Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Amy Johnson at The Family Foundation School (

This story was originally written on a webpage created to provide statements for a GAO hearing in 2007. The address is and it waits for your statement if you believe that your stay at a boarding school included unfair treatment or even abuse. All rights and credits goes to the author Amy Johnson, who posted the original story on

My name is Amy Johnson and I attended The Family Foundation School in Hancock, NY from August 2000 through June 2002.

Over my 22 months at FFS I witnessed, partook in and was encouraged to emotionally, verbally, mentally and in some cases physically abuse my peers. The school as it was during my 22 months operated on fear and isolation to force conformity in what I thought then and am certain now is unethical treatment of institionalized populations.

Although I graduated from FFS over 5 years ago and by the schools standards considered a success I still have nightmares, instrusive thoughts, panic attacks and an overall feeling of betrayal stemming from my time at the school. I however was one of the few who attended FFS, during my time and in my opinion, who needed some kind of long-term residential treatment. Afterall I was a teenage drug addict, I prostituted myself for the narcotics I abused and had been placed over a dozen times before being sent to The Family School. I think, to the school, I must represent the typical adolescent they are trying to save. But years later I have focused myself, my education, my career on stopping treatment centers like The Family Foundation School from abusing their patients/clients the way they abused me and the way I witnessed them abuse others.

The school was awful; when I tell people about standing in corners, work sanctions, contacting parents twice a week for five minute phone calls, the lengths other students went to run away, being refused an HIV/AIDS test until I passed a math course, never receiving dental or optical exams, being forced to contact my father who had sexually abused me for years because the school wouldn't let me graduate without forgiving him, staff laughing as students cried, screamed and urinated themselves in isolation rooms, staff throttle students to the ground, restraining them despite the student remaining still when I've told people this over the years their reaction is always the same "I would have done ... and gotten out of there" but it wasn't that simple. I was told if I left the school even after my eighteenth birthday I would spend the next X number of years in prison or the rest of my life in a psychiatric ward. I was told and believed what the school said but I never believed they were in it for my best interest. While a new chapel was being built our dorms were a filthy, disgusting, bug infested, rotting, molding mess that parents were prohibited from seeing. At the school the students do all the manual labor such as cutting the acres of grass, shoveling upstate NY snow each fall and winter, preparing and serving the meals, cleaning the school and house. The treatment aspects of the school were only apparent in our family leaders strict interpretation of Alcoholics Anonymous 12-steps and it's Judeo-Christian roots.

What I witnessed at the school was horrific; within my first 6 months I had witnessed an exorcism, several restraints, table topics that ranged from how writing to your parents that you missed them was a manipulation to multiple run-aways. I saw some terrible things at the school but for me the worst part was the hierarchy of things. If you were at the school for more than a few months you were encouraged, expected and eventually did participate in table topics. We all torn each other down for the approval of staff and to divert their attention from whatever we may have done that day. I personally went after several students and was always praised for doing so, I was a senior member by doing so.

I had been at the school for less than 3 months when I witnessed the exorcism of a girl who I only knew of as what could happen if the rules of Family Five weren't followed. Jessica was in sub-five, on a slew of sanction including standing 24 hours a day, mayo and tuna for meals, speak when spoken to, house blackout, family blackout, and a work sanction. I didn't know this girl or anything about her but I knew it was wrong that for taking too long in the shower or not completing a throughout inventory card she should be held down on the floor of our filthy dorm room while her peers told her to calm down and said Hail Mary's. It was also during my first 6 months that I was placed on family blackout (where you can not contact your family by either their or the schools request) and put in the corner for failing a math test.

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

Friday, December 16, 2011

Alicia Sanders at Hephzibah House (

This story was originally written on a webpage created to provide statements for a GAO hearing in 2007. The address is and it waits for your statement if you believe that your stay at a boarding school included unfair treatment or even abuse. All rights and credits goes to the author Alicia Sanders, who posted the original story on

My name is Alicia Wagner formerly it was Alicia Sanders.

My stay at HH is hard to talk about. I do not have as many memories as you would think I would. My mind has tried to block out most of it. I can only recall probably 40% of what went on there. I do not remember most of the girl’s names. The 4 names I do remember I was able to get in contact with later through searching on the internet..

I was there from about 1998-2000. I remember that I was told I was being taken on a family trip that summer. (Many of the girls were told this and the pastor there once admitted to telling the parents to tell us that to get us to cooperate for the car ride.) I did find out through my sister that I was not being taken on a family trip minutes before leaving. Had I known the place I was going to be taken I would have run away but at the time I had no idea.

My home life was not much to talk about at the time so as much as I screamed I didn’t want to go I thought to myself well it couldn’t be much worse. It was much worse. I was no longer being given the” rod of god” by my mother but I might as well have been. I was never given a bruise or a beating while I was there but the fear and brain washing I received will always be a part of my life. The bruises fade, some memories fade, but the impact and black cloud the experience has on my life will never go away no matter how hard I try. I wake up 3-4 times a month with horrible nightmares that I am locked up somewhere and can’t get out. The dreams are so real. I often wake up trying to catch my breath. My months at HH affect my every day life as well. I am very much a people person yet I find it hard to truly trust anyone. I have a constant struggle with how I perceive God. I often have spouts of depression when I think of this place. I have seen a therapist who has stated that I have had depression from this place. She has pointed out many signs in my life of depression from this place that I wasn’t even aware I had.

I will start from the day I arrived and give you as many memories that I have left of the place. So back to the beginning I was told I was being taken on a family trip I was taken by my mom’s friend and my mom. We arrived at the place and the sons of the Pastor there came out as soon as we pulled up to get the bags out of the car. I was escorted by the pastor into the house. My first thought was the way the people dressed. It was very much like in the pilgrim days. This didn’t bother me much as it was not too different than the way I was raised to dress. As soon as we got there the first discussion was money. My mom gave the pastor some money and he said it wasn’t enough and she said that his dad (the head pastor) had told her she would get a discount. He stated he would talk to his dad about it. I felt like a piece of meat being sold. They were bargaining over how much they needed to take me and my mom was paying to get me off of her hands. I have never in my life felt so unwanted as I did in that moment. I have never felt more abandoned or of less worth than I felt on that day. I truly can say I felt as if I had no one. It is such a horrible feeling to have no one. Not a soul to go to. I had never been so alone and I pray I never will again.

I was told to say goodbye to my mother as if I was going to thank her for taking me there or something. I told her I would never forgive if she left me there and that promise I have kept. I was taken downstairs and told to take off all my clothes in front of two staff members. It was almost as if I had been admitted to jail. Although , at the time I wouldn’t have known much about jail.

I had never seen a drug, never tasted alcohol., never seen porn or used bad language. I had a boyfriend that my mom did not approve of and that was the reason for me being there. Not really sure what 16 year old boyfriends any moms approve of but this was just the sin of all sins in my family. After I stripped I was told to get in the shower and wash really hard. I was told afterwards this is custom when a new girl gets there to wash the sin off of her upon entering. I was told when I got out that I would never be able to use a hair dryer or makeup or any hair supplies as long as I was there so not to bother asking. I was dressed in a very itchy old uniform. My mother had paid for cullotes to be made for me. She was told the pastor’s daughter would sew some for me. I was given instead some old bleached stained form of a skirt. That had been used by many past student. After entering there I was never again to look the same. Never could I pretend to like something about myself and I really didn’t have to pretend. I could never so much as get the tangles out of my hair. I never wore anything (expect to church or my uniform to school, that didn’t have huge bleach stains on them.

I was told that my mother had told the staff that I had an eating disorder so I was never given small or half portions upon my arrival. I was told I had to eat heaping amounts of food. The first week there I would throw up after every meal. If I did not eat my whole meal I was given it at the next meal. If I did not eat my fish for supper I was given it in the morning to eat cold right out of the fridge I had to eat it as well as my breakfast and it would just keep adding up and getting more old every day that I couldn’t finish. We only had a small amount of time to eat our meals so food was swallowed never eaten.

We were only allowed to talk to our assigned talking buddies at the table if a staff member was present so talking really didn’t happen as the few minutes we had to eat were spent shoveling food in so that we didn’t have to eat it cold the next morning. Some girls did not get to eat at all if they were being punished. This was hard especially on days we had to work very hard outside. We were sometimes given jobs that grown men should have been doing.

I remember a particular day having to break up rock with shovels and load the rock into the back of a truck. The rocks were huge many girls were crying from trying to lift the rocks. The pastor’s wife (about 150 pounds over weight) would stand on the balcony of her house and yell at us that we were lazy and needed to work harder. She often did this when we would do our daily exercises also. She would correct us in our format. I was not allowed to talk to anyone but one person for many months and like I said that was only at the dinner table if a staff member was present. I had to read the rule book weekly.

It told us what we could and cold not say on the phone or in letters home. My phone calls were timed and monitored by someone on another phone sitting 1 foot away from me. Everything I said was written down in a book by the staff lady listening to the conversation. I was always warned before the phone call that If I said anything wrong the phone call would be disconnected and I would not get a phone call for a few months.

We only got to talk to our parents for 10 minutes once a month on a Sunday. I was only allowed to see my mother once I believe my whole stay there. My meeting with my family ended horrible as I was told I was giving to much eye contact to my sister. I was brought down to the basement and in front of all the students scorned and told that I am the reason that they would not be able to have siblings come to see them anymore. They were told that from now on only the parents could visit them in these meetings. I believe they were allowed to visit for 3 hours in the conference room once every 3 months with a staff member present at all times. I felt so horrible not because I had gotten in trouble but because I would never do anything to make the stay harder for any one else there. I had let my girls down and I felt as though I would never be able to make it up to them. Of course I could not tell them I was sorry or anything of the sort.

There was no form of love shown. No one could touch or show emotion. I was a walking puppet for fear I do anything to be punished. Punishment was given out hourly. I tried to blend in and never say anything. I tried to always act happy although the inside of me was screaming.. We had to write down when we pooped and how big or small it was and if it was not what the staff thought it should be were where given castor oil and phsyillium seed. If we had a period ( I did for some of the months there) we were to show the staff member our pad before throwing it away. Not really sure the reasoning behind that. If we went a day without pooping we had to show the staff member our bowel movement before we could flush. There was no such thing as any privacy or self respect. It was non existent.

I really put everything I had into my school work it was my escape and my hope to finish early and leave. I did stay 2 months longer than 15 months because I was 2 months short of being done with school. My mother was not told I was done with my school work until 2 weeks after I had graduated (or finished my courses) I was forced to sit in a cubicle and read a book since my studies were through. Humiliation was often a way to punish us. I made A and B honor roll all throughout my schooling there. One time I failed a history test and Patty had me stand in front of the school and say that I was selfish for failing this test and when I asked her why I had to say this she said because I didn’t care a damn about anyone if I did I would have memorized the dates of the war because I would have cared about those people that died there.

I remember having horrible migraines while I was there and I was never given any medicine not even so much as an advil. My migraines were so bad I would often throw up from the pain. I was told to lay in bed and my meals were taken from me. If I wasn’t better in 24 hours I had to repeat the same thing for the next 24 hours even if I was feeling better in the next 12. I remember a new student coming in and screaming and banging to get out she yelled I cannot live hear I cannot be like those robots. They are robots they are robots can you not see that!!!! It hit me like a slap in the face. That is exactly what I am a robot. But as fast as it hit me I reminded myself – but I have no other choice.

We had to line up to go to the bathroom and wait our turn for our stall to open. We could never just go to the restroom when we wanted it was when the staff member wanted to take us all. I remember a couple of girls being forced to wear depends because they could not wait for the next bathroom break and since the staff members would not let them go they would wet themselves.

One girl was forced to wear depends every day to school and and to church. All of her underwear were taken from her. I remember being so afraid that I would maybe be that person one day. She was such a normal person when she came in just like me. But now she was wearing depends and crying all of the time almost as if she turned into a crazy person.

I use to pray every night that God would keep me sane. Speaking of God he was used to scare us. He was a god of judgment and wrath; He was never portrayed as a god of love unless they were talking about the fact that he so lovingly died for our sins. That is the only time god and love were used in the same sentence.

I was never beaten but I know of a girl that was taken upstairs and given the rod of god while I was there. I did not see what happened but I know that it did. My sister use to send me about 20.00 per month to use on books or school socks. I was never given any of this money. I once asked if I could buy some chewable vitamin C from the pantry since I had a horrible cold. I was told I had no money in my account.

We were where constantly reminded how much it cost to keep us there and how grateful we should be and that our parents only paid 1/4th of what it cost to keep us there. I remember cleaning a warehouse they had there. It was filled with shelves from top to bottom of gifts given to the home. Pots and pan in boxes not even opened so many things that would never be used that someone could be using in this warehouse. We were never given good food unless it was a birthday. We were forced to drink moldy orange juice, powdered milk still warm, old cereal all dumped together no matter what kind. We often had to open cans of food with no labels and dump them all in a pot and that was supper.

I remember one a girl found a big green hairy worm in her salad we had picked they forced her to eat it. She started throwing it up and it became a huge debate that some of the staff thought she should have to eat the portion she threw up also and some thought she should just have to finish the worm. The plate had to be taken upstairs so patty could determine what portion of the plate she had to finish. She had to finish eating the worm but not the part she threw up. Were where told this would happen if we did not clean our lettuce good enough. We lived in constant fear. We were never allowed to leave – not for a wedding or a funeral – never. We were taught that men are superior to obey them no matter what. To never disrespect them. We were told not to talk in the presence of a man unless asked a question. It was very much a place of mind control (brain washing). I would never wish anyone to go there. I have left so much out but I really wish to not remember most of it.

I have written this against the advice of many. I was told there is no point in it it would only make me remember bad things and for a stranger I don’t even know. My instant response was I want to do it because it is the right thing to do. But after much thought if we don’t do this for the strangers that are going there now or might go there later who will? It won’t be the people that send them there. It won’t be the family and friends at home because most of them have no idea where the student has been taken. If we don’t do it no one will. Not only that but these aren’t strangers we are HH sisters.

I live for the day that this place will be shut down. I think only that would make me feel the weight lifted off of me. How can a place like this exist in America. How can it not be against the law to lock someone in a basement for months on end with no outside communication and no crime committed. They are abusing girls in the name of God and that is unforgivable. I feel as though not family, not a best friend, no one could every truly understand me. And they never really could unless they went to a place like this and woke up every single morning broken hearted because it wasn’t just a nightmare. Every morning feeling sick because you have to live another day after day after day in the basement. People can say they understand but they really can’t. They have not lived it. Only us girls truly understand.

We will always feel close for that reason. My testimony is open to anyone and I will answer any questions anyone has about this place.

Datasheet about the boarding school at Fornits Home for Wayward Web Fora
The original statement on

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Heather McGee at Excel Academy (

This story was originally written on a webpage created to provide statements for a GAO hearing in 2007. The address is and it waits for your statement if you believe that your stay at a boarding school included unfair treatment or even abuse. All rights and credits goes to the author Heather McGee, who posted the original story on HEAL-online's webpage

Hi my name is Heather McGee. Everything in my statement is true. I give HEAL permission to use my statement.

I attended a therapeutic boarding school called Excel Academy in Conroe Texas at the age of 15 in 2000. It is very painful to write this, but I feel maybe my experience could benefit others that may be in danger or even in similar situations.

I was a problem child growing up I also had other issues such as alcohol abuse and drug abuse. I was not sent to excel just for my substance abuse I was sent mainly for my behavioral problems. I was diagnosed with bipolar at age 14 from there on I pretty much just escalated, acting out yelling at my parents and becoming violent.

As parents they did what they "thought" was right and put their trust into the hands of excel academy. My mother had told me I was needing to change schools and in the position I was in at that moment I was excited, I was willing to take any opportunity I could to get some help. Mom and Dad drove me to Texas. They told me I was going to attend a private Christian school. I was excited absolutely thrilled; I had no idea that I was just about to experience something that would affect me for the rest of my life.

Mom and I got out of the car and went into the office. A heavyset lady talked to mom a minute and then Hell walked in, her name was Jamie, Jamie was the head of the staff. She walked in, I took one look at her and just knew something did not seem right. Other girls also walked in behind her. Jamie didn’t say much to me except (heather come with me). I was put into a jumpsuit and had to take all jewelry out including anything from the "outside" I was put into an orange jumpsuit with (runaway call 911) on the back of it. I didn’t think much of it. And honestly as I'm trying to write all this I must have blocked out most of the things that occurred there for my first 3 months so forgive me if none of this makes sense.

As my time there progressed I noticed the things that happened there were not in any way appropriate. The physical and verbal abuse there was very high, and when I say physical and verbal I mean from the staff not children attending the school. I'm thinking back to as many situations I can remember, on a daily basis there I was abused physically and verbally. I was not like most of the children there I argued and talked back with the staff which if I had only known I was going to get hit or verbally attacked I would of never argued.

Eventually I just became quiet and gave up on everything, we will get to that later on though. About 6 months into this program and when I say 6 months that’s when I start remembering just "some" of the things that went on. I had came into excel a little heavy from my drug and alcohol abuse and or many other things. After being there 6 months I was actually considered obese and was reminded of my weight problem daily from Jamie and the other staff members. I was called fat, fat ass, fat shit, slut, whore, loser yes LOSER and FAT was one of Jamie’s favorite things to say to me. Most of the children that came there caught on to the scene pretty quickly and just remained silent afraid they might risk the abuse too.

I know you are probably wondering why we did not just tell our parents the truth about excel well here’s why we were monitored daily and nightly by girls called "shadows" these girls had been there for a while and had figured out if they act like they like the program and put on a smile they would be out of there soon!!!! So my shadows which I had about 5 followed me everywhere including shower time and when I had to use the restroom.

They would write down everything u did wrong and tell Jamie. Most of my shadows tried to not write too much down afraid Jamie might ' GO PSYCHO" but they also knew if they didn’t write anything down they would get it just as bad. So during LIFESKILLS, a class we attended after regular school hours the shadows of the girls would read out the BAD things the girls had done. I remember soo soooo well walking towards the cafeteria where lifeskills was held and having the sickest feeling in my stomach along with pretty much every student there. I would shake and want to cry I remember if Jamie did not show up that day which she did often due to issues that were unexplained and or kept from us the student would have this sense of relief come over them almost like a feeling like thank you god thank you so much god I can at least BREATH.

During lifeskills Jamie would call the students names such as gay fuck and bitch and so on it gets worse. She would stand the children up and humiliate them with anything she could think of and if you talked back to her she would spit in your face and start pounding on your chest with her hands leaving all kinds of bruises. And eventually she started cutting the girls hair it was called a" learning experience" in her words. And not cut our hair nicely, she would just take scissors and start cutting away sometimes leaving half of the girls hair not cut and the other half butched. I remember so well every time Jamie verbally attacked someone or physically abused them she would smile happily and it wasn’t a normal smile it was a sick sick smile almost like Jamie enjoyed seeing these children being tortured. A lot of children there were also put into the corner to stand sometimes all night long and sometimes all day long, in the corner we would eat tuna fish, not sandwiches, just plain tuna fish in a bowl.

On my sixteenth birthday I was in the corner and had been for about 6 months, my whole entire stay at excel I pretty much was standing in the corner of course attending school and going to bed (sometimes) but other than that I was always in the corner back to my sixteenth birthday my mother had sent a cake for me and some presents, I stood in the corner with tuna in a bowl and watched the other children eat the birthday cake my mother had sent only about 15 kids got to eat cake the rest were on discipline too. I never received my mother’s presents I was told to write a thank you letter to my mother for the presents she sent that I never received.

I have a learning disability also, I was not quick to learn and I was told I was a distraction to the other students in my class so I was put into a closet with a computer my mom sent and was put on a Christian home school program called alpha omega. I recall Jamie taking me out of class one day and telling me to fucking go inside my closet and I would do school from there she closed the door and left. My alpha omega program was e mailing my teachers homework and what not at one point I thought I was slick and tried to ask one of the teachers for help and to contact the police. Somehow my e-mail never made it through but Jamie knew about it quickly and I was punished again.

Girls in our dorm which was pretty much a huge trailer filled with bunk beds, stayed up all night taking shifts to watch the other girls sleep just in case of a runaway happening. If u sneezed wrong or even snored they had to write it down and at lifeskills the next day u were yelled at and abused. There were a lot of girls and some boys there with eating disorders, some were also vegetarians, these certain girls and boys were forced to eat beyond there limit including thirds seconds sometimes fourths. I remember some girls would throw up because they were to full and Jamie forced them to eat another plate. The ones that were vegetarians were forced to eat all their meat no matter what including the fatty tissue of the meat. I had 2 escapes at excel that was my food and my sleep. I tried to gorge myself with food when I could which didn’t last long because I was eating tuna fish the last year there.

My other escape was sleep; I would get so excited when it was bedtime. I could dream I could go into another world, I dreaded waking up sometimes I wanted to just fall asleep and never wake up again. Of course no child there got more than 5 hours of sleep. a lot of the time Jamie would come in the dorms both girls and boys and wake everyone up at whatever time she felt like it and make us all go do BOOTCAMP with the officers from Montgomery county jail. Officer Witworth was one I remember. I could see in his eyes he wanted all of us to do well and learn our lessons but he had no idea what was the actual case he was hard on us it was his job and if he only knew that to all of us bootcamp was better than getting abused.

I was woke up one night with a crock pot full of ice water Jamie poured it on my head and said get up fat ass, I and a few other girls and boys was taken out in the snow to do boot camp no matter how could rainy or hot it was she didn’t care. I have asthma and when I would get short of breath I would ask for me inhaler which she refused to give me unless I starting almost fainting. S couple time children would fall to the ground in exhaustion, Jamie would come up behind them and kick them and tell them to get the fuck up or the will get it worse. some would get up some would lay there unable to move. she would drag them into the building and we never really got to find out what went on. Boot camp had become a routine for me sometimes all day long sometimes just 1 or 2 times a day so I adapted. I remember when Jamie wasn’t watching, Officer Witworth would let us kinda half ass our workouts then if she came out or showed up he would go straight back to the workout. Officer Witworth had to come out often for just me I remember one time he came out told me to follow him to a picnic table and let me sit down across from him he sat there and talked to me asked me what I was feeling and why I acted the way I did, I was shocked and I was so desperate to talk to anyone at this point and I had maybe got a few words in until Jamie interrupted us and said HEATHER what the fuck do u think you are doing get out there and fucking start doing bear crawls. Officer Witworth just looked at her and came and helped her with my workout.

My whole stay there I was unable to talk to anyone I was on a BAND or restriction where if I opened my mouth to anyone I was going to be punished. Of coarse we were not allowed to speak of outside issues relating to drugs music friends etc. so most of the time if we were allowed to speak it was about excel only or our program. I thought it was just me at first I knew I was the "bad apple" there and I should be punished but as I stayed there longer I noticed everyone else there was being abused and punished in an inappropriate manner.

That way most of the children there remained silent. And if I had to do it all over again I probably would of too. As I began to fall apart emotionally loosing my sanity day by day I started cutting myself not for attention mostly because I thought maybe if I kept doing it they would kick me out and send me to a different program. Of coarse they did not, and wouldn’t in their mind they would be loosing money!! I started cutting deeper and deeper every time and at one point I had actually found a vein which maybe I could break and bleed to death, hopefully get sent to the hospital, but the vein did not break and that day Jamie found out and came and grabbed me out of my closet and dragged me to the cafeteria she then poured lemon juice and salt into my open wound I had made. Her and some other staff held me down as I screamed.

Two girls had actually succeeded in running away the first 6 months I was there, they had tried several times but they finally made it. When I found out about this I wasn’t sad I was not sad at all in fact along with other girls I was amazed and jealous and at the same time so happy for them. They never came back and I would just smile thinking of them and how brave they were.

One day when I was in my closet something seemed strange everyone was being so nice to me, the staff even came in my closet and asked me to write a paper on how I feel excel has helped me. Of coarse I dare not write anything bad because I took this as an opportunity to maybe get treated different, plus when u go a day with the staff smiling at you and not hitting or cursing at you seem happy. That paper was one of the hardest things I've had to ever do, I lied in that paper and just tried to write down what I wished could have been possible. My shadows took the paper and walked me into the cafeteria there I found my mother and the whole student body standing in there. My heart sank I was in complete shock I didn’t know what to do. Then I look over I see sally Jamie’s " girlfriend/ lover"/staff member) most 99% of the staff there was Jamie’s relatives. Anyway I look over and see sally with this face of death she looked as if she was going to explode not in a good way in a very very BAD way.

These events that occurred at excel academy were wrong, I am not the same at all this is the first time I have ever tried to even think back about the "excel days" I have mentioned it to my mom o few times and she wants to take them to court I do not excel has yes abusive and hurtful people working there and yes they brainwash every single parent that walks into that do claiming there child will die if they don’t stay here, but in no way in NO WAY did I receive any help, any therapy, any love that excel promised my mother, I apologize if all my writing my seem confusing it is very very painful to think back to those days and I ask myself this question every day did excel help me or did excel hurt me?

I do not blame my mother for sending me there I did indeed need professional help, and from what she knew I was going to receive help, I was an out of control child and my mother did her best to make sure I stay safe and alive. Why was I abused at excel why was my self esteem completely gone while I was there. I did not receive the help I needed I was punished and abused and its a day to day process of getting my head back up, I still to this day 5 years later have nightmares about excel academy, and those nightmares affect my mental ability my emotional ability, and also affect they way I react to peers family or my daughter.

I am a mother now I have a daughter that’s 2, I have my own house and I have a great relationship with my family and significant other. I wanted to make sure parents out there know what goes on at excel academy I want to try and make sure no child has to ever experience that kind of experience, no human being deserves abuse, I will do whatever it takes to make sure excel does not continue this inappropriate behavior and that they do not get away with what they have done, I will never be the same after attending excel, and I am aware I cannot save everyone but at least I can make a difference to someone at least I can maybe save one life, please PLEASE help me put a stop to abusive schools thank you and god bless.


Heather McGee

Datasheet from the Fornits Home for Wayward Web Fora
The original statement on HEAL-online's webpage

Sunday, November 27, 2011

At stay at the Shepherds Hill Farm (From

This story was originally written on a webpage created to provide statements for a GAO hearing in 2007. The address is and it waits for your statement if you believe that your stay at a boarding school included unfair treatment or even abuse. All rights and credits goes to the Anonymous contributor, who posted the original story on


I, _____ [Anonymous]_____________, declare and state as follows:
  1. 1. [Shepherds Hill Farm]..
  2. 2. [2200 Price Road, Martin, GA 30557 ]
  3. 3. [01/02 to 01/05]
When I lived at home with my family I grew up hanging out with older kids; kids who my father, and other parents of the neighborhood viewed as trouble makers. We mainly hung out and smoked pot, drank occasionally and hung around the neighborhood. When I was younger I was sent to a boarding school in Stone Mountain, GA by the name of Gables Academy. It was actually a very good school for the most part. However, I was a problem child of sorts. I never did anything serious but I would talk back to teachers, complain, smoke pot when I was home on break, but never anything serious. One of the “counselors” named Sean who stayed with the boys during the day and night never liked me much and often yelled in my face and insulted me. One day I was standing on the porch with a couple other students minding my own business, as I see Sean walking up to the porch with the PE teacher. I hear Sean say to the PE teacher “Hey, watch this” and laugh a little. He then walked up to me on the porch and unexpectedly punched me in the side of the head, knocking me to the ground and causing my vision to fade to black for a couple of seconds. I got up and ran into my room and locked myself in. The next day Sean took me behind a trailer, broke down into tears and begged me to not go to the authorities and get him in trouble, because he would lose his wife, his job and go to jail, and have his life ruined. Within a short time after that (I believe a week or so) I was told I was being expelled and sent to Shepherds Hill Farm. Shepherds Hill Farm was a wilderness christian therapy program owned by the owner of Gables Academy as far as I understand, for the students that Gables could no longer handle. Very soon after I arrived at SHF I was told that SHF and Gables Academy split ties and were no longer together. I believe this may have been done to try and distance themselves from the incident of Sean hitting me, but I do not know for certain. My father (now deceased) was a Greek Orthodox priest and Trace Embry(owner of SHF) is somewhat of a preacher and presents himself as a Godly man, so I believe Trace was able to use this to connect and manipulate my father with. I believe Trace convinced my father that this would be a safe healthy environment, that would bring me closer to god, away from the older supposed drug addicts who were my friends and I would get an education. I believe my father thought it was similar to monasteries in Greece. However my father never saw what went on past the facade at the top of the hill. He never saw the wood shacks we built deep in the woods and lived in with no electricity or running water or any type of entertainment or source of true self expression, he never saw the horrible horrible education they forced on us, and that I was against but still given. When I arrived I was brought to the porch of a house in the middle of the country with acers of land. It smelt like flowers and I will admit was very appealing to the eyes. Trace Embry sat me down as staff and he went through all my belongings picking out what I could and could not have. Trace began to ask me about myself and my history and informed me about the school and how it was run. He told me my clothes were demonic and other silly nonsense that I tried to ignore. I was feeling extremely angry, depressed, hopeless, abandoned (though I later learned my mother never wanted me in the program and this greatly worried Trace Embry) and scared. Trace told me to go into the “school house” which was a trailer a few feet away with a counselor “teaching” without accreditation. I was introduced to the class and sat down. As Trace left the room I said under my breath “what a jackass.” The “teacher” heard me and went running, and yelling for Trace after him. Trace came running back into the school building with paddle. He bent me over in front of the class and gave me a swat. I cussed and said “What the fuck?” He bent me over and gave me another swat. I started to walk back to my seat and he grabbed me and yanked me towards him and bent me over and gave me another swat, and told me “you hug me after you receive a swat!” I said “No, why would I hug a person who just hit me?” He hit me again and began to give me special meals. “Tell me your sorry” he would say and I replied “Why?” He would say “ok thats a week of special meals”, anytime I said why after that I got another week. In the meantime two girls began crying and went outside with two counselors. I received somewhere between a month and a half of special meals and two and a half months of special meals. Special meals are when you are feed a cold can of beans and a can of some type of greens with water. The food they normally feed the students is food that is picked up from food banks and other places similar where they do not have to pay for it, or pay very very little. They would get cartons of 2-3 day expired milk from the milk packaging facility to give to us. The food quality was horrible and it in no way met the requirements of nutrition we would have needed for the amount of strenuous manual labor we did near 24/7. We were told that special meals were a healthy vegan diet and was very good for us. That is absolute bs, vegans eat a large variety of foods in order to meet their daily intake and often take supplements and or vitamins as well; they do not simply eat a can of beans and a can of beats each day. That is food deprivation and one of the many forms of abuse they offer for $58,900 annually. I was punished for eating toothpaste after being on special meals for so long because I craved flavor so bad and was so hungry. Other students were caught eating dog food while on special meals. One boy by the name of Bobby (I will get to more on him later) was nearly always on special meals, and looked like a skeleton. He would often get caught stealing food or snacks out of the kitchen or somewhere and would be punished and given more special meals. One day the child was put in a room alone with nothing else. The counselor places candy bars around him in a circle and told Bobby “we know how many candy bars are here, if any are missing when we come back in two hours you will be punished.” All of the other students laughed. When we came back 2 hours later, several candy bars were missing. Bobby cried and screamed and denied it but he was beaten and given more special meals. When he went home for Christmas break Trace told his parents to continue giving him special meals for Christmas. They did, however Bobby was caught eating a horse biscuit and was sent back to the farm early. We were not allowed to look at or make any type of communication with anyone of the opposite sex. We were also not allowed to talk to other students unless staff was with us. We were only allowed to talk to the staff and the camp owners. All ingoing and outgoing mail and phone calls were monitored. We had no electricity, no running water, no communication with the outside world or anything “secular”, we lived in giant wooden huts that we built ourselves with hand saws and axes and no building knowledge. The “counselors” had no experience nor qualification to do their jobs they also received no training. They were college students, high school students and a couple higher ups who had college degrees but no qualification for what they did. We performed manual labor for hours upon hours in all climates from blistering heat, to snow and or rain. Homosexuals and those of different religions (mainly just me) were singled out and picked on and made to look like evil people but to be pitted and not trusted. If you visit you can see a picture of one of the huts we built and lived in. believe that Trace Embry is a twisted sick man who used his good way with words and the bible, to abuse children and rob parents and families of $58,900 a year. I believe he is a threat to children, to parents, and family's and by extension voting and all of society and the future. Trace and his wife are sick people who are leading a cult and harming hundreds and hundreds of innoncent people. No one deserves to be treated the way I was treated at SHF; treated like some scumbag would treat a dog. I have horrible anxiety and nervousness. I have a hard time being around authority figures because they frighten me inside very much. I have talked to other former students of SHF, from around when I went. They agree to be in a class action law suit against SHF. Some of them have had to undergo VERY MUCH therapy and real, professional help to heal the wounds left on them by SHF and Trace. I really hope you can help me or at least help get the word out about SHF so that other ex students may come forward. This place absolutely needs to be investigated and shut down. At first all the students would be opposed to the farm and what they did. However over time they all began to go along with it. Soon enough they all enjoyed it for the most part and proclaimed the farm was helping, loving and saving them. They all wanted to be baptized. The bible was continuously used to validate every single thing they did. Trace uses his great way with words, and his knowledge of the bible to justify what he does while at the same time tricking parents and kids. He constantly preaches about how great he is and how love is not what most people think. Love according to Trace is punishing kids and abusing them. To Trace using sleep deprivation, food deprivation, humiliation, brain washing, child slave labor, encouraging racism and homophobia, physically beating children is all doing what the Lord wants and calls for and is the true way to love someone. If you go to and listen to their podcast for Nov 19, you will hear some of Traces very strange views. One day at the farm after Trace finished preaches I raised my hand and I said “You are brainwashing us”, Trace smiled at me and replied “Yes we are! We are brainwashing you in the blood of the lamb!” Everyone laughed and shook their heads at me in agreeing with Trace. On the podcast for Nov 19 he says that very thing. That he is “brainwashing kids in the blood of Jesus” In the Nov 19 podcast he also describes an event where a child tried to escape at a mall from her mother while visiting her and they had to restrain her and bring her back to SHF. She was told they did it out of love and for Jesus and she agreed. I saw this on the Heal legal page- “Certain official agencies have stated that the “escort services” provided by these programs constitutes kidnapping and those providing this type of service may be prosecuted on felony charges for kidnapping. Contact the FBI to report crimes of kidnapping. “ I went home at one point and I thought I would not have to go back to the farm. However, my father gave me a drug test and I failed it for THC. I refused to go back to the farm. In the morning I woke up to two very large men walking in my room. I noticed my father driving off and leaving the house. I said “Who are you!” and they threw a pair of pants at me and told me to put them on. They said “We are bounty hunters to take you back to Shepherds Hill Farm.” They told me I could come calmly or they could cuff my hands and feet. I figured I better not fight the police so I went with them calmly. I made a post on the Richard Dawkins web forum about medical misinformation that Trace has on his blog. He encourages parents to take children off medication and provides misinformation about certain psychological conditions and has zero tolerance to give advice on medication or to take his students off their medication. He had talked students out of taking all types of medicine including anti-seizure medicine. I witnessed two students have what appeared to be seizures. Shaking on the ground foaming at the mouth, Trace and his staff held the children down and prayed for demons to leave them. The thread I made on the Richard Dawkins forum was picked up by someone named Peter Harrison who made a blog on his website titled “Shepherds Hill Farm - The Great Child Abuse Secret” on Trace replied a few times telling us how great he was and how much smarter he was. It soon turned into me listing allegations of child abuse, this enraged Trace however he ignored the allegations over and over again and simply told me I was suffering THC delusions (that does not exist) or was evil or possessed by demons. He told us we were all evil atheist doing satans work trying to shut down his farm and that we needed Jesus in us. Here I will post the list of some of the abusive things that happened while there. I say abusive because my parents paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for what Trace told them would be a safe, non threatening, therapeutic wilderness program that would help and heal me. SHF instead has left me with psychological wounds that I have suffered from for many years, they did not help me one tiny tiny bit, anything positive that I gained while there was due to me being strong and overcoming the oppresive environment. I have talked to many other students (ones who were told “its your fault for being raped you whore” basically in front of the whole school and other things) and it has taken them years and years of REAL therapy to overcome the wounds they gained while there. My father was tricked into taking out his life insurance policy to pay for my tuition. My father is now dead and my brother, I and my mother received nothing because he gave it all to Trace. My mother is on disability can not work and has only disability for income (very little). I repeatedly told my father, Trace and other staff that I wished to leave and wanted to die. I told them I would rather be in jail that in SHF but I was kept there. Trace has parents sign over parental guardianship to him so he can tell us “everything we do to you is legal. I own you and your parents agree to this.” He would also say “Besides who would believe you, a troubled drug addict teen or me, an owner of a successful program and an ex cop and preacher?” Trace would tell our parents that whenever kids get there they will tell their parents they want to leave and everything will be fine if they let them come home. Trace told them “do not believe this, they are trying to control and manipulate you.” If someone told me “if your kid tells you I abused them don't believe it.” I would probably either punch them in the face or call the police. I never wanted to be there. I repeatedly said I wanted to leave. My mother called Social Services while I was there but no one would go to SHF and investigate. If they did they would only be shown the top of the camp and not where children live and the things they do and undergo every day for usually 2 years. My parents were never shown any of the horrible things, only the good fake part. At the top of the school is Traces house and some other trailers, however a mile down into the forest is the boys camp and half a mile or more is the girls. The Greek Orthodox priest who was friends with my dad that came to see me was never showed the horrible part or what it was like. The entire time I was there I dreamed of some type of organization or group of people that I could contact and that would believe and help me. The only thing I could think of would be an anarchist organization however I knew nothing about them or how to contact one, especially with no electricity or contact with the outside world. I had no idea groups like HEAL, ISAC and Caftey existed. We were continuously told we were minors and belonged to Trace and had 0 rights or civil liberties. I was even forced to go to church. I told them I was against it and did not wish to enter in their Church as it was against my beliefs and religious beliefs. They told me to bad and made me go anyway. This is what I was told any time I brought up the bill of rights or legal matters. I was a slave and prisoner against my will for no crimes, they knew it and knew that I knew it but couldn't do anything. Thank science they exist and are doing what they do! They are great people! Here I will copy paste the list of abusive things I made on Richard Dawkins forum.
  1. 1."Special Meals"- I was placed on something termed by the farm as "special meals" for a month and a half. I was feed a can of beens (a can of some type of vegetable for dinner) and bread a piece of fruit and water everyday for a month and a half. SHF claims this is a healthy vegan diet. It just does not taste good because it is punishment. Vegans eat a much much wider variety of foods in order to get the vitamins and protein their body requires. They usually take some type of vitamin or supplement as well.
  2. Child in river- There was a student at SHF by the name of Bobby who would wet his bed. Without getting outside medical advice from an unbiased professional doctor, or psychiatrist. Instead they assumed the child was just wetting his bed out of disobedience and in order to cause havoc. Their cure? Make the child strip to his underwear in front of all his peers and bathe in the river. It was extremely extremely cold outside. He would then be made to carry his mattress a mile up hill to wash it, with or without help from staff or peers. Also, they made the kid wear a diaper. I do not know if they forced him to or not but I remember seeing him walking around in nothing but a diaper. Students would make fun of him calling him "Gandhi" because he looked like a skeleton(from months of food deprivation and taunting with candy bars for hours), wore a diaper, and carried a walking stick.
  3. Horse allergy- I am allergic to horses. One day a counselor made everyone ride horses. I told the counselor that "I would like to, but I am allergic to horses", the counselor said "No! You just do not want to participate! You will ride the horse or you will receive a swat(paddle)". Being threatened I got on the horse. I broke out in hives, students and the camp nurse said I looked green and I was having difficulty breathing. The counselor apologized but that does not change the fact of what was done and the danger he placed me in.
  4. Paddling- Students were spanked with a paddle. Some had bruises that lasted a week or more. We would be spanked for anything from asking "why?" after being told to do something or saying "no." If we did not hug Trace after he paddled us we would receive another swat. Why would someone want to hug someone that just hit you?
  5. Brainwashing- They would take our books or not allow us to have them if they were deemed in appropriate. This includes mainly religious texts other then the bible or anything christian and nearly any type of secular book. They completely controlled our sensory input. They admitted themselves that they were brainwashing us, “brainwashing you in the lamb of the blood!” yuck and weird!
  6. Contacting our parents- When arriving to the farm we were allowed no contact with out parents for the first few months whatsoever. After this we were allowed to write letter and receive them from only our parents. However they would be censored before coming in or out. They would read them and tell us to take things out or change things if they were deemed inappropriate,
  7. Children building unsafe structures- 13 year old kids with no construction knowledge were made to build unsafe structures to live in. We would cut the trees down ourselves with hand saws and axes all without electricity or running water.
  8. Tuition- Our parents paid a tuition that was higher then the tuition to most universities in the U.S. Yet we were feed food they got from food banks for free or next to nothing. I remember the counselor taking us to the milk plant nearby, where we would be given crates of their day or usually two day old milk for free because it was expired and going to be thrown away. We were then given this milk for food/drink. We had no running water, no electricity, lived in wooden huts we built with our own hands without electricity and with rusty hand saws. Not to mention the special meals, which were even weaker.
  9. "School"- Their "school" is now accredited. In their "science" classes we were indoctrinated with the christian story. We were forced to watch Kent Hovind videos, as if he and all his "theorys" have not already been debunked. We were taught the world was 2000 years old and created by God. That is as absurd to me as teaching in a science class that gravity does not exist, but is actually god holding everyone down with his finger . I also at one point had to explain to my science teacher what plate tectonics were. He had never heard of such a thing, and thought I made it up...until another student said she learned the same thing in a real school.
  10. Absurd accusations- The half way house at the farm was covered in flies during the summer. One day Trace wanted to talk with me one on one outside of the half way house. We sat and talked about Christianity. I of course was extremely dirty , sweaty, and smelly. After all I had been living in the woods and doing hard manual labor all day, with a shower twice a week. Trace on the other hand lived in a house and looked and smelled as if he had just come out the shower. He asked me if according to biblical terms would I rather be called a fool or a wise man? I replied a fool because the bible is rubbish to me. He replied " Ya know Anon, it's very interesting to me that all the flies are landing on you and none on me. Do you know that the devil in the bible is called Beelzebub-the lord of flies!" Later on when Trace had every student in the program and every counselor in a room together he was preaching to us. He went on and suddenly started to describe our private conversation to everyone. He said "Anon willingly would be called a fool instead of a wise-man." He then told everyone about the fly thing. He said that he believes I could be possessed by demons or Beelzebub. This was humiliating to say the least, and hardly humble at all on his part. Later a counselor came to me and told me that he thought the fly thing was absurd and silly. He said the flys were landing on you Anon because you live in the woods, haven't bathed in days and are extremely dirty..unlike Trace. Another child was sent to SHF after being raped at her highschool. Trace asked her if she knew what a whore was. She replied “someone who sleeps around with everyone?” Trace responded “Yes ,, dont you think you fit the bill?” and I believe then punished her.
  11. Queers, homos and fags!- Trace would very often make jokes about gays, and homosexuals and "going to brown town” (saintly words, I know! He sure is the next St. Nektarios!) that I assume would be extremely offense to homosexuals. He taught it was sinful, wrong, evil and unnatural.
  12. Medical misinformation- It seems to me and everyone else Trace has been debunked on his Anhedonia claims, and insists on providing dangerous medical misinformation on his website.
  13. Prayer instead of medical attention- A child once was being disobedient. The child then suddenly collapsed and had what appeared to, my eyes, be a seizure (I do not know for certain, I am no doctor). The staff simply held him down got in a circle and prayed for the demons to leave him. Later the staff told us the student had green (or some color) foam coming from his mouth as he convulsed. The student soon stopped and went back to normal. Prayer cured him, we were told. This sounds similar to the story that has been in the news lately. The one where the child had diabetes and the family got around and prayed for the child instead of calling an ambulance, except in this case the child died and the parents were sentenced to prison.
  14. Parental alienation syndrome- Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), consisting of the manipulation of children by the custodial parent, who incessantly tries to turn them against the other parent by arousing in them feelings of hatred and contempt for the target parent, as explained in the book Marital Conflicts, Divorce, and Children's Development (Conflictos matrimoniales, divorcio y desarrollo de los hijos, edited by Piramide), by professors Jose Canton Duarte, Ma Rosario Cortes Arboleda, and Ma Dolores Justicia Diaz, from the Department of Evolutionary and Educational Psychology of the University of Granada. This was repeatedly done to students. Thank God the students usually took great offense to this. We would be told our parents had failed us or had enabled us to make us even worse. We were told most of our parents needed to be in the program just as much if not more then we did. Trace also acted as if my mother was insane because she placed such a big influence on humility within the Christian religion, was against SHF and wanted me to come home and not bei n the program.

    Parental Alienation Syndrome Suffered By 1 Out Of 4 Children Involved In A Divorce (Medical News Today)
  15. Medical attention- Teens were encouraged to stop taking their medication. Nearly everyone was on medications though. Some were talked into discontinuing their meds. These kids off of their medication sleep/slept around axes and saws and sludgehammers every night. I also witnessed people be taken off of anti seizure medicine and held down and prayed for while having seizures and foaming at the mouth. My parents requested that I be taken to a dermatologist for my acne outbreaks. Months later (much to late) I was then talked out of taking acutane, by the camp “nurse”. My acne got much much worse, without the acutane. When I left the farm years later I had acne and scars all over my face. My mother took me to a dermatologist who told me that I should had taken acutane years before and I wouldn't have any scars. He then prescribed me acutane and I have not had any acne outbreak in years sense.

    I once woke up during the winter and I could not move my neck whatsoever. I told the staff and they took me to the camp “nurse” a quack who lived in a trailer on campus because her daughter went to school there and she wanted to be close to her. The nurse simply told me to put a neck brace on. I put it on and I could not move my neck up, down or to the sides for nearly an entire month. I do not know why this happened but I suspect it could have been something very serious and that I should have been taken to a real doctor.
I give HEAL, ISAC and Caftey permission to use this statement. I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct. Executed on _____November 23______________, 2009. ________________________________ [Anonymous] [Contact me through] [] [] SPECIAL NOTE: STATUTE DOES NOT REQUIRE NOTARY] References: Datasheet about the boarding school at Fornits Home for Wayward Web Fora The original statement on

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A stay at the Hephzibah House (

This story was originally written on a webpage created to provide statements for a GAO hearing in 2007. The address is and it waits for your statement if you believe that your stay at a boarding school included unfair treatment or even abuse. All rights and credits goes to the annonymous contributor, who posted the original story on

When I was 14 years old my parents decided to take me to “Hephzibah House” in Winona Lake, Indiana, where I would stay for 15 months. N

ow, twelve years later, the nightmare and memories that were “Hephzibah House” only bring me pain and hurt as I remember my stay there.

When I was just a little girl of eight years, my brother began sexually abusing me. This abuse continued for about a year, despite my pleas to my parents that this was happening, and me begging my parents to believe me and to help me. I was so sad that my parents never believed me, that even after the abuse stopped, I never felt safe again in my own house.

I grew bitter and angry and hurt as the months and years followed that my own mother and father never even once believed me. This bitterness resulted in constant fights between my family and me and ultimately led to my decision to run away. I only wanted to find peace and safety somewhere.

I was not sexually active, I had not tried drugs or alcohol and was actually very active in the Mormon LDS church at the time – this being my only salvation and my only safe place I knew. My parents decided the LDS church was a cult and didn’t want me to attend it. In the end, the constant tension and my parents’ twisted views led them to the conclusion that “something needed to be done” to “fix me”.

Remember, from the very onset of my victimization of sexual abuse at age eight, they never believed me and only sought to berate me and exile me emotionally from the family. One day, my father and grandfather told me we would be taking a nice little trip just for me, together - to get away. I had no idea that this “trip” would be to Indiana and that I was going to be left at a boarding school for fifteen months. Had I known what I was about to experience, I would have run away to save my own life.

Upon my arrival, the realization that I was going not be going back home with my family left me feeling absolute shock, betrayal, fear of the unknown, and a desperate terror of what was to lay ahead. I was taken to an office in the front of the house with my father, grandfather, and “Pastor Williams”. Pastor Williams started explaining the rules of “Hephzibah House” and he and my father were reviewing some sort of documents that apparently my father had already signed - giving them full custody of me for fifteen months! I was cold. Time stood still and I felt as though I was watching myself from outside my own body, that this was truly unreal in some way, and that it would magically stop. I felt tingling in my hands and feet, and this tingling started to creep further and further up my arms and legs. I thought I was going to literally faint.

When Pastor Williams started talking about corporal punishment, I had had enough. Pastor Williams went on to say that corporal punishment was legal in the state of Indiana. I bolted upright and started running for the door saying under my breath that I was not going to stay at this nut house! When I reached the door I realized it was bolted - all the way up the door - and that I was locked in! I desperately looked around for my Grandfather, I trusted him and I knew he would save me, but he was gone! Only twelve years later did I learn that my trust was well placed that day – my mother recently told me that as I was screaming to be saved, my Grandfather had been forced to the outside of the building that was “Hephzibah House” and was locked out!

Pastor Williams then called all his six sons in the room who circled around me and held me down as Mrs .Williams began beating me with a huge stick they called the “rod of god”. I started screaming – I thought this was the end, that I was going to be beaten to death, and prayed for the end to come quickly. I was then handed over to Pastor Williams himself who also began beating me with this long rod from the top of my body to my knees. The pain was unbearable! Oh God – the pain – and my heart was exploding in a desperate sadness as I watched my own father being ordered by Pastor Williams to take the rod and help beat me with it. My father seemed to almost be afraid of Pastor Williams, and he seemed disoriented, so with tears streaming down his face, he raised the rod in the air and meekly spanked me on my behind 5 or 10 times. Pastor Williams shouted over my desperate screams that my father “had raised a selfish spoiled daughter and that he would go to hell if he did not use the rod of god” - then my father dropped the rod and left the room, sobbing. At this point, numbness set in. I didn’t feel the pain any longer…I couldn’t even scream, my voice was hoarse and my throat in pain…I just waited to die.

The next thing I remembered was that my father was gone and I was taken to a shower where I was stripped of all my personal clothes and given a Hephzibah house uniform. While I was in the shower I realized that my entire body was covered in bruises and I was locked up with no way out. The next few weeks were agony for me as it hurt to sleep or sit. I was filled with hate and anger. For the next fifteen months I refused to yield to Pastor Williams’ fanatical “Baptist” teachings, teachings that in my opinion stripped the spirit of God and Christ himself from the very Bible that the “Pastor” read from.

The next fifteen months would bring a string of abuses to us in ways I could never have imagined, before or since. “Talking lists” - where the communication was to exclude anything from my past life and past friends. These “lists” at the school would have 1-2 girls on them that I would be allowed to talk too as long it was in the presence of a staff member. Nothing was EVER private. Any form of communication to other girls such as eye contact, using hand motions, anything - would result in “demerits”. Too many demerits would lead to a loss of privileges: no food, three minute showers, having to wear your uniform to church which would show the public that you were a “bad girl”, being shadowed by another girl 24/7, to being beaten by the “rod of God”.

Each day we would have to write on a “BM” board if we had “pooped” or not in the toilet, and then were forced to write down on the board what our “poop” was like – was it large, small or medium? Was it diarrhea? Did we only pee? Not only was this a public shame, but our most intimate bodily functions were displayed for all the girls too see. I never did understand the reasoning for this.

Every week we were allowed to write one letter to our parents and our home Pastor on Sunday. These letters were censored and if we did not write what we were told, the letter would be trashed. My parents and pastor were allowed to write to me, but many of mothers letters were “blacked out”. Every three months my parents were allowed to come visit. These visits would be inside of the building and we would have a staff member present to watch what we would say to each other. If anything was said out of context of their “approved” communications, the visits would be cut short and I wouldn’t see my parents for another three months.

The depression from Hephzibah House was overwhelming. Many girls remember a bucket where you would put your dirty period pads, although I do not remember this bucket. This leads me to believe that I may have stopped my period during my time there, which was very common among the girls. Monday through Friday we would attend school which was taught by the PACE curriculum which I really didn’t know anything about. I know it’s a Christian series of books that you have to complete in a sequence to get to the “next level”. Because I love learning and reading I threw myself in these books hoping to make myself forget for just a few minutes how much I hated Hephzibah House and my life.

Wednesday nights, Sunday morning and Sunday nights consisted of church. The church sermons were filled with the terror of hell and burning forever if we did not convert and give our lives over to God. Pastor Williams brought a sense of fear and dread for death. The sermons left you feeling scared of the world and the ways of the world. I remember a church sermon where Pastor Williams spoke of the Rod of God and how important it was that the mothers and fathers need to hide these rods from social services and the police because they didn’t understand the ways of biblical teaching and those of God. Another sermon was given shortly after I got there about Mormonism and how Mormons were going to burn in Hell. Pastor Williams told me they had burned my Book of Mormon. Another day I remember it was “free time”, a time we could sew or do projects or write home, and a new girl had arrived. I heard her screams of terror and of pain and I knew she was being beaten. Tears fell down my face silently as I prayed earnestly for God to be with her. How I hated Pastor Williams!

The remaining months began to go by quickly as I learned how to become a survivor and how to deal with Hephzibah House without receiving demerits and/or having any attention paid to me. I told Pastor Williams I wanted to be baptized in hopes that this could get me home and out of his private hell.

On my 15th month, to the day, I was called upstairs where my parents were there to pick me up. I wasn’t allowed to say good bye to anyone or anything. My things had already been packed and were waiting for me. I don’t remember the drive home all the way back to Virginia. So many things I think I blacked out in my mind. After a few weeks at home, I realized how bad Hephzibah House really was. I recently had a conversation with my mother for the first time in twelve years about Hephzibah House. She broke out crying saying she tried to have them let me go home but because they had signed me over to them that there was nothing they could do. My mother said she tried to contact the Winona Lake Police but that they said Hephzibah House was a good school!

Now, twelve years later the pain and hurt that comes with the memories of Hephzibah House will not go away. I am now a mother, college graduate, a successful realtor and soon a real estate broker! Yet with all my accomplishments and success in life I can not seem to forget Hephzibah House. The nightmares still come…and as I lay alone at night in my bedroom, I still hear the screaming of myself and the other girls in my mind…I still see my father sobbing…I still see Pastor Williams and I am afraid…and I wonder…how can this kind of pure evil exist in our world, and in our own country? I hope this testimony will help another mother not send her daughter to this school or other schools like this. I hope that if there is another girl that went to this school and has these memories that she realizes she is not alone. We are SURVIVORS and I hope that we can band together to help our country see what is going on here and to shut them down once and for all!

Datasheet about the boarding school at Fornits Home for Wayward Web Fora
The original statement on

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Kerry Keenan at Mission Mountain School (

This story was originally written on a webpage created to provide statements for a GAO hearing in 2007. The address is and it waits for your statement if you believe that your stay at a boarding school included unfair treatment or even abuse. All rights and credits goes to the author Kerry Keenan, who posted the original story on

To whom it concern: I was a student at Mission Mountain School in Condon, Montana from June of 1995 until December of 1996.

I was a troubled youth and my parents felt that this was a good place for me. They have since apologized for sending me there and they have told me that they regret their decision.

When I arrived at MMS, I was quickly deemed the problem girl. I was scapegoated by many staff, but primarily by John Mercer, Colleen Mercer, Mike Finn and Deb Finn. The other girls were rewarded with praise when they would find issues about me to bring to those staff members. At group therapy, Mike Finn once pulled me off the ground by my shorts until my shorts and underwear were up my rear end and I was physically pulled into a building.

I was not allowed to read books, go to school, or participate with the rest of the group. Instead, I was forced to dig a countless number of stumps out of the ground for the majority of my six month stay. I also built them a new fence for their driveway, a corral for the horses that the students NEVER rode, and a fence around the horse area. I was fed the same amount of food as the other students and quickly lost enough weight so that I no longer got my period. I was not allowed to attend any classes with the other girls. This "work crew" experience put me one year behind in school when I returned home to California.

At the time I arrived at MMS, I was told by a doctor to use an inhaler when I needed to do so. The staff would not let me use the inhaler. There were several occasions in which I could not breathe and I was told by staff that I was "faking it". The staff members also used the students as their own personal gardeners and handymen. We would go to John Mercer's house, or Mike Finn's house to cut down trees, remove old growth, etc.

Not only was I physically abused at MMS, but there was also a great deal of emotional abuse. I was told that my parents were alcoholics (which they are not) and that I was a bad kid. No matter how hard I would try, the staff would always tell me that I was doing something wrong. I was not allowed contact my parents by phone on a regular basis. I believe that I talked to them 4 times the entire 6 months I stayed there. There were often times that when my parents were allowed to call MMS, I would not be allowed to talk to them. The staff would tell me that I was a sociopath and diagnosed me with multiple disorders, such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Bi Polar Disorder. None of these diagnosis were proven to be accurate or true. The staff were not even qualified to make ANY diagnoses!

I was constantly told that I was a problem, a slut, and hopeless. When I would make any attempt to behave or act the way that they wanted, it was never good enough. They took many opportunities to make an example out of me for the other girls. I was also told that I had an eating disorder. They never went into great detail with their "diagnosis" but it was always something new. I was not ever given one-on-one therapy with a qualified and certified therapist.

The other girls at the school were rewarded when they would tell the staff something that I had "done" or not "done". The staff would give these girls extra privileges and praise them in front of the entire school population. This created a scapegoating atmosphere. It was unhealthy, unhappy, and generally abusive. There were other girls I saw who had been given unreasonable tasks as punishment or "therapy". Some girls were taken "off talk" as I had been taken "off reading". They were not allowed to talk to anyone or they would be punished. One girl had to carry rocks with her constantly. This was an extremely heavy load and she had to bring them on 40 mile bike trips, cross country skiing expeditions and every other place to which she went. It was supposed to represent her burden and issues that were dragging her down, but it caused bruising all over her back.

MMS was the lowest time in my life. I would like to take this opportunity to say that there was one staff member who seemed to have my best interest at heart. I remember that his name was Gary, and he was the only staff member that would not unfairly punish me or use physical force with me.

Now I am a teacher in California. I am married, a college graduate, and a successful member of society. MMS called me a sociopath and kicked me out after 6 months. I thank God every day that I was kicked out of there.

Red Cliff Ascent (which was the next program that I was sent to) saved my life. While I attended that program, MMS had told my family that if I did well, I would be allowed to come back. I was left at Red Cliff Ascent, a survival wilderness boot camp, for 83 days while they made the decision not to take me back. I lived outside from Christmas Eve of 1995 until the end of March of 1996.

At the time, I perceived completing MMS and making them happy to be my only ticket back home. When I was told that I would not return, I was scared and worried about what would come next. Well, I went home because my father could see such a huge difference from the time I left MMS to the time he picked me up at Red Cliff. I was not told I would be sent away until Christmas Eve; that day I was excited about the next day's celebration. Instead, I spent my 14th Christmas with people who I did not know in a different state. I feel that although this may not be classified as emotional abuse, it was just one more punishment that I did not deserve.

I am not saying that I was a well behaved or an easy child, but I do feel that I, and many other girls, were abused and mistreated at MMS. They advertise themselves as a qualified treatment facility. That is just not the case. I would warn any parent thinking of sending their daughter to MMS to think twice.

I still have nightmares involving John Mercer. His "power" in the school was undeniable and he used it every chance that he had. I know that I have many scars from my time at MMS, physically and emotionally. I would like to ask the government to take a closer look at these treatment facilities for troubled kids. These places, especially in Montana, need some regulation to make them safe. There needs to be rules about who is on staff and what actions they are allowed to take. The safety of these kids needs to be evaluated. All staff should be qualified, educated, and trained in the field of psychology. There is not any reason why another girl should be forced to go through the experience that I went through.


Kerry Keenan

Datasheet from the Fornits Home for Wayward Web Fora
The original statement

Monday, October 31, 2011

Chelsea Filer at Casa by the Sea (

This story was originally written on a webpage created to provide statements for a GAO hearing in 2007. The address is and it waits for your statement if you believe that your stay at a boarding school included unfair treatment or even abuse. All rights and credits goes to the author Chelsea Filer, who posted the original story on

Abuse at Casa by the Sea and High Impact

I have been active in standing against the WWASP company and it's affiliate facilities since my departure from Casa by the Sea in Mexico Jan 2003. I guess you could call my story different from the experiences of others, but I can assure you that many other kids like me were severely abused and will suffer from the effects of this for the rest of their lives.

On one of their MANY sites ( advocating these facilities to desperate families in times of crisis, they listed several different "teen problems" they claimed to be equipped to handle, more then a few of which I can personally attest that they are NOT.
the list is as follows:

  • Drug and Alcohol Use
  • Depression
  • Bipolar
  • Behavioral Problems
  • Divorce and Family Conflict Issues
  • Adoption Issues
  • School Problems
  • Poor Peer Choices
  • Runaway and Curfew
  • Minimal Legal Issues
  • Accountability and Responsibility Issues
  • Integrity
  • Self Esteem and Emotional Issues

As a young child I was diagnosed with both ADD and Bipolar disorder, half of the reason my mother sent me to the program is because as a single mother she was not able to handle the symptoms of the disorder and felt I may be better taken care of in a facility dedicated to treatment and education. She was not aware, however, that Casa By the Sea, a WWASP affliated facility, was simply making these claims as a marketing strategy and not actually following through with proper treatment. These schools simply claim to treat every problem, then lock up all these kids together and push them through the same rigorous system designed to break the will of the student, establish dominence of the system and the staff, and then to mold them into what seems to everyone else to be some kind of cult member or Stepford child. We were often physically abused (restrained: see description below) for things that would never constitute punishment in any other establishment. We were also subject to isolation and abuse in the form of enduring contorted positions and if we were not perfectly still we would be restrained sometimes over and over for days or weeks. The kids in the facility live in constant fear of being sent to this isolation room and the program uses this as a threat to keep student obedient to the system. They also utilize the power of peer pressure through group berating sessions to coerce students to follow the "belief system" the program is based on. The punishment is severe for "not following the rules", which ironically enough are not rules at all. Things as ridiculous as "speaking with out permission", being "off task" for more then 30 seconds and forgetting something, would all be punishable offenses most times, leading to detention time in which you were forced to face a wall and were not allowed to do any school work for the whole 8 hours you were required to stay. These are just examples of how the program was designed, and just imagine how hard it would be for someone with a disorder who's symptoms were difficult to control and lead them to "break rules" that were set up for them to fail? I gained so many of these consequences a week that I would not advance to any level above level 1. Despite the obvious facts that the program was not designed for people with my disorder, they continued to convince my mother otherwise.

Not only was I not medicated or improperly medicated for a year and a half of my 2 year stay but I was also vigorously prosecuted and labeled as a failure to be made an example of. Because of this, I was also sent to an affiliate program of Casa By the Sea called High Impact, a "wilderness" program. At High Impact I experienced the most severe level of abuse I have ever heard of, short of the concentration camps during the holocaust. Survivors, including myself would describe this place as: "a modern day concentration camp where the Nazis are Mormons but they can't kill us because then they wouldn't be able to collect our parent's paychecks"

This is an excerpt from a publication I wrote in 2004:

"I was starved, beaten, constantly screamed at, burned and forced to walk in circles everyday. I was required to sit in very painful positions for 8 hours everyday and stare at the ground at all times. Chores were to clean the bathrooms and tent, to draw straight lines in the sand with my toothbrush, and pick up very small pieces of rocks and trash from the sand called “hand-picking”. I endured painfully rigorous exercise, carrying a 40 lb bag of sand on my back 24 hours a day for 60 days (even sit and sleep with it on top of me), sit perfectly still in dog cages all day in the hot sun and many, many, many other forms of abuse. Punishments were given for things like moving your finger or itching yourself or licking your lips. I had very chapped lips and I repeatedly got consequences for licking my lips. When I asked for Chap Stick to heal my cracking and bleeding lips, I was given a piece of wood about the size of a candy bar to keep clenched in my teeth for 2 weeks. My mouth would bleed and blister and I had splinters in my tongue and lips. I remember I was almost drowned when I had a big bucket of soapy water dumped on my head and my face held smashed down in the mud. I thought I was going to die and I would have gladly accepted it if I had"

"Today I suffer permanent back pain from the injuries I received due to the methods of restraint. These methods included dropping the victim with extreme force from a standing position to the ground flat on their stomach and face, their hair pulled back and chin forced flat and grinded into the rocky dirt, their arms pulled behind then crossed and shoved up so far the arms would displace from the sockets and the hands would be touching the ears, the legs would be brought up to the middle of the back and the staff member would either sit on top of the student in this position or apply all body weight to the middle of the back on one knee. I can remember only screaming for mercy telling them I couldn’t breath and my back was breaking. They told me if I couldn’t breath how could I be screaming? This torture didn’t stop for hours."
Its been more then 5 years since I left, but these horrors have followed me, I have been greatly affected in more ways then most people can ever understand. I did not receive a high school education, and by the time I left the facility at 17 I did not have the credits to even graduate 9th grade. I was also unable to attend college. I have long term back injuries and many symptoms of PTSD. I lost years of my life, was unable to have a healthy adolescent experience, and was not able to learn the important life lessons one would experience in their late teen years. I will always be behind in my social skills and will always operate my life out of the fear that was drilled into psyche at that young age.

These facilities use fraudulent marketing strategies to bait and switch desperate parents, they promise to take care of their kids and ask for complete trust and loyalty to their system even to ignore their childrens claims of abuse and unfair treatment as "manipulations". All our contact with our parents are either through letters or monitored phone calls. The staff including the teachers did not provide or even have any certifications nor any work experience or qualifications to be working with minors. The medical staff was incredibly questionable, being as the medical services provided were never up to par. There was no admissions process, my medical records were not even taken into any consideration even though had they done so, any doctor would not have recommended that I be enrolled in this program.

The food as well was rarely nutritious and most girls gained around 60 lbs because we were FORCED to eat all the food on our plate. The education system was a joke giving the student no scholastic interaction (as in lectures, labs, elective classes, homework or projects) with no real leadership from real teachers and the tests and school work was so easy students would fly through school work as fast as 2 years work in 6 months. They did this because it gave the parents a sense of success thinking their kids were "getting an education". The seminars were designed to brainwash both the parents and the kids... turning the kids into robots and gaining the cult like loyalty of the parents so that the facility did not have to do anything to gain their trust.

Shortly before I was released from Casa, my mom was still committed to the program. I was told she was advised to keep me int he program one more year (until i turned 18) and if I chose to leave instead of graduate the program I would only be offered a bus ride to the border and my mother would refuse to speak to me ever again. I was so depressed about this and the notion that

I would be stuck there for one more year that I wrote a letter to my grandmother who was so concerned for my wellbeing that she decided to talk to my case manager. She asked her about her qualifications to be working with children who suffered from bipolar and found out she had no prior experience even working with kids, that her education was in business, and that she didn't even know that I had Bipolar. This was the woman who was in charge of my wellbeing and the women who spoke to my mother about me for almost a year, and she knew nothing about me nor cared that I had special needs. This conversation must have struck a cord because not more then 2 days later my mother was advised to come to Casa and pick me up. That was very unheard of at Casa, anytime a student was pulled it was because a parent realized the program was not working or they might have been spooked by the seminars, however in my case, they claimed I was "Institutionalized".

When I arrived home my mother and I spoke about what had happened at Casa and High Impact and she had no idea half of the things that happened, even though I repeatedly wrote her letters about it. I can only assume those letters were intercepted and not delivered to her. She now tells me all she wanted was for me have a better education and get treatment for my disorders, I did not receive either of those, and in consequence, I live with many more struggles today then I would have had WWASP took on the responsibility to properly treat students or turn them away if they knew their system was not meant for them.

I have already accepted that I will live with this forever, I can only try to save kids in the future by encouraging the public to see the red flags of abuse and fraud with WWASP and any other programs that are developed under the same premise. I can only hope that the families that have been effected by this company will finally be avenged and WWASP brought to justice.

Sincerely, Chelsea Filer

Datasheet about the boarding school at Fornits Home for Wayward Web Fora
The original statement on

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Chavaya Beebee Galvao at The Family Foundation School (

This story was originally written on a webpage created to provide statements for a GAO hearing in 2007. The address is and it waits for your statement if you believe that your stay at a boarding school included unfair treatment or even abuse. All rights and credits goes to the author Chavaya Beebee Galvao, who posted the original story on

I would like to state that not all the staff members at the school are operating under selfish motives, there are also individuals who genuinely come to care about student's well being and discourage the harsh punishments that are so common within the walls of the FFS institution. There are certainly those who obviously take pleasure at inflicting suffering on students that they do not like, and are given absolute power to make student's lives as miserable as they wish. On the other hand, they give their "favorites" special dispensation to do things that other students cannot do, and punish them less harshly than other students. Among the individuals who engage in the negative behaviors are Ted Towsley, Audra Towsley, Paul Geer, Robin Deucey, Mike Deucey, and Rita Argiros. It only takes a few bad apples to spoil the bushel, most of the staff did have the best interests of the students at heart, but if you will note, the turnover rate is very high, because many staff members were deemed too "soft" and not punishing enough, or they simply did not have the stomach for the atrocities that have been committed at the school, so they chose to leave.

I will report briefly on some of the experiences that I had while a student at the Family Foundation School. On my first day, I was lied to by my parents (who were counseled by the school to do as much), and brought to the school under false pretenses. Once in the locker room, I started towards the door, and was immediately slammed against the ground with two female staff members and two male staff members on top of me. I had no forewarning that this would happen if I moved towards the door, they simply jumped on me. I was scared, and they were cutting my air supply off. After a few minutes, I was let up and forced to continue inprocessing.

The same night that I was inprocessed, I began to notice something very strange: All the young people at the school talked the same, walked the same, moved alike, and it seemed that the ones who chose to be themselves were consigned to sitting in the corner facing a wall, removed from the general population, or standing outside in the freezing hallway eating either plain tuna fish and water, or nothing at all. So, I began talking, moving and acting like all the other students so that I would not have to sit in a corner, or worse yet, haul buckets of gravel back and forth on a worksanction. Everyone knew that everyone else was full of shit, but we were all too scared to say anything about what we really thought.

The months went by, and I began to run on anxiety. Five minutes to get to class, no time to go to the bathroom, one study hall to do homework, table topics, picking up other students that were deemed a "threat," complete lack of privacy, being punished through food deprivation, constant fear of being resigned to the corner or put on exile, constant yelling, kids running away in the middle of the night, everything was extremely stressful. It was just too much. In fact, I believe that my problems with high blood pressure were caused by those two years of my life that I was shut inside the Family School.

I don't believe that in a long-term placement facility, it is right to have such complete autonomy over the lives of hundreds of teenagers. The punishments, had they been meted out by parents, would have resulted in the involvement of child protective services. I simply do not believe that starving, forcibly restraining, or locking children up in a tiny cubicle letting them urinate and vomit on themselves is the answer to drug addiction or alcoholism. In fact, 90% of graduates from the Family Foundation School "relapse" into the same behavior, but many times the addiction is exacerbated by the treatment that they have recieved at the school.

I hope that the suffering of hundreds of children and teenagers can come to light and aid in closing this establishment's doors for once and for all, ending the profit that a select few administrators are making from what can only be termed as child abuse.

I was at the school from 2003 to 2005, I never experienced hitting or slapping but I was manhandled on one occasion, resulting in bruises on my arms, and I was denied proper nutrition on several occasions. There were several occurances in which I was severely and publicly humiliated by staff members, as well as two work sanctions in which I was forced to work from 7:15AM to 6:30PM, during one I contracted bronchitis and complained of dizziness and shortness of breath several times before collapsing due to neglect of my illness.

In addition, I have eye-witnessed several abusive situations that took place at the school, including peer bullying that was encouraged and kids locked into tiny rooms and not even being allowed out to use the bathroom.

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
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