Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Diamond Ranch Academy fights back at negative testimonies from former students.

Diamond Ranch Academy has made a website where students make positive statements about their stay at the school. A method previous used by other boarding schools using behavior modification methods several students see as abuse.

So now the question whether Diamond Ranch Academy is abusive or not has turned into a kind of shouting game on the Internet where some students claim that their stay at the boarding school helped them and others that the school created emotional scars which will follow them for the rest of their lives.

Both sides can be right. Maybe there are dysfunctional families out there where the best option for the children was to be removed from their families. Maybe the methods used at the boarding school which normal children would regard as abusive if you look at the things in life the students miss out could be better than parents using drugs – prescription or illegal – parents being alcoholic or even parents having sexual relationships with their children. Children who have been given too much responsibility too early in life being forced to parent their parents need a structured environment where they can learn to be children having other in charge for a while. For such children Diamond Ranch Academy could be a help. Parents who the decision that they need others to be in charge because they have failed could find legitimate help the boarding school and they should not be condemned for doing this. The need of children should be always be prioritized.

Both the real problem with Diamond Ranch Academy that they take everyone who have someone to pay for them. Each child has individualized problems. Having worked monitoring the treatment facilities worldwide for more than 6 years have made me realizes this fact. There is no general approach to every child in the world. Each child at a treatment facility needs some kind of special permission in a special area or more to meet their individual problem. You cannot create a kind of level system every child fits in.

Take education as example. Some children needs being taught in group settings. Other children need to be taught in a structured environment. The ideal version of a treatment facility will have students who start at the local public school from day one; Students who only will live at the treatment facility when school is over.

There are the issues with social media. Children of 2013 need access to their Facebook. Of course guidelines are needed but it can be managed. Parents should be allowed to visit their child with only hours of notice from day one unless the social services in the individual case have decided otherwise. It minimizes the possibility of abuse. A lot of boarding schools function fine with individualized rules.

I know it because I as a parent have a child living at a group home 40 miles from my home due to an illness. I know that I can grab my phone 24/7 and state that I will be there in an hour and the employees will accept it. I can speak with my child unrestricted by phone 3 times per week. The employees know that I will be there if they need me at some kind of activity. This summer my child volunteered selling various items founding activities in the local public school my child attends near the group home. I drove out there and coached my child from distance allowing the employees had more time to take of some of the other children. The group home has its own school but the need of my child was a public school so my child rides 3 miles alone every day on a bicycle instead attending the internal school.

I am not happy that my child had to live outside my home. I was the toughest decision I ever made as a parent. Has every day then been a success? No. There have been days involving confrontation between my child and the employees; Always solved without any kind of manual restraints but still confrontations. In Denmark every single action involving restraints or other kinds of force against children in group homes has to be reported to the authorities. I can read on a website at the local authorities if they have used restraints. It is a criminal offense if the group homes don’t report it. But my happiness has nothing to do whether my child should be at the group home or not. The illness my child suffers from could not be handled at home or in the local school system where I live. The local public school hadn’t the resources or wouldn’t pay for them. The local public school where the group home is located has.

I knew when I made my decision as a parent that I had to support my child so the stay would be a success. My support has aided to a positive result not only for my child but also for children all over Denmark placed in group homes and foster families because I knew that while I properly are well informed about the experiences my child experience many parents don’t know what kind of questions they need to ask and what signs they can observe to protect their children. I know thanks to the lessons made by former students at Diamond Ranch Academy and other facilities.

So I have created a number of whistleblower sites in co-operation with local human right groups. A number of high profile cases have hit the Danish media since January 1 when my child left for the group home. Several group homes have been closed. Some foster families have been fired. A brand new set of legislation has been approved by the Danish parliament. It is not my work. I have only taken the testimonies from former students to the right persons inside the Danish media world. The former students and the journalist are those who need to be thanked.

In the same way people need to listen to former students who had a less pleasant stay at Diamond Ranch Academy. Because Diamond Ranch Academy has not always been the facility with modern football fields and a focus on sport they are today. They started over in Idaho and they were raided by the local authorities. Then they moved to Utah. When they started in Utah they were not a facility employing professional licensed counselors because the laws were less strict back then. They were in a learning process. They made a lot of mistakes. They can call the testimonies of from former students’ lies or slander. Fact is that while they might have changed Diamond Ranch Academy of today so the experiences the students speak of can no longer take place today the program as it was in the past allowed the space for such actions to take place. The school cannot rewrite history. Too many former students can back the incidents in the testimonies up.

Back in 2009 a boy died out there. They claim that it was an illness which could not have been avoided. Fact is that the people who are claiming that the boarding school is responsible could have a case because the school had a set of rules properly made of the basis of former students crying wolf. Every sign of illness need check by professionals. Can they not make it to the school then the school needs to get the student to a hospital. That is the only solution. Once you create an internal sickbay or decide to wait the illness out you are putting the life of the student at risk.

Diamond Ranch Academy is a boarding school with more security than most boarding schools. They can properly handle students acting out. However there is a limit. Students who are suicidal need a real hospital. That is what Diamond Ranch Academy learned the hard way this autumn when a student died in the shower. Then we are back at the very start. As I wrote above: At Diamond Ranch Academy they take every teenager regardless of issues. Like small children poking into life they state that they can deal with every kind of issue a teenager can suffer from. They can’t. They have limitations and the tragedy is that they don’t get it.

So we at Spft will continue to have Diamond Ranch Academy marked in our search engines. Regardless of the number of websites they create telling the world how happy former students and parents have been about their stay at this boarding school. I am a parent. I know very well the concerns parents should have. My guts feeling are that something is wrong about this place.
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