U.S. Department of State
Washington, D.C.



In recent years there has been a growth of facilities around the world for the treatment of minors with drug/alcohol and discipline problems. These overseas treatment centers are known as "BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION FACILITIES." Parents enroll their children in these facilities in the hope of improving their behavior. The Department of State is aware of facilities in Jamaica, Mexico and Samoa. There may be facilities in other countries that have not come to the attention of the U.S. Government.

U.S. citizen parents who place their children in these facilities typically sign a contract for their child's treatment that authorizes the staff to act as agents for the parents. These contracts often give the staff blanket authorization to take all action necessary, in their judgment, for the health, welfare and progress within the program of the children. The facilities isolate the children in relatively remote sites, restrict contact with the outside world and employ a system of graduated levels of earned privileges and punishments to stimulate behavior change. Communication privileges of the children may be limited.

The Department of State has no direct knowledge of the corporate or legal structure of these enterprises nor of their precise relationship to each other, including ties to organizations in the United States. Though these facilities may be operated and staffed by U.S. citizens and populated primarily by U.S. citizen minors, the country where the facility is located is solely responsible for compliance with local safety, health, sanitation and educational laws and regulations, including all licensing requirements of the staff in the country. These standards, if any, may not be strictly enforced or meet the standards of similar facilities in the U.S.

Parents considering enrolling their children in overseas Behavior Modification Facilities may find it prudent to visit the site and review the host country's rules governing the facility and its employees. Parents should contact the U.S. Embassy/Consulate in the host country to inquire about the facility, or speak to the country officer in the Office of American Citizens Services, Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202/647-5226. When aware of the existence of such facilities, U.S. consular officials conduct periodic site visits, sometimes accompanied by host country officials, to monitor the general well being of the U.S. citizen enrollees and to specifically check on individuals who have been the subject of welfare and whereabouts inquiries. These inquiries may be generated by parents or by other interested individuals. U.S. consular officials are not qualified to determine whether the programs offered by the facilities are of therapeutic benefit to the minors involved. U.S. consular officers encourage the administrators of these programs to ensure that all U.S. citizens at the facilities are registered with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the event it should be necessary to provide emergency consular services. Parents should be aware that U.S. citizens 18 years of age and older have a right to apply for a passport and to request repatriation assistance from the U.S. Government, both without parental consent.


Consular Information Sheets and Travel Warnings

Return to Table of Contents