Friday, July 29, 2011
My name is MiChelle Miron.
Please accept this as my official statement. I was at Hephzibah House from 1990 to 1993. After much trepidation, I have decided to share my experience.
I was born and raised in a strict fundamental Baptist home. I was your average sheltered 15yr old. I had never drank, smoked, run away or any of the other “sins”. My home was conflicted because we knew we could get away with things with my dad that my mom would not allow. Please don’t get me wrong. I love my family and believe they did the best they could for us.
I was preparing to go to camp and the weekend before my mom suggested we go visit Shipshewana in Indiana. I had heard of the place and was excited that we could go for a mother/daughter visit. My parents had me sleep in their room on the floor and then we got up early the next morning. I was told my dad had gone to work. My mom and I loaded into the van and stopped to get gas. I was very surprised when we drove to the church and my dad and the pastor walked around the building and got into the van.
I was then told that I was being taken to Hephzibah. We knew about the ministry because my parent’s church supported them. However, it was a standing joke that if you didn’t behave you would be sent there. All of the girls knew it was not a good place to be sent. We had heard the stories from girls that had been there. It was a long drive and I remember just resigning to the fact I had no way out.
When we arrived, my suitcase was gone through and may items such as curling iron, hairspray, etc. were sent back home with my parents. I was then taken into the bathroom and stripped down to my underwear, told to get into the shower and hand out my panties and bra. Then I was told to wash all the hairspray and makeup off. When I was finished I was handed a blue jumper and red shirt made of polyester. I was told I could only wear slippers. I later found out this was to prevent new girls from running away because they couldn’t get very far.
I was not allowed to say goodbye to my mom and dad but was escorted downstairs into the basement and the door was locked behind me. I will tell you that I had never felt so lonely or lost than that moment. I was scared, isolated and crying. I was taken to the main room and seated at a table. I was given a copy of the rules and told to read them. I was also told that I needed to be quiet and stop crying. I softly wept for several days missing my family. I knew that I would have to immediately conform in order to stay out of trouble. I always felt “branded”.
We were the worst of sinners. We had no privacy whatsoever. We were monitored in the bathroom and given assigned stalls. We had to mark what they called a BM chart. You had to indicate whether we had a bowel movement that day and mark it with an S for soft, M for medium, H for hard or D for diarrhea. If we forgot to mark the chart, we would be given demerits. I do not remember how many demerits you got before you had to write sentences but the least amount was 500 sentences. You would not be allowed to speak to anyone and you had to wear the uniform to church to indicate that you had been bad. Demerits were handed out freely and offenses were made up at the drop of a hat.
Meals were very scary. We were allowed to pick whether we wanted half portions (dieters) or full portions. For me the food was never enough. I learned to stay out of trouble very quickly so I was allowed to be on the “garden crew”. These were the only girls allowed outside of the fence. The house that we lived in was surrounded by a very tall wood fence. The doors and windows had alarms. It wasn’t to keep people from getting in but from us getting out. The garden girls did intensive, back-breaking work from sun-up to sundown in the summer. We would lift five gallon buckets of honey over our heads in confined spaces, pick corn and carry large tubs of it back to the trucks through a field in the hot summer sun, rip out old fence rows covered in poison ivy, etc. I was always hungry and resorted to stealing food from the “blessing room”. The blessing room was a room upstairs in the Williams family living area. There were shelves lined with cooking supplies, food and juices. We were not allowed to eat any of that; it was reserved for them only. I was ashamed to be stealing but I was very hungry. We were fed from the supplies they could get from a food bank. Most of it was unmarked cans that would be opened and tossed into a large pot and then served as soup. I know that some of those cans we opened smelled and looked just like Alpo dog food. We were fed things like millet, barley malt and others I had never heard of. We were made to take vitamins daily and would have reactions to having too much in our system.
Because I was one of the “trusted” girls, I was allowed to talk to almost everyone. I was not allowed to speak to one of my childhood friends that was there until she graduated. We could only talk about approved subjects. We could not talk about friends, past students, or even our brothers. We were not allowed to have pens and paper unless in school or during approved letter writing time. Everything in our lives was monitored. Our letters were read before going out and read before we got them from our parents, phone calls and visits were strictly monitored. You were denied meals for failing to pass a duty inspection.
I was not spanked while I was there but I heard many girls crying and yelling and they would come back downstairs sobbing. It was one of our worst fears to be called upstairs. We knew what was happening. We had assigned bathroom breaks and if you had to go before that you would get demerits. This went for in the middle of the night too. The staff were very uncaring, crabby and vindictive. Maybe these things don’t seem so bad to you but we lived in fear. You trusted no one and the best way to stay unnoticed was to keep your mouth shut and head down. I had severe menstrual cramps growing up. I would be doubled over in pain, throwing up. I had the same thing while I was there and was denied any pain killers. I was expected to perform my duties even though I could not even stand up without doubling over in pain. I could not eat and would not have wanted to eat if I could have. I was forced to drink a protein shake because I was “sick”. The protein shakes were similar to what they give to body-builders except ours were not mixed properly. They were mixed with cold water and that left them clumpy and hard to choke down. I would often just throw them back up. I would lay there and ask God to please kill me.
I have had glasses since I was a kid. While I was there, my frames broke. I do not recall the exact circumstances. I was not allowed to have an eye exam to get them fixed. They were taken somewhere and the lenses put into some old frames. The frames were not the right shape for the lenses so everything was distorted. They gave me headaches and I was told there was nothing they could do. I resorted to not wearing them at all which left me almost blind. I failed a sweeping duty because I missed a piece of popcorn behind a large door. I could barely see the hand in front of my face and the staff knew that but it was not given any consideration. I was then made to drink a protein shake for dinner.
During my stay, a past students family had tried to get the State of Indiana to investigate reports of abuse. I and another student were hand-picked to speak to this agent. We were taken to his office and he questioned us in front of the staff lady. I was terrified to tell him anything because I knew the trouble we would be in. He asked the staff lady to leave but she left a tape recorder behind. We knew that she would hear us anyway so we said that things were all okay. He asked us to write on a piece of paper anything we might want to say but I was petrified and knew that not only would the Williams family be very angry but so would my family and church. I couldn’t take the chance of being all alone with no way to support myself.
Shortly after that meeting all of the girls were sent home to their families. I don’t know the time frame but probably a month or so, the school was reopened and I was sent back to finish my schooling. The staff ladies are not trained to teach so there was no one to explain algebra to me. They figured that I was not getting it so I was given a different subject in order to graduate.
I sum all this up by saying, God was sorely misrepresented to us. We were always afraid of judgment and humiliated. Our sin was thrown into our faces daily and we were not to forget that we were the forsaken. I learned to hide my emotions, to be untrusting and unforgiving. I have nightmares that I am trapped there as an adult and trying to explain that I don’t belong there. I have unfounded fears that my husband will abandon me. I beg you to reconsider if you are thinking of sending your daughter there.
Datasheet about the boarding school at Fornits Home for Wayward Web Fora
The original statement on cafety.youthrights.com
Monday, July 11, 2011
I arrived to the Family Foundation School Inc. on January 7th 2003 and was expelled on May 1st 2004; I would like to enter this testimony to this case:
As many other people have stated in their testimonies, when I arrived to the school I was coming out of a home situation where I was out of control and out of line. My entire life had been spent behaving in an almost animalistic way where I did what I felt was good for me without regard to reality or the wellbeing of others. With that said, I am now as my parents put it a "taxpaying, productive, introspective member of society" and a large part of that result comes from tools I acquired in the Family School.. Note I use the word "acquired" not "learned" because the fact is that learning was very difficult in that environment.
The Family Foundation School is a for-profit bastard child of a rehabilitative therapeutic community and a low budget school, the problem is that one of the main driving forces of TC's is that most of the inhabitants are there willingly and have no feasible alternative to being there. Moreover, therapeutic communities are geared towards fully developed adults with deeply ingrained problems that have existed for longer than the life spans of the majority of the students. The idea of a TC is to be caustic enough to etch away the bad, the problem of the FFS is that they are just as caustic as a TC but at the same time dealing with kids who are still developing.
A big problem with the school is the sexual issue. The school approaches human sexuality on a strictly Catholic perspective of sexuality is immoral and sexual urges of unwed teens are inappropriate and shameful. The school's entire basis of expelling me was for not admitting to my rampant masturbation, something which did not exist due to my lack of homosexual urges and knowing that less than 4 feet away from me in any direction was another guy wasn’t exactly arousing. A memorable experience was when two staff members confronted me on this very issue and when I denied that I was acting out sexually, one of them suggested that anyone in my situation would need some sort of release, at the time I was very heavy into prayer and meditation because I did not want to act out violently, and my retort was that my release was in prayer and meditation to which the staff member suggested that I by saying this I was somehow massaging his prostate (in cruder words of course). Verbal abuse was one of many ways the family school operates, which is sad but is not an isolated evil.
The family school advertises itself as a secular environment that promotes each individual religion. However, one should note the blatant disregard for dietary laws upheld by Islam and Judaism, and beyond sacrilege the family school was derisive towards these rules. A specific example of Passover comes to mind. Jewish people are not supposed to eat leavened food during Passover. Year round Jewish people are not supposed to eat pork, meat and dairy or seafood. The family school insisted that all of their students eat all the food placed in front of them, so during Passover when the rest of the students were having bacon lettuce and tomato, the Jewish kids had that too, on matzo. When the other kids were having Philly cheese steaks, the Jewish kids had that too, on matzo. I understand that the majority of the kids at the school were not Jewish and so it is justifiable ignorance to force the Jewish kids to participate in Catholic service with the justification that the Catholic kids had to go through the Jewish production (I call it a production because no real prayer books were used nor a real rabbi) but the mockery exemplified by the blatant disregard for the dietary laws was unacceptable and quite frankly a school that boasts to be so respectful of other religions should probably actually do so.
Next I would like to address the issue of labeling. The Family Foundation School was a big fan of labeling their students and using labels. The School purports to be a proponent of the 12 Steps but one part of the 12 Steps is that a person in recovery cannot tell another person that they are or are not an addict, it is a determination that is made by the addict for the addict as a personal revelation moreover the 12 Traditions (an accompaniment to the 12 steps) clearly states that recovery should be based strictly on attraction, rather than promotion because to force another person into recovery can be more harmful than to allow them to continue harming themselves because while in the short run you can get them to go to meetings in the long run you scare them off. The Family School loved to label their students with addictions and maledictions, they took great delight in informing me, 6'2 175 LBS at the time that I am a food addict and that I am obsessed with food and I use food as an escape. Moreover, I (according to them) was a sexual pervert who compulsively masturbated and I would inevitably wind up jailed, institutionalized or dead if I did not manage to graduate their program. The school didn't offer much for the imagination, there was very little encouragement for students to pursue their own wants or goals but rather goals were set by the school and if one did not choose to pursue those goals they risked punishment or a lengthier stay. These goals and expectations could be as simple as participating in an activities or extra curricular activities or as intense as committing to not date for at least 6 months after leaving etc. These things weren't really the bulk of the issue but they most certainly indicated deep rooted problem with the structure of the school that makes the school rather ineffective.
Another problem that the school posed was lack of accountability for their staff members. Staff members were openly verbally abusive and derisive to students, there were incidents where staff members were physically abusive but that wasn’t really prevalent the main form of abuse that I felt was the most sinister was food depravation. It is understandable to not feed someone who is actively being violent or physically acting out but if someone is physically cooperating to any extent they should not be deprived of food for long term period and kids who go there are customarily. The school is set up in a way where kids are forced to be paranoid their entire stay; because at any given moment what little dignity you are granted in life can be stripped away from you. At the school reality and truth is not dictated by reality and truth but rather by the whimsical perceptions of the staff members who take on a holier than thou role.
After leaving the school I had no contact with them. Several times I reached out to the administration and several times I had my hand slapped away. At one point per a conversation I had with an alumnus in which I made a joking reference to bringing a Swiss army knife to the alumni reunion in the event of any shenanigans as a device of self defense, the administration sent police officers to my home to inform me that if I showed up at the reunion I would be arrested. As far as success rates, indeed in order to leave the school one needs some sort of college plan but that doesn't mean that anyone who leaves is prepared for college. The school doesn't allow organic growth and therefore causes the students to be completely incapable of studying without a strict framework, hence the vast majority wind up failing miserably in college life. Also no reasonable framework is setup for the students to have a support network at the school, students are sent off into a cold cruel world with dead ideals involving principles that weren't upheld by those who enforced them upon them and as a result the rate of failure is staggering, rather than making recovery appealing to the students in the school recovery is made abhorrent a "do this or else" scenario is set up and so any success attained while in the school is just that, success attained in the school, and any success outside of the school is a fluke not a given.
I am a perfect example of a fluke. I was expelled for not working the program prescribed to me by the school (supposedly). I was informed quite assuredly by the principal that I would be dropped off in Binghamton and that I wouldn't last a very long time. When I finally failed I would be accepted back as I had hit bottom. I arrived in Binghamton and immediately continued where I had left off in the school, doing everything I could to replicate the life I had envisioned in the school using religion and recovery as my backbone. I found solace in a 12 step program and found myself a home group and a sponsor, my sponsor to this day makes efforts to break me of emotional damage inflicted by the school. My parents still are in a haze about what went on and are not quite sure how to perceive things. My own achievements are numerous but are not important to this testimony, what is important is the fact that I, one of the proud few who was expelled from the FFS is also one of the proud few who still holds onto the principles taught to me there and somehow I am also one of the proud few blindly rejected at all costs by the school's administration.
Pass this bill so that the school can be given the lubricant it so desperately needs. Schools like FFS are a necessary evil in this day and age, but they have no business operating in the way they do and should be monitored closely and regulated by the strictest procedural measures.
2013 the school changed its name to Allynwood Academy due to the bad press.
Datasheet about the boarding school at Fornits Home for Wayward Web Fora
The original statement on cafety.youthrights.com
Saturday, July 2, 2011
First, thanks for taking the time to build and maintain this site. I spent more time than I should of looking for TRUE testimonials of what goes on there (TB). I won't bore you with all the details of what goes on there; plenty of people have already done that. I just want to offer my situation/testimonial for anyone it may help. First, thanks for taking the time to build and maintain this site. I spent more time than I should of looking for TRUE testimonials of what goes on there (TB). I won't bore you with all the details of what goes on there; plenty of people have already done that. I just want to offer my situation/testimonial for anyone it may help.
I was "sent", better known as abducted or kidnapped, when I was 17. I had only 6 credits remaining until I was to graduate H.S. with Honors. I'm no angel by any means, and have always had problems with defiance, authority, ... Anyway, removing me from an active medication treatment program, and taking away all that I knew and loved - I to this day don't know how to express the horrendous conditions, lifestyle, and treatment I recieved while I was there. I finished my 6 credits in a little over a month, but as you know, you're imprisioned there until that magic age of 18. Off topic for a sec., I personally witnessed another student (inmate) wait almost 3 months after he turned of age and withdrew from the "program" before accomadations were made to transport him back to the states and his home.
Back to the subject, after finishing academics, which excluded a foreign language (2 years are required in almost if not all US accreditted universities), I had only the option to read or draw for the 8 hours a day allocated for academics. I could tutor level 3's or 4's, but they were definately the minority. (In my classroom, there were 2 out of 50 +/-.) I gained only the ability to skirt around and find loopholes in the rules as to not recieve those petty violations (if I remember, they were referred to as consequences). Already challenged socially at home in the states, being deprived of an everyday, or "typical" social environment taught me to keep to myself. I wasn't to express opinion, emotion, thoughts, or anything else without a staff monitoring who I spoke to and what I spoke about. It quickly became apparent that the easiest way to stay out of trouble was to "shut up, be still, follow orders, OR ELSE!..." I literally sat in a classroom and read the same books over and over for about 5 months. No one really cared about my progress, and although I had surpassed all requirements to move through (up) in the program, my requests were repetitively ignored with some BS excuse. I was trapped!
With 3-4 months until I was to turn 18, I had accepted that there was no way in Hell to accurately depict the true daily rituals to my parents, who would have had me pulled from that "Hell on earth" had they any idea of how I was actually being "rehabilitated". I still remember being so excited the day I was told I was leaving TB, more excited than when I was little and got that "special gift" on Christmas morning. To this day, I have never been more relieved than I was when I was on an airplane out of Jamaica.
Within 2 weeks of returning home, I returned to the same social scene I was "removed" from, within a month I was fixing to turn 18 and had chosen "illegal business" and hotel hopping over living with the people that could have listened to my weekly plea and cries to be moved to a domestic rehab facility. After all, every one of my "monitored" letters home had graphically depicted daily life. It was 2 years before I spoke to my parents again, 2 1/2 before we were again on good speaking terms.
I'm 23 now, and after extensive testing and treatment from licensce doctors, I still have moderate to severe problems with routine social interaction. From age 18, I held several jobs where I was very seccessful, but was presented with the opportunity to attend Tennessee Tech. University on a full ride. (School fully paid, off campus residence fully paid, hell- even full coverage car insurance is paid for me.) My only job- go to school. I'm ending my second year now, withdrawing from school completely (at least college). Since my stay at TB, I've been diagnosed with severe social interaction anxiety disorder, which most DOCTORS attribute to my learned behavior , which I mentioned - "sit down, shut up, be still, OR ELSE". I have also shown symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder, which never presented themselves before TB. There are also other symptoms which never appeared until after I returned home from that terrible place.
I have often asked my parents, now that I have had proper counceling and worked out most of the problems we had, "What could you have possibly been thinking when you decided to keep me there, even after getting a letter weekly begging to be put in appropriate care?" I will be the first to admit that I needed help; I knew that when I got there. But to find out that my "monitored" letters were carefully read my my "team mom" or whatever they were called, then taken out of context and depicted by phone as "calculated manipulation" to be removed from TB, it pisses me off to this day. I don't know what loophole(s) in the law they found, but they had my parents completely convinced that no matter what, keeping me there was the absolute best thing they could do, final word, bar none. I lost six months of my life to daily conditions I wouldn't wish on an enemy.
I was so mad at my parents, it took 2 years come back on speaking terms with them. To this day, I still have extreme anxiety triggered by school or academic activities. I can't approach girls without internal panic (remember, looking at a girl at TB carries the same penalty as sexual relations, a cat. 4 if I remember right.) I've become extremely paranoid with dillusional thoughts and behaviors, especially toward and figure of authority (the campus cops never crossed me, thankfully; there's no telling what would have happened). Like I said before, I was never an angel, and had taken the wrong road in life around my sophomore year in High School. I can't blame my current problems solely on my experiences at TB, but I know certainly they were worsened exponentially while I was there. I could go on and on about how TB made nearly every aspect of my life and it's challenges worse. I don't think I could write 3 things it helped. In retrospect, my parents spent (from my understanding) around $80 US per day while I was there, and believed completely that they were doing the best possible thing to help me. If this testimonial keeps one person from having to go through what I and everyone else who's been there had to go through, and is still having to go through as a result of "visiting" TB, or anything affiliated with WWASP; If I can help one parent choose a legitimate rehab plan or facility for their son or daughter, than the time I took to share this is insignificant.
Please, please! If you have a child at TB or are even considering it as an option, get away from it as fast as you can. It's 5 years later now, and I'm still trying to put my life back together. I don't have the resources to prove how complicated and deceptive the inner workings of this program/orginazition are, but I promise that everything about it is about raking in the money, not helping a troubled youth or teen get their life together.
I'm currently investigating whether or not the Diploma I recieved is even valid, because I've stumbled across a few articles that suggest it may not be. If you have any info. about the Diploma, let me know.
I hope sincerely this has been helpful to at least one person; like I said, If one person gets REAL help because of this letter or this site, instead of being abducted to a place far worse than jail, it was completely worth my time sharing.
I'd be happy to answer any questions, or if you were there around 2000 (I was in the Dignity boys family), email me. firstname.lastname@example.org (Email removed for privacy reasons)
Thanks again for whoever took the time to construct this site. I always wondered If the real truth would ever be known!
Datasheet about the boarding school from Secret Prisons for Teens
The original story (Cached version of tbfight.com - may take a while to load)