Monday, June 25, 2012

Abusive Tactics at Escuela Caribe Featured in 1979 Congressional Report

On January 4, 1979, Congress began a hearing on the Abuse and Neglect of Children in Institutions.   Escuela Caribe, then called Caribe Vista, was condemned for its abuse of children.

Children's Advocate Kenneth Wooden delivered the following testimony:

"I would like to share with you my 1976 observations of the facility that is currently charging taxpayers in Evansville, Indiana $8360 a year per child. Caribe-Vista was totally unsupervised by any outside American. Blossom's daughter and son-in-law ran all three group homes. Staff was paid $100 per month and a promise of a better job elsewhere, because of their experience gained at Caribe-Vista. A key point is parents were not permitted to visit for the first four months. The mail was censored at all times. I submit to you parents cannot visit their children so Gordon Blossom can brainwash their children on his religious programs. If the child had any dental problems, local unqualified students who pulled tooth for quarter. Education was nothing more than correspondence courses.
Forms of discipline were demonstrated to me as I was talking to him about 10 kids. One young girl who had her head shaved was taunted by a staff member to tell me why she was bald. As she stood in silent shame, he harassed her about her weakness of the flesh-she ran away for the weekend and mingled with the local Dominican male.
The director of religion freely admitted that the children were beaten with a stick on the rump "hard enough to make them fear it." Three days of solitary confinement was given before the beatings.
 Can you imagine forcing a child 16 years old to explain to a strange man, myself, why her head was shaven and how the director of religion required that girl to talk about her sexual life on weekends when she would slip out of the facility and how she was beaten with a stick and how she was placed in solitary confinement?
The young girl who was so degraded by these people was there without any government scrutiny on the part of the United States.
Gordon Blossom is making a lot of money figuring the amount of kids there down there, figuring what he is paying, the cost he is paying for his program-what appears to be a glorified babysitting outfit, could have made Gordon Blossom a millionaire and four years. His program is now eight years old. I believe that the state of Michigan is refused to allow New Horizon's Youth Ministries to operate at home, certainly someone from the State Department with a background in public health, should visit and evaluate the operation in the Dominican Republic."

The only outcome of this hearing seems to be that Escuela Caribe changed its name to Caribe Vista.  Prior to that, when the program came under scrutiny, it moved from Michigan to Indiana.

In 2011, after pressure from our alumni website, The Truth About New Horizons Youth Ministry, response to Julia Scheeres' memoir, Jesus Land, a protest at the Marion facility, publicity over Kate Logan's forthcoming expose, Kidnapped for Christ, etc., the program changed ownership. 

Escuela Caribe is now Caribbean Mountain Academy, operated by Crosswinds Youth Organization, a division of Lifeline.  At least seven former staff are employed.  Many alumni doubt that their tactics have changed.

Incidentally, in 1979 Wooden also delivered testimony detailing abuse at Provo Canyon, a facility where Mitt Romney's Utah finance co-chair, Robin Lichfield, was employed at the time of the hearing.  Lichfield went on to found the infamous World Wide Association of Specialty Programs, which is known for abusive practices, including locking teens in cages. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

1988 Escuela Caribe Promotional Video

Julia Scheeres, author of Jesus Land and A Thousand Lives, uploaded this 1988 Escuela Caribe* promotional video. I attended E.C. from 1990-91.  I knew many of the staff and a few of the students in this film.

In it, founder Gordon Blossom speaks of "youngsters who come from nice neighborhoods and good families" who are negatively impacted by the dangers of the "secularized culture in America...with its materialistic and humanistic values" and public schools. (According to the American Psychiatric Association, four out of five kids in for-profit teen treatment facilities are white and middle class).

Blossom speaks of how being in the Dominican Republic "psychologically disorients kids" enabling the staff to "plant new perspectives."  What he means is that students were brainwashed, a process hastened by separating them from their family, using abuse.

Phil Redwine, who was director when I was there, says "the most important part of my being here is not how I run the school, but how I love the kids."

"If a youngster completes all three phases of our training program, that youngster is going to be tremendously enriched, and so will all of us," Blossom concludes.

*Recently, Escuela Caribe was reported to be closed.  However, it has now reopened as Caribbean Mountain Academy.  It employs many of the same staff.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Recipe for Press

This morning I met with Amy Flurry.  She's the author of Recipe for Press, one of the best books I've read about creating publicity for your product.  It's an invaluable resource to help any artist develop a media platform. 

I've given myself a two week deadline to finish UnReformed- we're crafting a plan to help me sell it. Both book and consult are highly recommended.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Kidnapped for Christ

In December, I flew to Los Angeles.  I was interviewed by Kate Logan, the director of the forthcoming expose about Escuela Caribe, Kidnapped for Christ
Since I began writing UnReformed, I've had lots of people ask about Escuela Caribe. Kate knows more about the school than anyone I've met---alumni included.  Talking with her was very strange, yet very cool. Cathartic.
Learn more about Kidnapped for Christ here.  Donations to help complete the film are appreciated.