109. Teen challenge – Lakeland Girls home

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.

Also

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.

Sources:

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47 responses to “109. Teen challenge – Lakeland Girls home”

  1. Ashley says :

    I knew these girls… They were my sisters and I graduated from Lakeland Teen Challenge as well. I validate these claims. That sick place has changed me in ways I cannot undo. And finally 5 years later, we are all coming forward.

  2. Southern Mom says :

    How do I get in comtact with you guys? If you can back up what you’re saying, then they truly need to be shut down. I live in Lakeland and would hate to think that after all the good that the older Organization used to do that this is what it has come to.

  3. Emma Burris says :

    I hope someone reads this and it saves a daughter from the trauma.
    I was in Lakeland teen challenge for 33 months. I found out 2 weeks into the program that I was pregnant. Somehow, they claim to be the only adolescent program in the world to be able to house a pregnant minor. I’d like to know from a lawyer if this was legal.
    I was forced to carry my baby full term after asking for an abortion. Then I was told foster care was not an option. When I was 16 I found a program I could go to in order to keep the child and become a successful mother and member of society. The directors refused to let me leave. A staff member tried to help me and gave me internet access and allowed me to ask my parents to let me leave. The directors informed them and told them to refuse to sign any document that allowed me to transfer.
    They forced me to do unpaid labor and PE until I was 8 months pregnant, where I went into early labor and had an emergency csection because of their negligence. I was forced to give the child up for adoption, to a family I did not choose. I was manipulated and gaslit the entire time by my parents and the directors, who really had a heavy hand in how my parents handled the disgusting as well. The parents are just as manipulated as the students are.
    I endured so much brainwashing and physically abusive patterns- as well as watched other girls live through the same things.
    Being there for so long as a student, they really had their grip on me. It took so long for me to realize why I am the way I am now.
    The only thing TC taught me was how to internalize my emotions, and live in fear.
    They claim to be Christ oriented. But there is no love of Christ evident in the treatment of the children in these programs. It’s my life goal to shut this place down. I might be one of the only teens who can prove gross negligence or several illegal activities, and I wish I knew what to do with that.

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