Saturday, December 31, 2011

Wilderness therapy: Shouldn't 2012 be the end of this

Kurt Hahn developed the early basic for so-called outward bound education before the second world. These ideas were picked up by several schools.

In the 1970's the first wilderness therapy programs began to emerge. However they took only volunteers in and while the survival gear was somewhat primitive compared to the equipment at hand here in 2011, most teenagers who entered these programs made it home.

This all changed when the Reagan and Bush administration in the 1980's declared war on drugs and raise the age of alcohol consumption to 21 in the United States. Such a war demanded strict punishment and when the parents discovered that even minor violations of the law could put their children in jail for decades - in some cases even life, a market for alternative private punishment marketed as therapy was pushed in business based on parental fear for the future of their children.

The first wilderness programs where teenagers were forced into entering the program appeared. Then deaths of such teenagers in the wilderness became headlines in such a number that they eventually were something you could read about on page 34. It was an accepted risk because the alternative was claimed to be a life on drugs and as result deaths or life in prison.

One of the first programs of this new type was named Challenger. It was as almost every modern wilderness programs outdoor adventure combined with boot camp mentality. In closed a few years after it opened because a young girl named Kristin Chase died during the program.

One of our volunteers looked the program up on Facebook and found a group of survivors of the program. While some praise the program despite its harshness there are also those who to this day recent all what did take and basically blame their experience for all the suffering they have experienced in life since. What is true? Is it just something you should get over with or should you speaks up against the lack of fairness?

Life goes on but just as people have to endure scars and injuries from traffic accidents it does meant that you should forget all what was wrong. A girl died in the program and only pure luck prevented others from joining her.

Second those who praise the program forget one thing. It is a basic function in the brain which enables them to select the good things and make them forget the bad elements in the program just as rape victims often are able to hide the ordeal and function relatively normal.

But what about the deaths? Wasn't something learned from Challenger?

No, nothing was learned from her tragic death. In the years since the program closed not a single year has been without deaths in residential treatment programs for children. Several of the deaths in wilderness programs have been exactly copies of her unfortunately death - Deaths which for sure could have been avoided if just the tiniest piece of teaching had been learned from her ordeal.

Wilderness therapy is not safe. It doesn't matter what kind of regulations which are introduced. Records show that there will always be the next set of parents who will receive a coffin instead of a cured child.

Taking teenagers out of their comfort zone should be controversial and the very last resort.

2011 brought awareness of the risk and the suffering among teenagers who are being removed from their homes.

2012 should be the year where the use of wilderness therapy for children who are not willingly entering the program should stop.

That is our simple New Year wish.

Friday, November 25, 2011

An article about the Kids-for-Cash scandal

In the Morning News John Davidson ran a personal essay about his brief involvement in what later would be known as the Kids-for-Cash scandal.

It is basically a story about his problems dealing with a criminal case which involved so much unjust against a teenage rape victim.

It would be unfair for me to tell you about the contents of the article. Basically you would read it instead.

The Demands of Cold Blood

Monday, November 14, 2011

California group home: Psyc evaluations of employees needed

The recent discovery of a mummified baby left by one of the employees of a Christian residential treatment facility leaves the question why there is no rules about a mandatory psychological evaluation of people who want to work with vulnerable teenagers.

The Julian Youth Academy has been controversial for some years. An article in LA Times resulted in a massive debate.

The facility took private paid clients and the job consisted in preventing the teenagers from leaving and inform the authorities until the teenagers surrendered to the special Christian belief they taught at the facility.

It is time to demand stricter rules for facilities like Julian Youth Academy. Mandatory background checks and evaluation of the mental conditions should introduced at once.

Otherwise it is only a question of time before the next case hit the frontpages.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pasadena Boot Camp illness about to be investigated

The down of Pasedena has received national attention due to a number of private boot camps for at-risk children operating in the area.

Rather disturbing videos have reached the Internet and it has sparked a Police investigation.

The manager of one of the Boot Camps was charged with kidnapping earlier this year. This case is still pending.

Boot camp abuses cited - Pasadena Star-News

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

CNN Report about your local faith based boarding school around the corner

For some parents the question of choosing a religious boarding school for their sons and daughters is to obvious that they overlook the possible warning signs that something is very wrong.

CNN Anderson Copper 360 reports about a branch of religious boarding schools in the United States which are built on the teachings of Lester Roloff who ran several boarding schools and shelthers in Texas until he died in the 1970s.

It was boarding schools where discipine was upheld with the paddle combined with isolation and forced prayers.

Once Roloff died in a plane crash several of his leading staff member left and created their own boarding school based on the same strategies and they continue to be in operation today.

The worst about this not that they try to exist as they see it as their mission the have to put their lives on the line for just as suicide bomber want to die for his God. What is actually worse is that a lot of states will not supervise these faith based boarding schools.

We are talking teenagers being imprisoned at these boarding schools and none want to do just a little to secure their well-being.

It shouldn't be so when we are talking 2011 but fact is that it is so.

It is shameful for any society to fail to protect the safety of children. We must all demand that we will not accept it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Testimonies from a lot of students telling about abuse keep coming

Our Swedish partners over at Minors in residential placement research center told that more than 600 people did view their boarding school blog last month. Hopefully some of the viewers were parents so they will learn about signs of warning before they entrust their children to various programs or boarding schools.

So far 5 blogs have been made. They are:

If you have a comment or even your own testimony to give, please visit the blogs.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Horror stories from religious schools in Misouri continues

The July / August edition of Mother Jones features another story from the religious boarding schools in Missouri which are being run beyond any supervision from the authorities.

We are talking 2011 and an entire area has basically been given up by the authorities. We are not talking of non-working supervision as it is the case in many countries like Denmark, Sweden and most of the U. S. States. We are talking no supervision at all.

It is not surprising that the teenagers suffer at those places.

Because there seems to be no will to solve this problem and save the teenagers from their ordeal it is important re-publish these stories again and again until it is so common knowledge that there is other option for the state of Missouri so secure the safety of the incarcerated teenagers, so please comment the stories on your blog and the message boards you participate in.

In advance thank you very much.

Horror Stories From Tough-Love Teen Homes, Mother Jones

Monday, August 15, 2011

Solving London riots: The answer has been found in Denmark

This month London and other cities in the United Kingdom were targeted by a large number of riots.

Behind the riots you find teenagers. It is a new generation of teenagers who have little respect for both society and parents. They have created their own sub-societies with their own set of laws, standards and codes.

Thousand of business are closed, people cannot even go out to buy food for their children, they cannot go to work. The society is basically coming to a stop.

How do you solve this?

The short-term option is to incarcerate them, but as they have discovered in the United States removing people from the society into various residential options is both costly and do not lower crime in the society in the long run.

Denmark have towns where they saw the same kind of problems on smaller scales. In Farum they hired the trouble makers to run a firm which rent boats out to tourists in a nearby lake. The result was an all time low in vandalism and other related crimes.

In the county of Egedal they gave wood to youths so they didn't destroy property well knowning that the youth then would sit down around the fire drinking beer. Then it was easy for the social workers to mingle among the youth and talk to them about future and education.

In Greve they had massive problems with fires. Youth set fire to waste putting people in the nearby houses in Denmark. Today they have a cadet corps where drop-outs and other youth with too much free time at hand can join the fire brigades as volunteers and be sent to various training exercises where they can get the adrenalin kick by trying to put out fires in a controlled environment. Vandalism has stopped.

Idleness is the root of all evil

For the population in the United Kingdom it is now the time to both demand action but also to put in some work in the local community.

Look around: Are there some activities in your local community you need manpower to solve? Can you get the fonds to get it fixed by hired the youth to do this manual labor? Can you get the local fire brigade to take teenagers to training fields for some weekends to teach them basic techniques to put out fires?

Can national services in a more civil form be brought back as a voluntary options where youth who have been given up by the present education system could be given a second chance to excel.

You cannot let teenagers drop out of school and engage in gang activities without suffering some kind of consequnces. We has as Danes learned it the hard way. Our prisons are on the verge of collapse after a gang war, which cost the lives of several persons - some not even involved in the war at all - bystanders who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

But the answer is not increased punishment. The answer is social work and jobs on the long haul.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Munchausen syndrome by proxy - nightmare for children

Recently Danish teachers have been under pressure by parents because they demand special care for their child among 25 other students.

They bring in lawyers to school meetings and expect the teacher to be able to teach reading and math so the child is Niels Bohr within months.

Also among 25 percent of the public schools budget is utilized to special education, which is all time high.

Never has so many children been diagnosed with all kind of mental illnesses.

Something is wrong. Why does the society not allow a child to be a quiet child who is doing the work and then choosing to go home instead of hanging out with friends?

Why do we have a society where everyone should be forced to socialize instead of reading books, concentrate on arts at home and just enjoy pets and family at home?

Every parent does worry about their child. They do want their child to outlive the child’s potential. Of course they ask for advice by professionals, but are they given the right advices?

In some countries the parents ask private educational consultants. In other countries they ask social workers and psychologists paid by the schools. Can they expect to receive a real answer which serves the child best or will they receive an answer which would suit the system or whatever party who is paying most of the salary for the person they ask?

In the United States parents often learn the hard way that whatever they pay the educational consultant the real salary is paid by schools and programs which the educational consultants refer the children to. There are no ways they can ensure if the recommendation of a specific solution will be in the best interest of their child.

In systems where the payment is done over the taxes there are no insurance also. There are no way the parents can check if the caseworker is referring their child to a specific school due to the political interest of the city council, the case worker has a colleague which is corrupt or the psychologists is basing the recommendation on her possible other job as psychologists for the school or group home, which is recommended.

Parents are often confused by all those who want allot of things for their children and mixed with possible ambitions they have, some of them can get sick. In extreme cases the parents can be suffering from Munchausen syndrome by proxy.

One such case is the case of 13 year old Ben Barnhard who was gunned down by his own mother.

From the very start of his life, his mother had ambitions on behalf of him. Ambitions he might had achieved if she hadn't been hammering on the doors of various experts all his life.

A divorce court filing lists 18 specialists involved in Ben's care, and Jensvold's own suicide note hints at some of the child's difficulties: "writing problems, migraines, hearing things" - and "a bit paranoid."

He was overweight. It is well-known that a lot of medication causes weight gain. Instead of implementing a diet and start exercising with her child the mother instead send him to a special boarding school - Wellspring Academies - which treat such things for the sum of $50,000.

It is not known who the mother consulted. Did some of them even suggest that the mother sought treatment herself instead? She had a history of lawsuits even before she got her child which had no basis.

Because the mother wasn't examined before this tragedy happened it is not possible for me to claim that she suffered from Munchausen syndrome by proxy or her constant search for treatment options was pushed by the advices she got.

We must urge the parents to seek second opinions when it comes to the recommendations they receive from case workers and educational consultants.

Based on the fact that residential treatment includes increased risk of sexual molestation, crime and increased difficulties becoming integrated with the normal life outside, this option should always be the very last used.

As relatives we must also enforce ourselves on family members which tend to isolate themselves with their children. Check in on them in a soft way where you don't impose your ideas of how they should live their lives but state that you are ready to listen.

Maybe a combination of such second guessing of external advices and tighter bonds in the family could have saved the life of 13 year old Ben Barnhard. It is not to know but can we let the next child slip too? Should we at least not make the try?


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Last Chapter of Hidden Lake Academy / Ridge Creek School?

We have just learned that Ridge Creek School in Dahlonega has closed its doors. Any plans to let the school open under a new name seem not to be emerging any time soon.

Hidden Lake Academy did open its doors back in 1994. Very soon it became one of the most well-known therapeutic boarding schools in Georgia.

They opened a wilderness program which they used for evaluation of coming boarding school students. Maybe too many were "diagnosed" as suiting for the regime the school wanted to use in order to treat the students.

It didn't take many years before the first complaints became public. After the internet became widespread it was no longer possible to keep former unsatisfied students from communicating with each other.

Lawsuits were in the making. Change of staff and management over the time did not improve the situation. The rather isolated environment which the school had established itself in made it rather difficult to attract employees with the right type of education. Sometime the employees who had to deal with the students on daily basis were only just out of high school.

Were there power trips executed by the employees? According to various testimonies it was very often the case. Inexperienced and uneducated staff given too much power in such an environment is an explosive combination no management should allow but what does the management do when the shareholders demand profit?

As result suicide or suicide attempts is an all too common thing happening to the alumni’s.

The news station FOX5 did cover the last months of the timeline up to the closure. 10 to 15 years too late after many opinions. It is not a pretty sight.

What do the future hold for the local community in now where one of their larger workplaces is closing down? It doesn't look good. All too many group homes and therapeutic boarding schools are establishing themselves out in the countryside where they force the local communities to become dependent of them.

Was there something overlooked by the local authorities due to this marriage of pure need between the school and the local authorities? Did the political establishment and law-enforcing agencies try to play some of their more extreme occurrences at the school down in order to save jobs for the local community?

Many things indicate that it was the case.

And when it comes to cover-ups in scandals in group homes, foster care families and therapeutic boarding schools it is rather common. Even as far away as in Denmark we have learned that local teachers and other locals did complain about violence at a foster care family in the Danish hamlet named Mern. 20 years some knew that something was very, very wrong. Reports were made and they were lost - by whom? The police investigation by the local police is not targeted at other than the accused parents. None want to investigate such a cover-up. Everybody knows that thousand of DKK exchange hands between social services, foster care families and group homes.

  • Should Denmark be anything different than Pennsylvania known for the Kids-for-Cash scandal?

  • Should Denmark be anything different that just the next educational consultant which are paid both by parents to find the best treatment for their child and the various schools and programs for sending the child to their school?

It would be naive to believe so!

But back in Georgia everybody are now waiting to see whether the closure is the end of 17 years of suffering among teenagers or it will be the start of a new chapter under a different name.

Only the future will tell.

Hidden Lake Academy on Fornits Wiki
I-Team: Ridge Creek School, Fox 5 news, July 8, 2011
I-Team: Ridge Creek School Closes, Fox 5 news, August 1, 2011
Children abused for 20 years, by Jes Højen Nielsen, Denmarks Radio, August 1, 2011

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Minors in residential placement research center will feature the Swedish foster care system

Over the next 6 month on their main blog we will see a number of posts covering the defunct Swedish foster care system.

World over the Swedish system has been admired. The Danish minister of social services once asked the Danish social workers to look at what is working in Sweden and try to incoporate into the Danish system.

In reality it is very difficult to achieve that because the Swedish system is to place youth far out in remote places in their numerous forests isolated at foster families without the proper skills to deal with the problems the youth may suffer from. It does work because the youth become too demoralized to act out when there are none to act out in front and they cover their problems up until they are adults where they then can start earning money enough until they can afford treatment for themselves unless they have committed suicide before or fallen victim to some kind of substance abuse they have started to get away from their painful memories.

Here is the link to the blog of Minors in residential placement research center

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Marketing traps is the basis of the industry

I-Team: Ridge Creek School:

Fox has investigated Ridge Creek School - formerly known as Hidden Lake Academy.

It is by far the first care where parents have been fooled by deceptive marketing to enroll their children in residential programs only to find out that nothing they saw on the homepage had anything to do with the reality.

It doesn't help to visit the schools. The students parents may talk to are students chosen by the school and offered the favor of promoting the schools in return for advancement in the program or even early release.

If parents really want to protect their teenagers they should choose out-patient therapy where they can intervene if the situation gets out of hand. Secondly they should take the chances by the social services or even at the justice system. Then of course it would be a question if the foster care system protects the children well enough and there are flaws, but in the public system they have appeals and they can urge the media to go after the social workers who neglect their jobs.

Once you are up against a private company you as a parent has not the right to be given oversight about what is happening with your own child.

Parents should be very carefully not to grant custody of their own children to private firms obviously operating only for profit both inside the United States and outside.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

What parents fear from the justice system

In a time where politicians cannot expect to be elected if they try to explain how they will solve the financial crisis, they turn to selling very popular messages about fighting crime and increase punishment for those who are caught.

In a country like Denmark we have not yet a 3-strike rule but in the last years we have lowered the age of criminal responsibility and removed a youth discount so 14 year old child can be given life in theory where 8 years were the maximum penalty before.

Of course a crime should not go unpunished if it has been done by a person aged 17 years or younger, but at that age it should be possible to alter and mold this person into a responsible adult.

This work should be done by professionals. It is not about breaking the kids because they are broken when they come in. It is a long, hard move and there would be setbacks.

Unfortunately the general political message is not based on knowledge but rather on what do sell when it comes to the voters.

So in some places the juvenile detentions centers are hardly of a standard you want to see taking into consideration that we are talking year 2011.

In Denmark the staff at group homes has been given increased space to use restraints and lock children into their room. It could be worse.

In a place like Forrest County abuse have been neglected in their juvenile detention center. Southern Poverty Law Center has intervened into this matter.

The question is whether such horrible things take place in other youth facilities protected not only by incompetence by the superiors but also by the politicians because they want to sell a message about being tough on crime.

But parents do know. The private treatment sector lives of fear by parents that a wrong decision may put their children into the hands of such detention officers so in many cases the parents choose to lock their children up even before any law is broken to keep their children safe from such conditions. Also cases where there never would have been any risk of a law being broken.

So in order to keep children from unnecessary treatment we must bring awareness of the conditions at group homes and juvenile detention centers. Such abuse must stop. These kids may have broken the law but they should face consequences decided by the courts or the social services where civil rights is not granted to children instead of a punishment given by a random staff member.

SPLC Sues Mississippi County After 'Shocking' Video Shows Abuses at Juvenile Facility (Press-release)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Teen Challenge also present in Denmark

The Danish market for alcohol and drug rehab are without any governmental control. The two Danish television stations have uncovered both religious influence and in some cases even fraud against public funds aimed at helping people in need.

One of the larger firms in the United States - Teen Challenge - is now confirmed to be operating inside Denmark.

We urge the authorities in Denmark to observe the nature of such religious treatment facilities very carefully.

Behind the walls - Teen Challenge exposed
Teen Challenge category, Fornits Wiki
Global Teen Challenge - Starting with letter D
60 procent af narkobehandling er religiøst funderet (TV2 east, In Danish only)
Fik støtte på forkert grundlag, (TV2 Fyn, In Danish only)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Golden year of 2011

Aspen Education Group in the United States has announced that they want to restructure.

In reality it means that they are closing down residential treatment facilities because years of critical coverage has questioned whether the residents would have been better served receiving counseling and therapy at their home for a fraction of the price residential care costs.

The following programs are annouced to close:

Bromley Brook School (Manchester Center, VT)
New Leaf Academy of Oregon
NorthStar Center (Bend, Oregon)
Aspen Ranch (Loa, Utah)
SunHawk Adolescent Recovery Center (St. George, Utah)

But also Elan School is about to close. They claim that the decision was made due to a campain against them on the Internet. Did they realize that once the former residents turned 18 they would start to talk openly about what did happen?

We are living in year 2011. The Internet enables the former students to find old classmates and for them to create community groups so they can work the trauma they experienced during their stay at residential programs.

Last but least we have published the story about yet another raid down in Costa Rica.

We hope that these closures are a start where focus on treatment of problems among minors are on treatment at home and in the local community so the minors can maintain their social network while they are cured.

Elan School closing after Web campaign to shut it down (By Judith Meyer, Sun Journal, March 23, 2011)
Aspen Education Group To Restructure Programs ( - industry marketing firm, March 24, 2011)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Yet another raid of a boarding school in Costa Rica

Years ago the authorities in Costa Rica shut a boarding school named Academy at Dundee Ranch down. While the boarding school continues to be in operation under another name a new boarding school also located in Costa Rica became headline news when it was raided and the students rescued from possible abuse.

The school is called Mentor School. It is located in a former hotel.

The police was alerted by people in the neighborhood and the students are now safe.

For more information, please see the sources below:

PANI Rescues 20 Young Americans Who Suffered Various Attacks, Inside Costa Rica, March 22, 2011
Mentor School, Fornits Wiki Datasheet
Academy at Dundee Ranch, Fornits Wiki Datasheet

Monday, January 10, 2011

Residential treatment - not promising for any child

In a long article the Washington City Paper does reveal how damaging intensive use of residential treatment can be.

When you remove minors from their home and their personal network, they feel it like a punishment. Humans are social beings and their emotional well-being is very depended of the resources in the local community.

Still some states and countries remove a higher number of children from the care of their families without exploring the full extent of these resources. They don't ask whether grandparents or the extended family could aid the parents in the process of parenting. They write their reports so they can create more work for their department and colleges.

The department of social services operates in many aspects just as private firm. They are looking for work and income.

It is hard for the local politicians to supervise this area as it is a specialized area demanding a high level of knowledge and education.

So often the department of social service is out of control where they demand a growing percentage of the limited budget the public sector can use for the good of the entire population.

Especially during these times where the economy is under pressure and the residential treatment facilies as well as group homes cuts in staff expenses the time has come for a dramatic review of the procedures used in the public sector both in the United States as well as in other countries using residential treatment options.

The money is better spent utilize the use of the network around the individual child. Just because some parts of the family dynamics are broken it should not end up in throwing the entire network away.

We can only urge the politicians to set up an analyse of the expenses in this sector. There are consultant firms which can improve the possibilities the politicians makes the decisions based upon but also the conditions for the children involved in the system.

Outsourcing Troubled Kids, Washington City Paper, By Jason Cherkis, January 7, 2011
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