Back in high school, back before Escuela Caribe, I liked to take pictures.  I’d spend hours cutting out scraps of images and arranging them on cardstock, making collages from the discards.

This summer I finished the final draft of Unreformed. The narrative wasn’t working so I tried something different- I cut the entire book into pieces, first arranging by themes. This let me determine what was important. Then I cut a second copy into pieces and collaged the draft together.

I had a collection of pictures documenting the whole process, but the resolution is wrong.

I like the final version. I’m letting it sit for now, but in the meantime, there’s this article about the troubled teen industry.

The Horrifying Reality of Teen Rehab Centers

A few weeks ago Cracked editors Jack O’Brian and Robert Evans interviewed one of my all time heroes, Maia Szalavitz.  Szalavitz wrote Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids, the most comprehensive exploration of the teen treatment industry out there.  They also interviewed Sarah Cummins, a former student of a Utah facility, who tells of hours of forced labor, of being forced to manipulate her fellow students, and how she was preyed on by creepy sex offenders.  Sounds familiar!

Other Cracked content of interest:  5 Realities of the Rehab Camp My Parents Paid to Kidnap Me and

6 Shocking Realities of the Secret “Troubled Teen Industry.”

Also, over at NUVO, Theresa Rosado is continuing her investigation into our alma mater, New Horizons Youth Ministries,  with a profile on “The Mysterious Dr. Z,”  a probable child molester who funneled countless kids into “the ministry.”


The Teen Treatment Con Continues…

The craziest thing for me about the teen treatment industry is how long this con has gone on. I mean, I became a statistic 26 years ago. In 2004 (that’s 12 years ago for you English majors), the National Institute of Health released a statement recommending residential care as a treatment of last resort. And in 2007, the U.S. Government Office of Accountability published a report documenting thousands of episodes of abuse in such facilities, even death.  And that statement doesn’t even address the residual mental health cost. Yet people still send their kids away.

My suggestion? Try emancipation first. Or grandparents. Or just let your kid breathe.

Jesse Hyde over at Rolling Stone wrote a great feature on a boot camp in New Mexico that I’ve been thinking about since November.  And my fellow alum Theresa Rosado has continued her series on our alma mater, New Horizons Youth Ministries. To Hell and Back, Part Two, traces NHYM’s rise in Michigan, and Part Three explores its exodus to Indiana and the Dominican Republic. Check them out.


To Hell and Back: the Rise and Fall of New Horizons Youth Ministries

Last week NUVO, Indianapolis’ alternative weekly, published the first in a series of articles exposing the rise and fall of the fundamentalist boot camp I attended, New Horizons Youth Ministries.  Alumni Theresa Rosado writes that NHYM had its license revoked in 2009 for failing to comply with state policies. They did not provide background checks for sex offenders. They did not provide 24 hour wake supervision for the students they boarded, even though some students arrived with a histories of sexual perpetration and self-harm.

This is all true. During the 1990s, no staff was ever awake at night to watch over students, which is standard operating procedure in long-term treatment.  And there were definitely sex offenders working for NHYM.

The founder of NHYM, Gordon Blossom, was a pedophile who raped his own daughter. Blossom still continued to work for the program, even after he revealed his disorder to his family and the staff, delivering sermons on sexuality to gender based groups.  One alumni (me) wrote,  “They separated boys from girls for that sermon. He told us that God gave us curves and boys loved curves because boys loved cars, which also have curves. It was okay to let boys fondle our curves, leering of course while he said this, but not to have sex with them because every hot blooded American male wanted a virgin and why buy the cow if you could get the milk for free? I was still a virgin at the time of this sermon. Very confusing.”

Better that than the boys’sermon, in which Blossom exhorted them to view masturbation as a form of prayer to God.

Rosado also discusses the reasons why NHYM was kicked out of Haiti, and concludes with an explanation of the extreme isolation students were subjected to from their families, which lead to PTSD.

Rosado has spent years researching the numerous investigations leading to NHYM‘s closure.  I’m looking forward to reading the rest of her series.



Stop Child Abuse in Residential Treatment Programs for Teens

One of the most maddening things about being a product of the dysfunctional family with means complex is knowing that the abuse is still happening.  That despite the Congressional reports, despite books like Julia Scheeres’ Jesus Land, or Maia Szalavitz’s Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids, or Kate Logan’s documentary Kidnapped for Christ, the teen treatment industry is still unregulated.

That’s why it’s important that a coalition of organizations, including the  Los Angeles LGBT Center, Survivors of Institutional Abuse (SIA), & Mental Health America, have united to introduce a federal bill called the“Stop Child Abuse in Residential Treatment Programs for Teens Act.”  This bill will regulate the teen treatment industry.  It will include no exemptions for religious institutions, which abuse kids tax-free.

You can sign the petition to introduce the bill here.

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