Saturday, December 10, 2016

A death is a tragedy - regardless who the victim is

What was supposed to happen at one point - did happen.

The entire setup of Turn-about Ranch in Utah was a setup for disaster.

Removing a child without warning from its own bed or luring the child on holiday only to dump it at Turn-about Ranch is not only traumatic, it provokes resistant. It was only a matter of time before a child reacted with such a violence that either the child or anyone else would have died.

It is not as if it did not happen before. On course there are many deaths caused by restraints. In fact, there are an entire blog about each recorded death among teenagers who have been confined to residential programs. Some deaths are not recorded. The local newspapers are quiet due to concern of loss of local jobs. The family has to settle out of court because they do not have the money to go up against the rich facilities.

Then there are deaths caused among innocent neighbors. Especially the Luc Ranch killings were tragic. Traumatized by their stay two teenagers ran and killed an elderly couple. However, people have been hurt in a number of incidents where the teenagers on the run or innocent people who just happened to be on the road at the same time also were either injured or killed.

Then there are teenagers in the programs who kills or just try to kill other teenagers to prevent them from reporting attempted escapes. Mountain Park Academy in Missouri saw such a tragedy. Out of three boys two are now dead and the last one still in prison. None today questions the fact that Mountain Park Academy was abusive. Given the news that the employees moved on to work at similar places makes it not better.

This time an employee lost his life at Turn-about Ranch. In Europe Turn-about Ranch is known from Brat Camp who boosted the career of Jemma Lucy. While her career certainly is an achievement, we only can question ourselves if the life lessons learned really are the kind of values we want to instill in our children. She entered the ranch with dreams of becoming a singer. The ranch taught her that life was extreme that she thought and extreme is the measures she has used during her career in the entertainment industry.

A boy is in prison. An employee is dead. Another employee needed treatment after the attack. Why? I am sure that the family of the boy now agree that it was not worth messing with the choices the boy made before they decided to send him to the program. Sometime teenagers make poor decision. Sitting around in the corner as a parent while you are bitter waiting to have money enough to send your child to other people for a quick fix instead of setting the standard your self is an absolutely no-go.

I am a parent. My children are among the few young Danes who do not drink and at the same time is not radicalized as much Danish teenager risk during these hard years where we have opened our vulnerable small culture to many outsiders.

I believe in setting standard. I do not drink very much and I am never drunk in front of my children. I wear a bike helmet. Instead of telling them how to behave, I show them how to behave. I show them how to work hard only days after a van crushed my bike with me on it. Broken limbs – no problem. You work! I do not tell my kids. I dragged myself out of my bed to the computer so I could serve my workplace who had granted me a position to serve at.

Showing instead of telling. That is the right way.

Nevertheless, even I have to learn about how group homes and residential programs work when your child needs treatment. My children live away from home. Their need for special treatment cannot be met where I live. It is painful for a parent. However, the difference between Turn-about Ranch and the place my children live is that my children was involved in the enrollment process.

No, it was not funny for them. It was not funny for me. From day one based on my experience with the industry I demanded unlimited visitation rights and that I only have to give the employees minutes of warning before I arrive. My wishes have been complied.

Both my children are intelligent people. They know that the rules at the group home are not the same as home. Because with special need special rules also have to be made. That is why violations have been minimal. Escape attempts have not been met with violence but with information so I could track the individual using the GPS on the smartphone. Yes. My children have smartphones while they are in the residential program. They have the right to communicate with friends and extended family at home.

The oldest even have the right to buy alcohol under the safe limit of 16.5 but have not exercised the right. Properly because they both have observed me.

Unlike the treatment facility my children live at, Turn-about ranch does not believe in communicating with children before they enter the program. When they enter the program, they are met with a unified approach. Any treatment reports made before entering the program are not taken into consideration so an individual treatment plan can be made.

It was a recipe for disaster and it became a disaster when employee was killed. A boy now enter the prison system instead of just being an underachiever. The family of the employee suffered a huge loss. The surviving employee might never come back due to the emotional damages caused by the fight.

There are no winners of this story. Only a huge amount of sorrow and loss.

Turn-about is an outdated form of treatment program. It should have closed years ago. Sadly, it did not.


Monday, March 14, 2016

Investigation into death at Elan School in Maine

Everybody who has followed the trial against Michael Skakel knows that the now-closed Elan School in Poland, Maine had it secrets.

People who investigate the business like our organization also knew in advance that a death which occurred around 1982 properly was the result of violence inflicted in the so-called therapeutic boxing ring.

But the problem has been that the authorities never wanted to release any records, they never really wanted to conduct a throughout investigation. Elan School was a convenient dumping place for troubled youth. It was a place where the authorities sent unwanted children to and where they could be kept quiet until they became broken adults who would end their lives prematurely as too many of the former students have done. The suicide rate among former students are alarming high.

It seems that every country needs such a dumping place. In Denmark it was called Solhaven and it was only because some brave police officers finally ignored the cries for local labor and the business caused by housing a larger company in a remote neighborhood where every job-position is welcome, that Solhaven was stopped. The juridical system is complex so no conviction came out of it but the business was shut down and while they might want to reopen they will never grow to the size before the closure.

Poland in Maine also needed the jobs and when Joseph Ricci created the school, eyes were closed. They continued to be close for almost the entire time Elan School was open. Joseph Ricci who came with no education into taking care of teenagers with often complex disorders took care of a problem for the state and for that they shielded him from proper investigation into what went on at this business.

Maybe the investigation into the 1982 death of Philip Williams Jr. might provide the public a clearer picture of what when down at Elan School? It is properly too late to bring any of the former employees and management to justice. As we learned in Denmark the court system can be complex and a huge lawsuit against the people behind the infamous WWASP organization in the United States which got schools closed down in several states and countries came to nothing. But it really doesn't matter. It is about learning from the past. The troubled teen industry which boomed as result of the 3-strike laws introduced in the 1990's which scared many parents to seek residential treatment for even minor things like alcohol consumption or poor grades left many teenagers with emotional scars which might never heal.

The future must learn the damage Elan School and similar places caused in order to prevent new places from opening if the society ever might focus on over-controlling the difficult transition from childhood to adulthood again.

We urge the authorities to open their records so the truth of the past can be learned.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Parents ordered to collect their children from Midwest Academy in Keokuk, Iowa

A police investigation has been launced against Midwest Academy in Keokuk, Iowa.

The school was founded by Brian Vaifanua who previous ran Paradise Cove in Samoa. Today the closed Samoa camp is mostly known for having housed two children who later moved on to kill relatives as revenge due their placement at Paradise Cove or at least it was what the conclusion the courts came to.

Both Midwest Academy and Paradise Cove was a part of the nationwide WWASP organization. Schools affiliated with this organization were closed by authorities in several states and countries out of welfare concerns towards the minors forced to attend these schools by their parents.

Of the schools who used to work with WWASP there are only two left.
  • Red River Academy in Lecompte, Louisiana
  • Sunset Bay Academy in Mexico
They use a structure very similar to the one Midwest Academy used to. A new student has to work through a level program in order to speak with parents again. Only monitored and censored contact is allowed from the enrollment until requirements are met. That leaves room for abuse.

Beside the WWASP related school also a number of so-called therapeutic boarding schools and treatment centers use the same approach and parents should be aware that they leave their children in huge risk of abuse by using the facilities which use this kind of structure.

It is only a question of time before a child is exposed to abuse or a child find itself so abandoned by family and social network back home that the only option seems to be suicide. Unfortunately a number of suicide attempts have been succeessfully. In a place like Diamond Ranch Academy in Utah a boy was able to hang himself and at the now-closed Spring Creek Lodge in Montana a girl committed suicide.

Should residential treatment be the last option as parent see to that you can visit as often you like and if possible from the very first day.

Of course you cannot expect your child to be happy about the placement but you can show your support for your own decision to show up and to a certain degree support the treatment approach you are paying for. Otherwise the treatment will have no effect. Children will return to their old ways. You would have lost a lot of money for nothing. Maybe you even will see that your child will need additional treatment as result of posttraumatic stress caused by the placement.

Now the parents have to collect their children from Midwest Academy. Some might consider to send their children to other places so they can find time for holidays or whatever activity they paid to get time for by paying for having their child placed at Midwest Academy. Maybe, just maybe they should second-guess their priorities in life.

Being a parent is the most important job in life.


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