Sunday, November 25, 2012

Caribbean Mountain Academy in Need of Reform

 This summer, I signed a petition addressed to Crosswinds/ Lifeline Youth and Family Services CEO Mark Terrell.  Jesus Land author Julia Scheeres wrote the petition after requesting input from various survivors of New Horizons Youth Ministries, including myself. 
In the petition, we asked Mr. Terrell to implement several changes to protect students enrolled at the former Escuela Caribe campus, now called Caribbean Mountain Academy.  We asked him to dismiss any staff employed by New Horizons Youth Ministries, particularly staff who had worked at Escuela Caribe.
  There have been numerous documentations of abuse at the D. R. campus---Julia Scheeres’ 2006 memoir, Jesus Land, Kate Logan’s documentary in progress Kidnapped for Christ, testimonials collected by survivors of New Horizons Youth Ministries.  My book, Unreformed, recounts these abuses. Were Crosswinds serious about addressing the violations committed during New Horizons Youth Ministries 40 year history, they would have fired every individual previously employed by Escuela Caribe/ New Horizons Youth Ministries.  They would have abolished the level system.  They would have established an oversight committee.  They wouldn't isolate teens in a facility located in a third world country.
  Instead, they chose to retain people who were either there or were trained by individuals employed in 2006.  That was the year that my husband and I traveled to Escuela Caribe so I could assess for myself whether or not abuse was still occurring at the D.R. facility, 15 years after I graduated.  While there we met a sixteen year old girl at our hotel- her parents were visiting.    During their stay they realized that for the previous several weeks this student had been on silent support (a holdover from my time)- where she was only allowed to speak after being spoken to by staff.  She was regularly being paddled. She had been on zero level during her entire seven month stay.  (Students on zero level can only speak to same sex students second level and above, have to stay within an arms’ length of the housestaff at all times, etc).  Not only were most of the girls in her house also on zero/first level, their housefather was only 24 years old.  He had no training in working with adolescents, just a bachelor’s degree in economics.  This girl’s family had bankrupted their retirement for this “therapy.” (The student was withdrawn). 
    Crosswinds insists on retaining former staff, even though they were either there or were trained by individuals employed at Escuela Caribe in 2006 (2006 was also the same year that Kate Logan videotaped many abuses for the documentary Kidnapped for Christ).  Additionally, they also are continuing Escuela Caribe's practice of hiring underpaid and untrained staff.  New hires are required to have a strong personal relationship with Christ, but only need a high school diploma or GED.  The annual pay is only $12,500, which leads one to assume that CMA's $5000 monthly tuition is not being used to provide high quality staff.  Unfortunately underpaid and untrained staff in an isolated environment will guarantee abuse...see the Stanford Prison Experiment if you need a case study.
   Terrell has suggested that those of us drawing attention to this school are doing it for our own personal gain.  I believe he is making these claims to deflect attention away from the reforms he knows he should make at Caribbean Mountain Academy. Every individual  who has been involved in protesting the abuses at Escuela Caribe/ Caribbean Mountain Academy has done so in order to protect kids. The only gain any of us receive in requesting that reforms be enacted is knowing that teenagers will not be abused.

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