Sunday, September 16, 2012

Escuela Caribe and Crosswinds/ Caribbean Mountain Academy Updates

This past Wednesday, Kidnapped for Christ filmmaker Kate Logan, Jesus Land author Julia Scheeres, journalist Kathryn Joyce (who wrote the Roloff/Hepzibah House expose for Mother Jones), and others appeared on the Ann Walker Show (September 12 edition).  They discussed the history of New Horizons Youth Ministries and similar fundamentalist reform schools, their abuses, the lack of regulation of such programs, and the stigma that hampers survivor allegations of abuse from being taken seriously.  
Joyce noted that many of the female survivors of the Roloff programs often "ricochet into addiction" in order to deal with the trauma.  Scheeres provided anecdotes from discussion between many NHYM alumni, who acknowledge struggling with failed relationships and/or addiction.  A high percentage of us have died early or committed suicide, which, whenever I force myself to remember, always reminds me of that Jim Carroll song, People Who Died.
Walker briefly noted the connections of the Romneys (George and Mitt) to the troubled teen industry.  Mitt Romney has received financial backing from numerous Utah troubled teen programs.* His father, George Romney, was a supporter of the Floyd Starr Commonwealth Home.  Pastor Gordon Blossom, who founded Escuela Caribe, the school where myself, Scheeres, and hundreds of other alumni were abused, was a Floyd graduate . EC alumni from the seventies have told me stories of how Blossom would tell them that even though they were being beaten and locked up in the Quiet Room, etc., they didn't have it bad---Blossom's hands were permanently deformed from having them beaten by a leather belt at Floyd.
What constitutes abuse is all context I suppose. Which leads me into update two. 
Mark Terrell, CEO of Crosswinds/ Caribbean Mountain Academy, the organization that purchased New Horizons Youth Ministries, recently held a webinar where we alumni were allowed to send in questions.  Ever awesome alum Tim S. compiled a list. 
We appreciate Crosswinds holding a forum to answer our questions.  We appreciate that they understand that our mission is to help them help kids.  We don't want kids to be damaged the way we were by Escuela Caribe, which is why we are so focused on the CMA campus.
However, we are troubled by their decision to continue to employ former Escuela Caribe staff. At least five of the eight staff employed by Crosswinds are former Escuela Caribe employees.  Many were there in 2006 when Kate Logan filmed the original footage for Kidnapped for Christ, when (among other abuses) teenagers were receiving swats and were being sent to the Quiet Room. They were also anti-gay.
I visited the same year (separately)- I met a girl who suffered from an anxiety disorder (before she went to the program), who was "on silence" to everyone but staff, who was given swats frequently.  Her parents were paying $6000/month for this "treatment."  (They pulled her- but not before they spent their retirement trying to help their daughter).
Many alumni and I find the presence of these former individuals as current staff members unacceptable. We believe that by witnessing abusive behavior over a period of years, their norm for what entails abusive behavior is WAY out of whack...they have mental blinders to what would actually be abuse.  Even if these individuals did not commit abuse, through their silence they were complicit in the abuse of numerous children, and therefore are not trustworthy to counsel the teens who are currently there.
Understand, I offer this opinion with utmost respect.  Like many of my fellow alumni, I appreciate the strides Crosswinds currently is taking to improve their program.

*Robert Lichfield, Mitt Romney's co-chair for fundraising in Utah, founded the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs, a coalition of twenty plus programs wracked with allegations of extreme physical and sexual abuse---interestingly, Lichfield was employed by Provo Canyon [a WWASP school] around the same time as the 1979 Congressional Hearings into the Abuse and Neglect of Children in Institutions; Escuela Caribe was also cited in the same report.

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