Saturday, February 16, 2013

Amanda at Hope Home and Christian Academy

This statement was given on the HEAL-online message board by Amanda. All rights goes the author. I would like to report on Hope Home and Christian Academy.

When I was 15 (I'm 23 now), I was sent to Hope Home and Christian Academy in Mississippi. Unlike a lot of the other girls there, I was only there for a year--April 2004-April 2005.

One of the punishments there that I experienced and which most disturbed me was isolation. I once mentioned atheism to another girl there, she told a staff member, and they separated me from the rest of the girls in the home. I was not allowed to talk to or even look at the other girls for a month. I was in a room in the other end of the house, by myself and could only talk to staff members when they talked to me. This was called being on "group separation" and "silence". Though I never experienced it, I certainly heard the effects of what they called "licks", which were spankings. Other punishments included writing sentences, standing against the wall (from 30 minutes to hours at a time), being on silence, and being on separation from individual girls. Even though most girls are sent there after being sexually and emotionally abused at home or in various foster homes, there is absolutely no counselor in the house.

Strict Christianity is forced on the girls. They must read the Bible in the morning, then go into the schooling room for Christian homeschooling, etc. They do not leave the house aside from going to church and VERY occasionally going to a gas station or Walmart. When I came back from the home, I felt as though I'd missed a whole years worth of events, because I had. I was yelled at for not holding Christian beliefs and was made to write 2,000 sentences when they caught me throwing up in the bathroom once. As someone with eating issues, I needed a counselor, not punishment.

Communication with anyone outside of the home is heavily censored. Girls are allowed one phone call a month with their parents, but it takes place on speakerphone in front of the main staff members. Because of this, girls can't really be honest about how things are going unless they want the staff member to know it as well or possibly intervene if they say things they don't want them to say. I never said anything out of line, so I'm not sure what happens if someone does. Other than that once monthly phone call, no others can be made or received.

All other communication must be done by way of sending letters. These letters are given to a staff member, who reads it to make sure the girl doesn't say anything she isn't supposed to or that they wouldn't approve of, and then they are sent out. When a girl receives a letter or an email, a staff member first goes through it to make sure it doesn't say anything they don't approve of. Once or twice, I received a letter in which small pieces had been cut out.

I once snuck some chocolate candy from the counter and the biggest girl at the home was then blamed for it. Only later did I found out that she'd felt so pressured about it, she'd admitted to taking the candy. The same thing happened when I snuck some cookies once. We were well fed, but the food was locked up and I grabbed snacks when no one was looking every now and then. The only form of counsel is Brother P, the leader of the home.

All counsel is Bible-based and is in no way professional. Sometimes, he became angry and yelled at the girls (myself included, especially when it came to stating beliefs). He commented alot on the fact that I ate a lot when I was home and, when I tried to restrict myself upon first coming there, he yelled at me about that.

Once, a 9 year old girl at the home snuck a pair of scissors and cut off a little of her bangs while no one was looking. When she lied about doing it, Brother P took a pair of scissors and cut her long hair off up to her ears, making it look terrible as a punishment for lying. Today, that girl is 15, was recently abused by her adopted parents and is now in a foster home. I am sure that if this place is investigated, they will tell the girls to be on their best behavior and they will be, because those girls want to act well so that they can go home.

I keep in touch with many girls who formerly were there with me, and they have very few positive things to say about the home. No one-on-one communication is ever allowed between two girls and conversation is closely monitored by everyone there. If anyone mentions a non-Christian song, etc. or anything about their past, one of the girls will approach a staff member and tell on them for what they've done.

Every girl there (in my experience) was eager to go back home, so they sold out anyone and everyone for every little thing. I really feel that this place should be shut down. Girls basically feel like they're always in trouble when they're there, even though many of them need somewhere peaceful to get away from everything they've experienced previously. Instead, they're locked up in a house with 10-11 other girls, no privacy, and Christianity coming at them from every direction, including a requirement to wear long dresses at all times. I'm sure that no one at that home will sell the place out, but I am willing to tell the truth.

I've heard of autistic girls going in and being punished for their behavior by having to stand against the wall for hours in the day instead of anyone acknowledging the autism. It isn't effective and it is VERY harmful. Something needs to be done and this is heavy on my heart, which is why I've decided to submit this. I give HEAL permission to use this statement.

´ I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct. Executed on August 15, 2011


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