In 2008 the police found a boy on the run in shackles. This view which could have been taken from the book “Uncle Tom” was however nothing a re-enactment of something from the civil war period. It was a present boot camp styled boarding school using extreme methods to keep their inmates who they choose to call students in line.
Back then their name was Victory Forge Military Academy. They have since changed their name to the present one. The authorities investigated and oddly enough found it OK to shackle students.
Around 2012 the state demanded that the school should be licensed. It should be difficult considering what they have to work with, but they are still open so I guess they try their best.
Regardless of the outcome it doesn’t sound like a fun place to be as a teenager.
- Shackled teen ‘was running for his life’ (Parents of Southeastern Military Academy blog)
- Factsheet about the school (Fornits Wiki)
The owner – Alan Weierman – was convicted of forging the signature of dead people and selling their lands illegally. He was sentenced to 10 years probation. The victims hoped that he would have served time. The article also states the he has no real military title from the army. The title “Colonel” is only something he calls himself.
One of our old entries was the DeSisto School. At some point they established a branch in Florida. When the original school closed the Florida branch continued under the name Sarasota Community School.
However, nothing much changed and because the original school is listed in this blog, the branch is also listed.
A Facebook has been established so former students can connect.
It didn’t seem like a nice place for teenagers.
This drug rehab was founded based on values from a religious community which was closed by the IRS.
However the run an ordinary drug rehab based on profit. A former employee state:
The residents are forbidden from talking about their past (how can a person battle addiction if they don’t battle where it started?), the residents are screamed at and degraded. The counselors in the womens program care nothing about the women. They have had women residents having affairs with male staff members, women leaving the program pregnant by male residents, women being “successfully discharged” because they were private pay when in fact they were no where near “successful”. One of the counselors in the womens unit takes photos of herself in the bathroom of the women’s building to put on facebook. She also compares notes about men on facebook with women residents. The only counselors that cared about the residents, and actually did counseling work were fired or pushed to the point of quitting. Parents have complained over and over to no avail. There is no real counseling at Phoenix House. The job is just a paycheck for the staff.
Another former employee focus on the high turnover among the employees:
I worked for this company for 3+ years.
I have seen the turnover rate for employees SO HIGH, I never thought I would be affected.
Management is HORRIBLE, and its all politics
This company is known to be corrupt.
The worst part about it is that the clients’ suffer, because they are not getting the help they deserately need, because majority of staff are not qualified and/or completely incompetent.
It does not sound like fun for the clients. Some may have entered as an alternative til prison hoping to be cured for their addiction and then they are not getting what they hoped for. Rather cruel if you take my word for it.
- PHOENIX HOUSE reviews (Indeed)
- Phoenix House/Marathon House (The Fornits Home for Wayward Web Fora)
- Phoenix House Survivors (Reddit r/troubledteens)
- Cult-based Trauma with Erin Coffin Moore (Stitcher)
- Photos from Phoenix House (Reddit r/troubledteens)
- One of our old Phoenix House counselors is a registered sex offender (Reddit r/troubledteens)
This facility is closed. It was hit with a number of lawsuits. In the sister school located in Missouri some students murdered another. The facility was founded by reverend Bobby Wills and his wife Betty. They used to run a boarding school in Mississippi but moved their operations after some legal trouble.
They limited bathroom breaks, court ordered students were the right to contact their lawyer and corporal punishment existed.
It didn’t sound like a fun place to be as a teenager.
- Arcadia Religious Reform School Accused Of Abuse In Lawsuit (Sarasota Herald-Tribune)
- Baptist boarding schools closes in Missouri, Florida (Associated Press)
- Palm Lane Experience-No more Faith (Network54.com)
- ‘A heavy door slammed. I begged, ‘I promise I’ll be the best girl. Please don’t leave me!’ A creepy man said ‘young lady’ and grabbed me by the shoulders.’: Woman details journey battling cancer while in teen religious cult (Love what Matters)
- I Survived A Cult. Now I’m Using My Voice to Make a Difference (Made of Millions)
- Arcadia religious reform school accused of abuse in lawsuit (Herald Tribune)
The group home which was located in a Florida Panhandle city is closed now. The owner John Burt was sentenced to 18 years in prison for molestation of a 15 year old girl.
During his life he has been convicted of many other things but this blog is only concerned with his dealings of teenagers.
It didn’t sound like a fund place to be as a teenager.
- Florida anti-abortion activist gets 18 years for molesting teen (San Diego Union-Tribune)
- John Burt (Pensapedia)
- Datasheet of the facility (Fornits wiki)
On Youtube you can watch how parents in China (and now elsewhere) can send their child to a school in Jinan, China so they don’t spend that much time on the Internet. The so-called diagnose called “Internet Addiction Disorder” has been accepted as something people can make money on and when money is involved then it is OK to label children.
Spending at least 4 months offline without being able to maintain your network which is vital for your future career is certainly not fun for any teenager.
This facility took over the buildings of a program which moved to Missiouri. Maybe they also took over a part of the program which had inflicted emotional scars on so many girls in the past.
They are mentioned a Tampa Bay serie about religious lockdown schools.
What kind of role model is Steven Blankenship? According to a police report words like “faggots” and “bastards” were used about the students. What about professional distance? Of course a teacher can be fustrated about the students but to enter a level so low that such words are used?
It cannot be a fun place to be as a teenager.
According to the students it is not a fun place to be as a teenager. Given the fact that some of the residents are forced off alcohol – even when the alcohol percentage is below the safe limit of 16,5 it is outright ridiculous.
Here is a statement from one teenager:
I’m sixteen and I just completed Lakeland, Florida, Teen Girls Teen Challenge in January. It was the worst fifteen months of my life. But I do want to say there were some really good staff there that were only there to keep me safe and are trying to get the place shut down. Anyway, the directors are terrible people. They stole one hundred dollars from my parents and forged my and my parents’ signatures. They also did not allow us to mention ANYTHING to our parents about ANYHTING…the center went down after the old director left and the new directors came in. they nail the windows shut and take out the nails when the fire marshall comes. they are modeling the center now in every way after Bonifay boy’s center. We have things called corrections which is when you have done something wrong (i.e., not flushing the toilet, forgetting to tell staff you are back from using the restroom, leaving a streak on the mirror after you cleaned it, having a wrinkle in your bed) Basically, you would go outside and they would make you do every kind of strenuous exercise in the book, including suicides, grape vines, worms, laps (usually fifty–which is about 7 miles), jumping jacks, push-ups, crunches, from half an hour to 5 hours, depending on the mood of the staff. the entire time they would scream at you sayin because you did this, you aren’t close enough to God, you’re not a Christian, etc. etc. Staff would yell constantly, mock you, say terrible things to you. The directors are a husband/wife team and the husband is notorious for looking at the girls in pedophilic ways. I am still waiting to get the call that says that he touched someone. I was neglected there, SEXUALLY ABUSED and when I came forward no one said anything. I want to strip the reputations of most of the staff off of them and see them pay for what they did to me and the other girls in the program. There has been PHYSICAL, SEXUAL, MENTAL, EMOTIONAL ABUSE IN LAKELAND TEEN CHALLENGE. They are driving these girls away from God. As is the case it seems from most of these reports, there was a lot of fundraising that went on and the money went straight to the pockets of those higher in the employee ladder (mainly, the directors/case managers/deans/the best of the directors’ minionic employees). The good staff members were treated terribly. Pay was withheld from them on a consistent basis.
I just want something to be done about this. The girls in the program are my family and I will NOT continue to ignore this immoral injustice. My mouth has been forced shut for far too long. I am taking this straight to the head honchos of Teen Challenge, US, and will either a) have the directors and every other immoral, unGodly staff member fired and publically humiliated, and/or b) have the place eternally shut down.
I have a whole list of people who feel the exact way and are also getting in on the effort to take this place and these people DOWN.
This makes me sick, and they will NOT get away with this. If you want more information or have information or can help in the effort to SHUT DOWN and possibly press criminal charges against Bonifay Boys’ Teen Challenge and/or Lakeland Girls’ Teen Challenge.
Here is a statement from another:
I was a student at Lakeland Teen Challenge. Completed the fifteen months, never got time added, and I’m what you would call “successful.” Not doing drugs, I don’t really drink, I attend a private women’s college on a full academic scholarship, etc etc.
That being said, I’m one of VERY FEW who left Lakeland or any of the teen programs of Teen Challenge that are okay. And even then, I’m not really that okay. I was diagnosed with PTSD as a result of my experiences at Lakeland TC and it still affects me today. Eating issues, panic attacks, flashbacks, all the good stuff. I was sexually abused at TC and they urged me not to report it. The director exchanged sexual favors for time off the program and other privileges. One of the teachers was married and living with a convicted child molester. Very few of the staff had any credentials beyond a high school diploma. Physical abuse, verbal abuse, and psychological abuse occurred every single day. Sexual abuse happened, too. Food was a privilege. Windows were nailed shut. The police were lied to on many, many occasions. Parents were lied to all the time. Money was stolen. LOTS of money. Lakeland mirrored itself after Bonifay Teen Challenge, and if you Google
Bonifay, you’ll know how horrible that is.
My story can be backed up by countless other TC grads and staff, and if you doubt the fact that I attended TC, I can email you a copy of my certificate. Or you can ask TC. Either one.
These programs aren’t accredited by a trustworthy institution and they cut all the corners they can. And all in the name of God. Kinda messed up.
Don’t send your kids to TC. They won’t ever be the same, and not in a good way.
I was in this program for 14 months it was one of the worst experiences of my life. I’m talking about daily manipulation and lies from staff and much more. When I had told a staff privately that I was bisexual the directors of the program had all of us girls (who most were bisexual or lesbian) Watch a series of sermons by a preacher who claimed he was healed of being gay and would tell us how it morally wrong we were living our lives. Daily students were threatened with consequences and punishment for any acts that did not follow the many rules they had. Some rules restricted girls from even talking about their lives, their families, their struggles, or really anything personal. They have a rulebook that is 41 pages and when a girl comes to the program they have to read it have it read to them and write the entire thing out by hand. Along with the rulebook there was also known rules that staff would tell us when we did something they did not like. Whenever I felt miss treated or belittled by a staff and I told my parents about it I would lose free time and phone calls. Often times I would lock myself in the only bathrooms that would lock just so I could cry and not get yelled at. All food was made by students, kitchen duty mostly felt like a punishment. Personally I was in the kitchen cleaning for six months three of those months there was no air conditioning. Also there was supposed to be two people cleaning the kitchen, at one point I was the only one cleaning the kitchen because they wanted to teach me a lesson. The only incentive for working in the kitchen is a serve safe certification. One time I went to the doctors for a check up with one of the directors the doctor had let me know that my body mass index was so bad that my health was in danger and that I needed to exercise more. When asked if we exercise daily I told them no because we went outside for PE at least three times a week at the most. The director cut me off and told the doctor that I was lying and I wasn’t. When at a so-called retreat they do every year called spared a preacher man called me up on stage and asked me in front of at least 400 kids if I had ever been raped or abused and expected me to answer those personal questions in front of all of them. At this retreat kids were all reminded of very bad times in their lives and at certain points of the sermon there would be kids sobbing in the crowd. They had a name for this it was called getting “wrecked” really it was just a saying for crying so much and being so sad because you were just reminded of Trumatic experiences in your life and this was supposed to heal you in their eyes. During hurricane Irma, we were relocated to a teen challenge center in Alabama during this time I did not know it yet but my parents were planning to pull me out, which makes sense why the staff were so cruel to me during my last couple weeks. During this trip I had asked to staff a question just trying to create conversation and he had responded “you do not have permission to talk to me” after this I was so hurt by the response because it made me feel dehumanized so I “acted out” by crying to myself and isolating, upon doing so was punished. The directors called a meeting and the director at the time called Mr. Greg had told me “you are a cancer”. all of this isn’t even half of my experience these are just things I thought of while writing this review but it’s getting kind of long. This program was honestly out of all of the places I have been the worst. Please if you’re planning on sending your daughter here, don’t do it there are many places you can send your daughter that will actually help her.Annika E.
May 19, 2020 a 17-year-old girl was found unresponsive and later died. The circumstances has never been fully revealed.
It cannot be fun to be there as a teenager.
- Review: Lakeland Teen Challenge Girls (Topix.com- Works only if you are a US user)
- TikTok about Naomi Wood, dead because of Medical Neglect while at Lakeland Teen Challenge – it never made the news & there were no consequences (Reddit Troubled Teens)
- Naomi Wood (The White River Valley Herald)
- Former students of Lakeland girls school come forward to describe conditions at facility where girl died (Fox 13 News)
Marketed as a rehab and a “we-fix-all-facility” the statements of the parents and teenagers are that they are not very focused to deal with various issues. A parent wrote:
Parents please make sure your child qualifies for this facility. It has been my experience that behavioral problems ADD, ADHD, ODD, …are not suitable for La Amistad. Our child picked up horrendous habits while going there and was interacting and manipulated by kids much older. As a parent who will do anything for my child I am extremely disappointed with the care we received. I need help for my child and the time spent at La Amistad has made it much worse.
A former client writes on the wall of the Facebook group: “I survived La Amistad”:
…and treatment by those councelours and therapists was so fake. The only way we ever got out of there is because we helped eachother. It’s either that, or certain people turned 18 and checked themselves out. Haha
It may not be fun to be there as a teenager but it is a waste of money based on the statements from both parents and the clients.
The firm which used to operated from Fort Lauderdale had a program they called “Sister Soldier Military Academy”. The police got involved as there were claims of abuse.
The website is down which is fine because it didn’t sound like a fun place to be as a teenager. Especially not for those who became hospitalized.
- FORT LAUDERDALE `BOOT CAMP’ — Slew of calls drew police to school (Miami Herald)
- Factsheet of the program (Fornits Wiki)