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Ro Khanna

10/20/2021 | Press release | Archived content

RELEASE: KHANNA, MERKLEY, DELAURO, SCHIFF HOLD PRESS CONFERENCE WITH PARIS HILTON ON CONGREGATE CARE FACILITIES

Washington, DC- October 20, 2021 - Earlier today, Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-17), Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Rep. DeLauro (CT-3), and Rep. Adam Schiff (CA-28) held a press conference with Paris Hilton and other institutional abuse survivors and child welfare advocates to discuss upcoming legislation to reform congregate care facilities across the United States.

Currently, the industry's lack of transparency and quality of care has led to youth experiencing maltreatment including sexual assault, physical and medical neglect, and bodily assault that has resulted in civil rights violations, hospitalizations, and death. Youth are too often denied access to legal counsel, advocacy, and the most basic rights to personal safety and satisfactory living conditions.

The horrific conditions described by survivors today cannot continue. Past legislative efforts have focused on preventing abuseof children who arrived to congregate care through specific pipelines, such as foster care or juvenile justice. Congress must pass more comprehensive legislation to crack down on the physical and emotional abuse for all children in these facilities, regardless of how they were referred. Our legislation will establish a bill of rights for youth placed in these facilities and a comprehensive and transparent reporting system.

"First and foremost, I want to express my gratitude towards the survivors calling on Congress to enact change. Thank you to Paris, Caroline, Sixto, and Uvea for your courage and for sharing your stories with all of us," said Rep. Ro Khanna. "We need to pass legislation to establish a youth bill of rights that ensures the right to privacy, religion, medical care, education, and to all basic freedoms that children should have. I'm looking forward to continuing to work with survivors and with my colleagues in both chambers to introduce comprehensive legislation tackling this important and urgent issue."

"Congregate care, without oversight, all too often becomes congregate abuse," said Sen. Jeff Merkley. "We need a national bill of rights to protect our children in congregate facilities. Reforming our congregate care system would improve the lives of thousands of children across our country, and it's something we must get passed."

"For far too long, there has not been adequate oversight when it comes to developing congregate care best practices and reporting procedures," said Congresswoman DeLauro. "I thank Paris Hilton and all the institutional abuse survivors for shining a light on this long-overlooked issue. We must create a bill of rights for the youth in congregate care to establish life-saving measures and infrastructure, help prevent the abuse and neglect of over 120,000 young people in congregate care facilities across the country, and significantly reduce the usage of congregate care overall."

"For too long, the troubled teen industry has preyed on desperate parents and vulnerable children, turning mistreatment and abuse into a multi-billion dollar enterprise that has left tens of thousands suffering. Children have an unequivocal right to the protection of their physical, social, and emotional well-being, but many children leave these facilities more traumatized than they were when they arrived, and some don't leave at all. Facilities that abuse children under the guise of care have no absolutely place in our society, and I will continue to push for strong legislation that increases regulation, oversight, and transparency. I want to thank victims like Ms. Hilton for bravely sharing their stories and helping to shed light on these unconscionable abuses - for those children who have suffered, and those we must protect going forward," said Rep. Adam Schiff.

Full list of speakers from today's event:

Rep. Ro Khanna

Sen. Jeff Merkley

Rep. Rosa DeLauro

Rep. Adam Schiff

Aubrey Edwards-Luce, First Focus on Children

Curt Decker, National Disability Rights Network

Sixto Cancel, Think of Us

Uvea Spezza-Lopin, 12-Year-Old Survivor from Junction City, Oregon

Caroline Cole, Survivor & Dir. of Government Relations, Breaking Code Silence

Paris Hilton

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