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. 


  1. Amazing that the place has been in existence for 30+ years, abusing children in the name of God. But not for long - we the alumni, together will close them down! Caribe-Vista, Escuela Caribe, Caribbean Mountain Academy or whatever the newest name change is....

  2. My hope is that with our combined activism we close down Caribe Vista/ Escuela Caribe/ Carribean Mountain Academy AND reinvigorate the national conversation about how the troubled teen industry hurts (and in many cases destroys) kids. Interesting note: I flew to Escuela Caribe 11 years to the day after this hearing began.

  3. Just how much has escuela caribe helped troubled youth? I've seen multiple troubled teens in gangs, that graduate a year ahead of schedule at escuela caribe... those who would have never graduated.... may God bless all associated with nhym. God bless you.

    1. yeah, fu k you, that place was abusive, and oppressive as hell, and backed abusive parents, over believing their students, who thought they might be "safe" that far away from them

    2. Hey sad girl, hang in there! Don't worry about trolls. It gets SO much better. Highly recommend this therapy called EMDR- helps process trauma. The best revenge is living well- soaring despite it all. No one- not EscuelaCaribeCaribeVistaCrosswinds, or even (especially:)) our parents, can take away living life on our own terms now. xoxo, D

  4. Hi Blake:

    Based on my tenure/ involvement with the private alumni site, most students were not "troubled teens in gangs." They were middle class teens from religious families.

    Unfortunately when you dehumanize individuals by labeling them as "gang members" or "troubled teens," it makes abuse more likely to happen. If you are interested in this train of thought, you should read about the Stanford Prison Experiment ( or the Lucifer Effect by Phillip Zimbardo)---there are many parallels with Escuela Caribe. It helped me understand how abuse became prevalent down there.

    Thanks for reading:)...


  5. Reading all of this negativity about New Horizons Youth Ministries makes me sick. Some people have the completely wrong perception about some of the staff and their tactics. A former student myself, I can proudly say that NHYM saved my life. I was not a middle class teen from a religious family like you indicated. And quite a few students I knew were "troubled teens in gangs". Although I did not attend Escuela Caribe, some of my best friends did. I can say with confidence that the punishments that both I and my friends had received were deserved. No we didnt get to see our families for 4 months. Why? Because sometimes its best to work on yourself and figure out who you are before trying to tie in a whole other factor. Mail was censored as a preventative measure. If you tried running away, you would get adequate punishment. There were times when I had to remain in push-up position for 25 minutes. But it's because I was disrespectful and unruly. No different than the military today. So many people are quick to push the blame on someone else. Some classmates of mine fought the system, didn't want any part of it, and received punishment. Most of them are involved in the same trouble now that they were in before they went to NHYM. I understand some of the things that might have happened in Escuela Caribe were taken too far. And I am deeply sorry to those that were hurt. I am a firm believer in your power to choose your path. You wake up everyday with a choice on how to live your life. You can make it the best you can be, or you can sit back and complain. Your choice. I made a decision to change my life and I couldn't have done it without the help and love of the new horizons staff. My friends and I are thankful for new horizons and escuela caribe. If you have any questions about the positive experience I have had, let me know! I would be happy to talk about it =]


    1. At Kelsey, I'm really unclear on why this makes you "feel sick". What does the trauma and harm other people experienced at the hands of NHYM staff or at Caribe Vista/ Escuela Caribe/ Carribean Mountain Academy have to do with you feeling like you "deserved" whatever punishment you received?
      I'm also wondering what the intended purpose of your decision to make statements like "choosing your own path" and "sit back and complain"? As stated it seems you are making a "blame the victim" statement, implying that folks who were abused, harmed and traumatized are, in taking a stand against abuse complaining instead.
      No one here seems to think your experience negates theirs, yet you seem to believe your friends ought to negate theirs and imply they are complaining, which strikes me as very strange, profoundly non-empathetic and wholly against Christian values.

    2. Thanks, Kat. I wrote a response for you, and for Kelsey, and for everyone else:

      xo, D

  6. Hey Kelsey:

    Thanks for sharing. I'm glad you are doing well. I firmly believe that for anyone to have a healthy life they must recognize the positives of any negative experience and move on.

    However, even though the program might have worked for you, it didn't for everyone. Especially for those of us who were isolated in the D.R. You said yourself that you did not go to Escuela Caribe, therefore you cannot comprehend what it was like. As a program kid, you must have heard that the Marion program and the DR program were two different beasts. If your friends who went there won't tell you, I suggest you read Julia Scheeres' Jesus Land. Imagine being fifteen and scared out of your mind. Compare it to your Marion experience. Then maybe we can talk.

    I honestly don't intend to sound harsh or mean. I am willing to think outside of the box and recognize that the program, even the D.R. program, wasn't damaging to everyone. Still, it is offensive to read that my supposed "negativity about New Horizons Youth Ministries makes (you) sick."

    I went to the D.R. It changed me. Since my time there I have worked to recognize the positives and move on.

    That being said, I refuse to stick my head in the sand and deny that I saw people who weren't as resilient as me have their lives irrevocably damaged...especially by someone who did not go to school at Escuela Caribe.

    I wish you the best. Honestly.

    Take care,


  7. It is not just the program’s fault for the way most of these children’s lives were damaged. It's the parents for sending mostly middle class kids with some authority issues to a place that is run like a prison camp. The tactics used in the DR were useful to a small margin of the students that attended when I was there. To give such an important role of "house father" to a kid in their early 20s is completely irresponsible. The decision making of most of these "house fathers" were horrible. They were judge, jury and executioner and allot of the time they were extremely wrong. The physical abuse they doled out to the KIDS that were there may have worked for a choice few but to the masses it did nothing but damage their view on authority. All the negativity from people that were in the program can't be hype and also should not be ignored. I'd like to revisit the DR and honestly ask the staff if what they are doing is right. I have kids of my own now and could not imagine any offense they could commit to deserve being sent to that haven of abuse. All kind of abuse mental, physical and sexual abuse in some cases. Parents please do your homework before buying into this programs BS!!

  8. Joshua- I agree- parents are culpable. I too could never send my child away. And I don't think we are disagreeing when I say the program has a responsibility to enact safeguards to protect kids, including hiring competent, mature staff. In 2006, I visited and asked Annie B.S. your very question- did she believe what they were doing was right? Unfortunately, yes (story is much longer). Which is why I am very upset to realize that the new management used former staff to guide and currently run the new program, Caribbean Mountain Academy.
    Thank you so for reading, and for commenting. Hope to meet you someday- maybe when I publish and am on book tour?
    <3<3<3, D