They are not all what they are cracked up to be. These are some awful stories that troubled teens had to deal with when they were sent for "rehabilitation". Some are just heartbreaking!
Sending Kids To Other Countries Sounds Pretty Sketch
I was unfortunate enough to be sent to one of these that operated out of Ensenada, Mexico. It was one of the most terrifying and horrific experinces in my life.
A little backstory, My father left at an early age and it tore me up inside. He came back once because his new wife wanted a daughter and tried to take my sister. He made it clear he wasnt interested in being around me or my brother and it sent me into a depression that eventually evolved into a rage issue.
Cut to me at 14, My mother can not handle my rage and decided to contact this “rehabilitation center”. We lived in San Diego so my mom convinced me we were going down there for a lobster lunch. After lunch she drove me to the facility and left.
I was there for 7 months. The program was designed in 5 levels. You had absolutely no rights at the first level. 2nd level you got trivial things like a weekly candy bar and other such non sense. 3rd level you were trusted to lead other low levels and they usually became power hungry. You could always spot them because they were allowed to wear watches.
The 4th and 5th levels were practically the same and they were allowed to call their parents and move about the facility without your group. The groups were called “families” and usually was made up of a adult employee, 1 or 2 level 3s and then 20 or so level 1 and 2’s.
The place was like a military school and a prison wrapped in one afwul package. We wore these silly deniem uniforms and had to comply by the rules that were stacked against us. If you got in trouble you were knocked down a level and the punishments were usually worse.
They had a room set up with several benches all facing a table with a radio on it. The radio played tapes of literally classics. The benches had no backs and you needed to sit up straight and if you slouched during your hour you would have to restart your hour. This was the tamer punishment. I once spent 3 days in a room with no furniture or people and had to stare at a wall.
It ended on September 10th, when was escorted out by the Mexican Goverment. I lined up for my medicine and a swat team came in with assault rifles. They shut the place shut down to some political turmoil between the Us and Mexico. I was so relieved.Source
My adoptive parents sent me to a camp in Utah for kids with reactive attachment disorder. They sent me after a friend and I tried to run away, which meant we left a poorly forged note saying we had been kidnapped and tried to hitch a ride out of town. I don’t remember being transported and I never tried to run away from camp because it was surrounded by nothing but dirt and snakes. You had all privileges stripped at admission. We mostly cleaned barns and got platitudes yelled at us. When you first arrived you started by sitting in a circle all day, every day. I was an expert at playing the system and doing whatever I had to in order to graduate (aka escape) so I moved quickly. There were girls there that hadn’t been home in a year and if you didn’t move up, they could keep you until you turned 18 or your parents stopped paying. I have no idea how any of them stood it that long unless going home was really that much worse…for some of us it was.
Despite graduating I never went home, they had a set of unlicensed foster parents from Colorado pick me up. I learned a lot from camp, mostly how to stand there being cold for hours, how to smoke a cigarette in less than a minute and how to steal. Oh, and how to make a bed. I am good at that now but doing it makes me grit my teeth because I used to have to do it 100 times in a row.Source
Praying Anything “Away” Doesn’t Work.
I got into some legal trouble a while back and ended up doing a few months in county. I got a good lawyer and my attorney was able to bargain with the state, who wanted to throw the book at me. My attorney said I could do two years county time with the time is already been in counted, or do a yearlong “Christian program” in Georgia called Teen Challenge. Its affiliated with the Assemblies of God, the largest Pentecostal denomination.
I worked a full time job – sometimes double full time. My entire paycheck was taken by the center despite the fact I paid full fees. I slept in bed bugs for a year straight. I’m Mormon and was not allowed to practice my faith; I did of course and smuggled copies of the Book of Mormon in, but they were confiscated if found. I was constantly hounded by staff. You are not allowed contact with the outside world; you get one phone call a week, to only people they approve of, and they screen all your letters.
I take Remeron for anti anxiety and they wouldn’t let me have it. I had panic attacks daily for months straight. They said I just needed to pray it through. I finally got my family involved and after a long laborious process of going to multiple doctors and PROVING to them that my diagnoses of anxiety and clinical depression, are, in fact, correct, they finally let me have it.
Do not ever, ever send anyone you know to Teen Challenge. It’s an atrocious organisation.Source
Learning The System
I used to work at a boarding school….well “A therapeutic facility with the feel of a boarding school” according to the letterhead.
But shit, it might as well have been a Teen Rehab Camp. More appropriately I’d call it a prison.
There was next to zero therapy. Those kids rarely got the help they really needed. I was hired as a teacher, but was expected to be a councilor as well despite never having any training or ever BEING trained. The only training I received was for CPR, and legally approved restraint.
I stayed in touch with quite a few of my students. You know what I found out? This was exactly what they learned as well. Keep their head down. Play the system and do exactly what needed to be done to get out. Learn to steal, how to hide contraband from the bulls, learn to survive by looking out for number one. I know one case of a ‘graduated’ student instinctively stabbing his mother with a fork when she tried to grab food from his plate.Source
Sometimes It Works
I was sent to a rehabilitation camp in Texas. It was basically a camp for “troubled teens”. I had delved into a heroin addiction and this was my parents last resort to get me clean before I turned 18 and had no hope. I had to go to a typical 30-90 day detox program before I was accepted into the program in Texas. I was there for a total of 14 months and hated it when I first got there. After I got through several months of intense and extensive therapy I started to realize that I was actually getting the help that I needed. I also realized my parents hadn’t thrown me in there out of spite, rather they desperately wanted me to get the help I needed to get clean and move on with my life. Overall the experience has ended up being an extremely positive one, I’m still sober from drugs and I made lifelong friends in that program. Some of the friends I still talk to every day. I am genuinely grateful I got that help when I needed it. The staff was so loving and caring and genuinely wanted the best for everyone. I go to their alumni reunions every once in a while and am always overcome by emotion when seeing everyone and being brought back to the place that quite literally saved my life.Source
More Where This Came From
I was a bit of a pain in the a– as a kid, got in trouble, stayed out all night, petty vandalism, etc. Anyway, parents freaked out and sent me to a wilderness school. I lived in the woods for just under 2 years. Thing was, it was also a facility for state kids. Coming from juvenile hall. So I was there with kids who’d been convicted of grand theft auto, breaking and entering, armed robbery, and a lot of drug charges. It was not fun the first year, but I never felt unsafe. We all had the same goal. Get wood for the winter. And we all had to work together to do that. Winter was really cold when you are outside all the time. We made tents out of trees we sawed down, hauled in, etc. Cooked our own meals 2 days a week. The second year wasn’t as bad, but that’s because I knew what I was doing. I’d been through all the seasons. Lot of stories from that place. I thought about running, every one did. I only saw one do it “successfully” he had a breakdown and broke into someones house totally naked. He didn’t come back. Usually they caught you, and you came back and were in deep shit. They’d work you. All. The. Time. and they take your belt and shoelaces. Makes it harder to run. One kid tried to start a truck on campus with a screwdriver. The screwdriver broke in the truck so he trudged back to camp. In snow. So there was same pretty damning evidence there. Couple other kids ran off during a canoe trip we had. They got caught. Kid called his mom, mom called the cops.Source
You Can’t “Pray Away The Gay” Either
I was in La Verkin, Ut at Cross Creek Manor from February 10 2001-August 31 2003.
I was not transported or kidnapped as you called it. I did not try to escape. I watched what happened to those that did. I watched us get “reprogrammed” to the way our parents wanted. I watched the “bad” kids go to a sister school in Mexico where they abused us. I went through a seminar a month where we were locked in a small room and technically brainwashed.
I will never forget another teen leaning into my face during Discovery and telling me in a complete serious and even tone “your own Boyfriend killed himself because YOU weren’t worthy living for.”
You have more questions I’m willing to answer anything serious you all would like to ask. I’m not great at writing the story out from start to finish without some sort of direction.Source
Run Ricky Run
The kid who tried to steal the truck (we’ll call him rick) was there for stealing 20+ cars. He was from a rough a– part of DC. He tried to run away again. When there was extreme weather, we had to sleep in the school building and eating area. We got 3 feet of snow one night, and he used it as his chance to run. With no belt and shoelaces. Made it out for like 5-6 hours before the helicopter spotted him. We were in a tent together. He did not like wildlife at all, and we’d regularly get toads in the tents. This guy did not like toads. I don’t mind them, so I’d go over and pick it up, and let it free outside teh tent. He also didn’t know what a deer was and once, while cleaning a pan on the Appalachan trail, rick was approached by a deer (it was eating grass near him) He FREAKED out. brought the pan back and screamed “You better come get your boy! Mr Hamel! (Staff)” We had to calm him down. Rick ran over to us. Anyway, I don’t do bees. One day in a tent three bumblebees started flying around (the tent was subterranian, making escape trickier). I flinched. He saw my reaction, so he hopped up and stood in front of me…story break (Rick had an AWFUL childhood. He had an identical twin and his dad would make the two fight, first one to cry would get the belt. seriously. So Rick had hands of lightning). Rick got in front of me and hit the three bees out of the air with three strikes. Everyone in attendence was dumbfounded. He then patted me on the head and said “I got you.” I then continued to ease his mind regarding toads.Source
In The Face!
Another kid there had been in the crips since 3rd grade. How? Well he was a bigger kid, and didn’t have a whole lot. So they would get him things. Shoes, jackets, food, games. Built his trust up. He’d be involved in the drug transactions till he was older. Anyway, he was there for armed robbery. We became great friends. For light, we used kerosene lanterns (in hindsight, fairly dangerous considering we were in the woods). We’d have to clean them every morning with a towel. Anyway he’d teach me music he liked, and I taught him music I liked. So he now knows a lot of less than jake. To this day. Hahaha. Anyway. One day, while brushing teeth, someone said something to make me laugh while I turned around, and I spit from laughing. Problem was “Dave” had approached from behind me. So I spat directly into this kids face. I thought I was going to be killed on the spot. He let out a loud grunt, balled his hands up, and stormed off. I apologized profusely as he stormed off. Then I gave him all the space he wanted. About 8 hours later he comes up to me and goes “I know you laughed. I know you didn’t mean to spit in my face. I understand. I just…I just had to get away, you know? You spit in my face. With toothpaste. I couldn’t really process it and I knew I didn’t want to do what my immediate reaction was.” We are still buds to this day. He’s doing well.Source
The Ballad Of George & Jesse
The most incredible runaway story I witnessed.
George and Jesse. (Not real names) Lets give their backstory
George was a lovable idiot. Great to have in campsite, he was a positive minded hard worker. George would break into homes and steal shit. He was really good at that. As far as his upbringing, he got beaten up at school once, and his dad wouldn’t let him back into the house until George beat the kid up. That sums it up. Seriously, George was not a smart kid, very gullable, very impressionable. We also had to wash lanterns. He learned a lot of Linkin Park.
Jesse was really quiet. I think he was there for drugs, but I don’t totally remember. Jesse came in september/october which is important, because they usually don’t take kids at that point, because they want to be able to send kids home for Christmas. (3 days! It was heaven) He barely made it. The reason? They want to be sure you will come back. Jesse convinceed them he would.
During xmas break, jesse stole a car and drove it up to near where the school was (4 hours from his home). Then he hitchhiked back into his hometown and did whatever he wanted. He ended up getting caught and sent back.
When you run and get caught, you are very much isolated from students (not totally, always had to have 2 students with staff, liablity risks, but he was under no circumstances allowed to speak to anyone but staff).
He somehow got communicating with george, and convinced george to run away with him. They made their move on super bowl night. (They let us watch the super bowl, that was the janet jackson wardrobe malfunction. A GREAT moment for an all boys school full of adolescents who hadn’t been around girls in a long time) It was 5 degrees that night, and I remember being upset because george didn’t take his gloves. (George was a great kid at heart). The car that jesse had stolen wouldn’t start, so they hitchhiked back. We had a nightwatchmen, they stuffed their bags, looked full. Nightwatchmen also probably figured no one was running in that cold. George called his mom 4 days into their partying back at home and she, sobbing, begged him to turn himself in. So he did. Jesse did not, we never saw him again, but he did get caught. George later kidnapped/robbed some campers and is in jail for a long time.Source
Hateful and Horrible
I was sent to one such facility when I was 15, around 6 weeks after coming out as gay. I was abused in ways I don’t want to talk about, leaving me with severe PTSD.
There was no escape from the facility I was sent. There were two successful breaches, but on both occasions it was a team effort. I don’t believe there was a way to do so individually because I searched for a means to do it constantly. I ended up attempting suicide and almost dying. That’s the only reason I got out.
These places are not rare or unusual in the U.S. Look up the documentary ‘Kidnapped for Christ’ on YouTube. You’ll be amazed at what’s legal.Source
Sorta Like The Brady Bunch
I was a pretty good kid, but had just started recovering from severe depression and (unknown at the time) ptsd. Up until that point I had been extremely docile and almost robotic. Then the meds started working and I “woke up” and started acting more like a normal young teen. My mom was not prepared for this. She overreacted and sent me to a group home for troubled teens in oceanside California.
Unlike most of the places in this thread, we weren’t in lock down. Once the parents left, the intake person told each incoming resident that they were free to leave any time, and could be tossed out at any time. The transit center is two miles west, there’s a bus stop down the block, and the freeway entrance is thataway if you want to hitchhike. Feel free. They made it clear that they would notify the police and the parents, but they would not try to stop you. Only one person walked out during my stay. Once we realized we weren’t trapped, it made it easier to concentrate on things other than escape.
The center was a converted upper middle class house that was in the middle of a residential neighborhood, and you’d never know it was there. Boys were upstairs, girls downstairs, and the more trusted residents got the granny flat. The counseling office was in the converted garage, and there was a classroom that had once been a large sunroom with a view of the ocean and a deck. The staff were the most laid back people you can imagine. They wouldn’t tolerate rule breaking or disrespect, but they’d joke around with the residents, and if we had been really good (and they had the munchies) they’d gather us up and we’d walk to the nearest 7/11 for snacks.
We had chores assigned daily, and every day we’d have to sit through some presentation. Sometimes it was the police, sometimes a career counselor, many times it was a public health nurse. We loved her because she’d hand out free condoms. Not just the utilitarian ones. She knew kids would be more likely to use the fun ones. Glow in the dark, textured, humorous, and of course flavored. At one point, the staff walked in the room to see the nurse showing us close up photos of std ridden genitals while we sucked on mint flavored condoms. Dude walked right back into his office.
I think what really made this program work was not only the relative freedom we had, but that it held our parents accountable as well. Every single resident had parents who fucked them up. So the parents were required to return and attend counseling as well. However, it was stressed that despite our parent’s failures, we couldn’t use them to excuse our own behavior. We had to have standards for ourselves. Honestly, I think parents would have a lot more success if they sent their kids to places like this, rather than those hardline horror camps. I actually had a decent experience there, though there is a part of me that can never forgive my mom for sending me away in the first place.Source
Why So Many In Utah?
I was sent to Diamond Ranch Academy in Utah in 02-03. It was long, soul-crushingly depressing, boring, MISERABLE, and I made friends that I’ll have for the rest of my life. I learned to manipulate, tow the line, keep my mouth shut, and get through periods of incarceration. I never tried to escape, it didn’t solve my drug problems, and it didn’t save me from a life of legal trouble and jail. I am now in my 30s and still a trouble maker, though I think this last run of trouble will end up being my last.Source
Child Abuse. Pure & Simple
I was sent to a juvenile facility when I was 12 for constantly missing school – to this day I think it was an overreaction but I guess truancy is pretty bad. In the end, after I had spent cumulative about a year there, my mom homeschooled me (so what was the point lol).
It sucked. I was put in with kids who had committed robberies, assault, one kid had raped his little sister, all kinds of things. We spent all day doing chores, raking leaves, mowing lawns, washing dishes, tossing hay bales for a farm, picking up sticks off paths in the woods, etc.
I remember one day, I guess I was really upset, I refused to rake this running track and the morbidly obese counselor made me lay down and SAT ON ME, a small 12 year old girl, for about fifteen minutes while I begged him to get off of me because I couldn’t breathe. He laughed and said if I couldn’t breathe I shouldn’t be talking.
I’ll note I rarely went on sleepovers because I missed my mom too much, so this experience was extremely difficult me. I wasn’t allowed and stuffed animals, the magazines my mom had packed for me or anything, just clothes they approved of. I was miserable to the point I put a plastic bag over my head to try to kill myself. At 12 years old. My roommate ran out screaming for the counselors, who found me half passed out on the floor. They debated calling the nurse or an ambulance but decided not to because it was too much paperwork and I wasn’t dead.
We also had a school we all went to during the week. This school was for kids from the facility and other juvenile camps. I remember we all were reading paragraphs aloud from a history book and a girl from another facility who was spending the whole time talking to the person next to her started making fun of how quiet I was. I said “then listen” – if a teacher hadn’t been there to stop her, that girl would have beaten the crap out of me.
We also were allowed to receive letters and write them, but my mom told me she never got any of the letters I wrote. I know because in one of her letters she was sad I hadn’t written her… I wrote her every day. It broke my heart.
It was a shitty situation. Did I ever try to escape? I thought about it; myself and another girl discussed it but I was too scared to go through with it.Source
More With This?? Idiots
My parents sent me to some Jesus Camp from our local church. It was bad, but what hurt me the most was learning that hey sent me there because I was gay. I came out when I was 14 and they sent me a month later, they weren’t the kind of parents who would do that, and that really upsets me to this day even with them apologizing. The camp was not so bad but it was weird. There were a lot of times we had to confess our sins, hug a guy dressed as Jesus inside a cabin in the woods, pray in our knees. The bad part was counseling with them, it was full of bullshit like ”you’re gay, what can we do to make you straight?”. F— that.Source
We Have A Ways To Go In This World
I had gone to this church camp when I was in middle school called Lakewood. We were Church of Christ and this was a non denominational camp. Really fun and so years later in high school when my mom suggested I go back for this winter program right between Christmas and New Year’s Eve I was like sure. It was junior year and most of my friends were going on this ski trip so I figured Lakewood would be fun, maybe see some old friends. Well it turns out that I didn’t know two things about that trip. One, that my mom had found the dildos I had bought online. And two that the camp I had attended was not the same during the winter. It was a scared straight program. It was a 4 day program where they divided us up into groups of 5 to each cabin. One counselor and 4 guys who were in the age range of 14-17. The cabins we were in were built to hold 10 people so we were all pretty spread out which was kinda the point. During the day it was your basic bible study but with a hard slant on marrying a woman and raising kids in the faith. Lots of trust building stuff and thinking of our male friends as family and brothers and never as a romantic or sexual interest. Thank god it wasn’t as bad as some stories I’ve heard. There were about 40 of us and at least in my cabin we were all just going along with whatever they said to get out of there. The third night me and another guy in my cabin stayed up reading on purpose until about an hour after everyone else had gone to sleep. We snuck out for a cigarette but we both knew why we were really sneaking out there. That was the only redeeming moment of the week.Source