Thursday, January 10, 2008

Just one more reason why teen residential programs are dangerous!

I came across this journal entry from a very young girl who had been in the Wilderness Quest program. She is an example of the types of people who are employed by these programs to be what they called field staff. They are generally very young and generally newly out of the program themselves. As you can see in this journal entry, this girl barely has herself under control when she becomes staff and one of the "students triggered her insanely."

Also she writes about wanting to talk about her excitement for going back to the program as a staff member but "no one would get it." This is troubling yet typical. No one 'gets it' because it is not a normal thing. When this troubled kids get involved in one of the programs it's like getting involved in a cult. This journal entry brings to light the troubles many young people have when they are trying to readjust to the outside world (after being cut off from it for so long). Rather than try to really adjust to the outside world, they often decide it would be easier to just go back into the program in one capacity or another. This is not healthy, but it does explain how some people become "true believers" or followers of the program. It much like the Scientologists are true believers in their "religion." However, just because there are some devout followers does not mean it is a healthy way of living.

I hope this child can one day find her own way in the real world.
Here is another link to her entire journal.

Friday, December 14, 2007

This Industry Thrives on Secrecy

Here is another example of how keeping communication lines open is helping the FIGHT against INSTITUTIONAL CHILD ABUSE!

This industry thrives by limiting communication. However, with internet use becoming more and more common, the communication lines are being opened back up, and the word is getting out across the nation. They are used to changing their names and/or the locations of their businesses and getting away with it, but it just isn't as easy to hide anymore! Thank GOD!

Today the Great Falls Tribune posted the following headline: Report on Swan Valley Boot Camp Prompts Former Director to Resign New Job.

This story is about Chris Perkins, former director of the Swan Valley Boot Camp in Montana, and against whom there were substantiated abuse allegations against. He then went to work at the Maryland State Juvenile facilities until yesterday's news report came out about him. Read more about it here.

One more thing these articles demonstrate is just how the private program mentality infiltrates the government sponsored programs (and visa versa). The cross hiring between private and public facilities is why the same unproven and harmful methods are used in both types of programs.

Loopholes, Loopholes, Loopholes

The couple (Rand and Colleen Southard) who used to run Star Ranch in Texas is still in business even after their license was revoked to operate Star Ranch where two children died. (Lenny Ortega and Mikie Garcia). The couple is and has been operating Charis Hills Summer Camp since 1999. Read the more about this particular case here.

Chad Youth Enhancement Center in Tennessee continues operating, offering services to children from other states even though the state of Tennessee will not send its own kids there due to suspicions of abuse. Read more here.

Chris Perkins, former director of Swan Valley Youth Academy located in Montana until it was shut down amid abuse allegations, is now director of Maryland State Juvenile facilities. Read more here.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Aspen Education Group Isn't Flying Under the Radar

With endorsements from Dr. Phil and and rapid expansion all while the negative attention has been focused on the WWASPS group of Programs, Aspen Education Group was trying to give itself the reputation of the "kinder, gentler group of teen "help" programs." Well, even Aspen Education Group with all of it's marketing efforts isn't going unnoticed.

10/27/2007 - Emily Graeber, a 15 year old Missouri girl, goes 'missing' on the way back to Aspen Education Group-owned program Island View RTC. (and she is still missing as of today 11/09/2007)

06/28/2007 - Brendan James Blum, a 14 year old California boy, died of a bowel obstruction after complaining of pain, losing bowel control and vomiting but only being given over-the-counter medicine and being told to go to bed. He was enrolled in Aspen Education Group-owned Youth Care RTC in Draper Utah.

04/2007 - Unidentified 16 year old attempted to hang himself from a a tree at the ranch with a shoelace. After some time the staff found him unconscious and revived him, but he died in the helicopter transporting him to the hospital. This took place as Aspen Education Group-owned Aspen Achievement Academy in Loa, Utah.

07/02/2004 - Unidentified 16 year old from Pennsylvania hung himself in a bathroom. After some time, staff found him and tried to revive him, but were unsuccessful. The program was Island View Academy in Syracuse, Utah. -- The same program Emily has disappeared from.

Emily Graeber, 15, Escapee/Survivor or Victim of Foul Play?

The Deseret Morning News's Rebecca Palmer has reported that Emily Graeber, 15, disappeared as she was was headed to the Island View Residential Treatment Center in Syracuse, Utah. She had been on a home visit from the program but was supposed to be returning. "Island View is part of the Aspen Education Group, which owns and operates facilities throughout Utah and in other Western states. Graeber's disappearance is the latest in a series of problems for the company," per Rebecca Palmer. As I have said before, Aspen Education Group, the one that Dr. Phil endorses, is just as bad as the rest of the programs. I hope the girl has just escaped and has not been kidnapped. Although if she has escaped I feel very badly for her. Once you've been in the program and you know program people aren't always what they claim to be you want to run and since the program people enlist the police's help and your parents think they are doing what is best for you, you (or in this case Emily) feel like you are running from everyone just to survive. You have to run from good guys and bad guys alike. Good Luck Emily, I hope you are safe!

Friday, October 26, 2007

F.I.C.A. - Alert! 10/26/2007

**ALERT** 10/26/2007--The new concern among regular public and private educational institutions is the current trend of the outbreak of the antibiotic-resistant MRSA virus. If this is occurring in regular schools where children are not only allowed to but encouraged to wash their hands frequently, to keep open wounds covered and avoid skin-to-skin contact... imagine what will happen in the residential programs which generally consider hand washing and wound covering a privilege that should be earned. I fear a sharp rise in the number of deaths in these programs (due to MRSA among all the usual causes) is just around the corner. **BUYER BEWARE**

Saturday, October 20, 2007

And the Killing Continues....

Four recent Utah deaths in treatment programs

Facility put on probation, but free to take new clients

By Kirsten Stewart

The Salt Lake Tribune (

Salt Lake TribuneArticle Last Updated:10/13/2007 12:55:43 AM MDT

A residential youth treatment center was cited on Friday for providing inadequate medical care to Brendan James Blum, a 14-year-old California boy who died at its Draper facility.
Utah licensers placed Youth Care of Utah on probation, requiring the center to, among other requirements, retool employee training. Youth Care was not fined and it is free to accept new clients, though no more than five every 30 days.
The disciplinary action was reached as part of a settlement between the facility and lawyers for the state Human Services Office of Licensing, which regulates Utah's teen-help industry.
Licensing director Ken Stettler said he hopes Friday's action shows the state takes its watchdog role seriously. It comes a day after criminal neglect charges were filed against two former Youth Care counselors in connection with Brendan's June 28 death.
It also coincides with a congressional probe into wilderness camps, which detailed thousands of cases of abuse nationwide since 1990. Of 10 deaths detailed in the federal report, five occurred in Utah.
The cases showed a pattern of lax government oversight and medical neglect, with counselors assuming the teens were making up their symptoms.
Brendan Blum's mother, Dana Blum, fears the same issues may have played a role in her son's death.
Blum said she "feels" for the employees at Youth Care, but said the facility should have been shut down, at least temporarily, and the owners held accountable.
"Nothing will bring Brendan back," said Blum. "But the bottom line is that when a parent makes a difficult decision to place their child in a treatment program, the management and caretakers have a responsibility to ensure their safety. There shouldn't be any tolerance for the death of a child."

Sent to bed

Blum said the coroner described her son's death as "violent and painful." An autopsy concluded that he died after his bowel twisted, cutting off the blood supply to his small intestine.
Brendan had vomited and been suffering diarrhea all night, according to police. Instead of phoning the on-call nurse, per Youth Care's policy, counselors treated the boy with an over-the-counter medicine and sent him to bed, said Draper police Sgt. Gerry Allred.
The next morning, Brendan, who had Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism, was found dead on his mattress.
The on-call nurse, who was later interviewed by police, said had she been consulted, she would have advised sending Brendan to the hospital, said Allred. The Utah State Medical Examiner said with medical intervention, the boy might have survived.

'Flu-like' symptoms

Youth Care officials maintain Brendan complained only of "flu-like" symptoms.
"We extend our deepest sympathies to the family, and we continue to work closely with Utah officials and law enforcement. But we are confident a criminal prosecution will be found unwarranted," said Kristen Hayes, spokeswoman for Aspen Education Group, which owns Youth Care.
Based in Cerritos, Calif., Aspen is a division of the CRC Health Group, which runs boarding schools, outdoor education programs and weight-loss camps.
For two decades, Youth Care has "delivered the highest standards of care," treating more than 1,300 children with behavioral and addiction problems last year, said Hayes. "All of Aspen's programs either meet or exceed state and national standards."

Aspen's record

Stettler confirmed Aspen's reputation, saying, "They've had a pretty spotless record."
Three of four recent deaths at Utah treatment programs, however, happened at Aspen facilities: Blum's and two suicides; one in July 2004 at Island View Academy in Syracuse, and another in April at Aspen Achievement Academy of Loa.
Stettler said the April suicide remains under investigation by law enforcement, but his own probe found Aspen wasn't at fault. The suicide at Island View happened before Aspen purchased the facility.
Blum said she thoroughly researched Youth Care and Aspen and was never told of the fatalities.
"If nothing else, I would like to see them create a searchable database so parents can review deaths and complaints and not have to rely on the subjective descriptions of licensors," said Blum.
The Web site of state licensors has contact information for facilities and shows whether their license is in good standing. But for more detailed information, parents need to phone regulators, who keep only paper files.

Sense of justice

Blum has "taken heat" for enrolling Brendan at Youth Care, but she says research shows behavioral modification programs can work for children with Asperger's.
"The real problem is there are not adequate community resources for kids with mental health problems," said Blum.
Brendan was "erratic and unpredictable," and started acting aggressively at age 3, said Blum. "There were no consequences that were meaningful to him. You could take away privileges with friends, TV, or PlayStation. It didn't matter."
Trips to her county mental health facility, school counselors and private therapists yielded no firm diagnosis.
It wasn't until Brendan turned 13 and got swept up in the juvenile justice system that doctors at a local university diagnosed him with Asperger's.
"They said he was a textbook case of high-functioning autism and should have been diagnosed at age 8," said Blum.
Brendan had a "fine-tuned sense of justice. As his mother, I feel I need to make sure Youth Care is held accountable," said Blum.
"These kids come from families that care about them. They're not just throwaway kids."

July 2, 2004

* Unnamed 16-year-old from Pennsylvania
* Island View Academy in Syracuse
* The teen hanged himself in a bathroom after excusing himself from a movie. Staff believed he was in his room, but the youth entered the bathroom from a private entrance in his room. When staff found him, they unsuccessfully tried to revive him. The facility was cited for minor issues and required to submit a plan of "corrective action."

July 16, 2006

* Elisa Santry, 16
* Colorado-based program Outward Bound
* The teen died on the 16th day of a 22-day backpacking and rafting expedition in a rugged Utah desert near Canyonlands National Park. She had been missing for five hours in 110-degree heat.

April 2007

* Unidentified 16-year-old
* Aspen Achievement Academy in Loa
* The teen attempted to hang himself with a shoelace from a tree at the ranch. He had asked to use the latrine, and when he didn't respond to prompts from staff, they went looking for him, found him unconscious and revived him. He died in a helicopter transport en route to the hospital. The case is still under investigation.

June 28, 2007

* Brendan James Blum, 14
* Youth Care of Utah in Draper
* Blum died of a bowel obstruction. That night, he lost bowel control, vomited and complained of stomach pain. He was given over-the-counter medicine. In violation of the center's policy, staff did not call the on-call nurse or seek emergency medical attention. Two counselors were fired and charged with child neglect. Utah regulators placed Youth Care of Utah on probation. It remains free to enroll new clients.