to consumers about health and safety issues at residential treatment programs for a troubled teens.
One June 25th, BLM sent out a memo announcing that they will deny permitting to programs in states where oversight is either unavailable or inadequate, on the basis that the they have neither the personnel nor expertise to provide adequate oversight.
It is currently too early in the process to know how broad reaching these changes are going to be. For example, it is unknown whether or not the Forest Service will follow suit.

It is in the interpretation of these rules that we will come to realize the true impact. Certainly, anyone that works across state lines or travels out of state will face state licensure issues. And what about programs that operate across state boundaries? One good thing that may come out of this is that states may be more collaborative in forming legislation and they may begin to show reciprocity in licensure.

Currently, individual states are primarily responsible for regulating youth programs that utilize public lands and federal agencies may establish additional safeguards for youth under federally funded state programs. The GOA report from May 2008, reveals that most programs are already regulated by state programs and interestingly, residential treatment programs are more regulated than federal and state run programs.

I would encourage efforts to promote public comment on this issue. Without voice being given to the majority of programs that are well run and serve their client's well, I wonder about the intent of additional regulations. Any new rulings should come out of an effort to solve identified issues. The FTC's warning appears to come out of biased information. The warning itself, provides 15 questions for consumers to ask potential programs, all of which are good questions and good programs have the answers well documented.

BLM Instruction Memorandum (pdf)

Federal Trade Commission

Gov't Accountability Office, May 2008 (pdf)

AEE thanks NATSAP for providing these sources of information.

Other Concerns regarding HR 6358 and what YOU can do

By Henry Wood, Director of Accreditation, Association for Experiential Education

HR 6358 is a well intended bill. However, we have already seen some byproducts including the decision by the BLM to enact Instruction Memorandum No. 2008-141, as well as the Federal Trade Commission’s warnings to consumers of residential treatment programs.

While it is unclear whether or not the senate will act on this bill in September, it is important to become educated about the issue and to contact your legislative representative. I advise you to explain to them how these laws can be best written in order to do the most good and avoid restricting the good that programs are currently doing for our children.

Last week, I contacted Hal Hallett, Senior Outdoor Recreation Specialist at the BLM, to learn more about IM 2008-141. I asked him what our members ought to be doing about the impending legislation. His strongest recommendation was for individuals to contact their representatives to stress the importance of having a clear definition of "wilderness treatment programs" when amending this legislation. If the vague definitions used in HR 6358 and by the GAO persist, then the net may be cast too far and more programs will be dragged under it. While many therapeutic programs will find themselves scrambling as a result of IM 2008-141, one thing that this IM is very clear about is what programs will be affected by permitting changes and what programs are excluded.



Adventure Therapy Applied

By Gary Stauffer, School Social Worker, Monroe County, Michigan

Adventure therapy is one of my passions in life. I love doing it, thinking about it, and hanging out with people who have a hand in it. My current work is in a school setting with kids that who have quite serious emotional and developmental disabilities. One of the joys of my work is watching kids discover lessons for themselves and then begin to experiment with new ways of acting.
Perhaps the best way I can explain the joy of my work is by telling you a story from one of the group sessions I did just before school ended this year...
I was at the Monroe County Youth Center working with incarcerated youth (all boys) placed in a long-term residential treatment program. These kids love physical challenges, but they run from experiencing anything emotional and have a general disdain for counseling. Despite this, I believe a lot of good progress is made during adventure therapy sessions.

Week six opened with a quick check-in with the group and it was revealed that one member was really excited about hearing from his father for the first time in ten years. He explained that his Dad was being released from prison soon, and his plan was to move in with him as soon as he was discharged from the detention program. The red flags went up in everyone's mind, except for this kid who simply wanted his father back.

With this scenario bouncing around in my mind, I introduced a tag game called "Astronauts and Aliens" in which one person attempts to tag everyone in the group and send them, like astronauts, to another planet (4-5 rope circles placed just outside the playing area).  While the alien (the person who is 'it') tries to send everyone off, the other players can get their comrades back by simply tagging them. I explained that the task of getting everyone sent off to one of the planets is nearly impossible for one person, but still asked, "is there anybody here who thinks they can tag everyone?"

This kid said he was certain he could do it and so the group took him on. His effort was amazing. By the end of the session, he was red-faced and exhausted. He literally collapsed on the floor as we sat down to change activities. All of the boys were laughing and talking about how hard he worked, and how fast he was flying toward people, but still had no chance of getting us all. 

This spontaneous discussion went on for some time, but eventually ended up back in my clients lap. He had worn himself out trying to do something by himself that wasn't within his power. Although we couldn't know for sure, I suggested that he might need to be careful not to put himself in the very same spot with his father. A spot where he might work himself to exhaustion to make it work, only to find out that he can't do it all by himself. After a few comments and a few quiet moments, he shared with the whole group that he could see the potential problem by saying, " Maybe I should stay with my grandma a while and see what he's gonna do. I don't want to end up in another bad spot."

It is results like this--- with kids who don't normally talk about their feelings and who definitely don't want to disclose their personal vulnerability--- that makes adventure therapy attractive and exciting. It is what has ignited a growing interest in adventure therapy within the clinical community across the country. I have a burning desire to see these clinical offices transformed into inviting, challenging, experiential learning spaces for the children and youth who visit them. It is this desire that led me and two colleagues, Maurie Lung (AEE Board of Directors) and Tony Alvarez, to complete a book on this subject entitled, "The Power of One: Adventure and Experiential Activities for Use Within One on One Counseling Sessions."  Our hope is that it will be available at the next Annual Conference in Vancouver, WA, from Woods and Barnes Publishing.