Contrary to HEAL, there IS Healing to be found in Therapeutic Residential Programs

There are literally hundreds of thousands of similar success stories from among the teenagers enrolled in residential programs around the nation over the past 20 years. HEAL says that these people were “brainwashed” or coerced into making these positive statements. HEAL also says that these people are somehow damaged by the experience of being in a therapeutic program.  You be the judge.

“If I would not have attended (program name withheld) I would not be the man I am today. I reflect back on my experiences there and just smile. I believed then that my parents were taking away everything. They themselves were uncertain if what they were doing was too much. Looking back, they did not take… they gave me everything.”

“Definitely made me a better person and I wouldn’t be in the great place I am with my life if I hadn’t have learned the things I did there. Got in a lot of trouble there, hurt quite a few people who didn’t really deserve it, but also made some lifetime bonds. I love my family there and always will.”

“My daughter had her intake into (program name withheld). Woe…that was hard!!  But today I write to you as our family has reunited and are enjoying our 1st week together. We had such a great time as we said our goodbyes to everyone and I am so thankful for all of you guys and you faithfully praying for us as we went through this valley. As I was going through our intake papers I am happy to let you all know that all of our goals were met and I am so thankful for this second chance with my daughter. She has grown so much and I am no longer afraid of what she might do. She is busy looking for an apartment and will try to see if she can swing that. If not she will be living here until she can swing it. She will be attending Community College in the fall. She is happy that she graduated the program….said she never would thought that she would admit to that. She has made some lifelong friends!!” 

“What a gift God has given us in having found (program name withheld) for our daughter. She is doing great! We are so thankful. One of the things that was so evident to my husband and me is the love and dedication all the staff has for all the kids. The “BIGS” are really there in the trenches as one parent put it. I know all the staff would appreciate hearing from us but the BIGS really live life with the kids 24/7 as do the other staff. The girls shared their love and appreciation for the staff over and over again during our family sharing time. It was also cool to hear them share their love and appreciation for one another.”

“I am a former (program name withheld) student from the early 90’s. I would like to say that (program name withheld) made a huge difference in my life. It was the best and fondest memories of my teenage years. I kept meaning to write over the last 20 or so years, but you know how time flies and just seems to get away form you, especially given the occupation I had a few years ago. See a few years after (program name withheld) I started a family of my own and was inspired to do the right thing in my life, and for my family so I joined the United States Marine Corps. I believed and still believe that was the calling God had for me. Unfortunately I was wounded and disabled in Iraq, and was medically retired from the military. I had and have many hardships because of this, but I still believe this was Gods will, and without the tools learned at a young age in (program name withheld) it would have been a nearly impossible mountain to overcome. Some of the best years of my youth were there at (program name withheld).”

“After seeking help from numerous other sources, we sent our son to (program name withheld). He was there for only 9 months, and then he was pulled out. It was too soon! He has since spent several months in the juvenile justice system, but he is finally on a good path. He acknowledges now that he wishes he had stayed at (program name withheld) and finished the program. Looking back he can now see its benefits. I know it’s not an easy decision, but we would do the same thing again.”

“I believe that the sooner you intervene, the better it will be for both your family’s sake and your son’s. It will be a roller coaster ride, but you have the support of other parents who will encourage you and pray with you through the process. Our daughter is still at (program name withheld), but we continue to hang in there. We believe it is the best thing we’re doing for her.”

“You have done so much for your son, if you can possible give him the gift of a chance to go to (program name withheld), follow their system and heal, God will bless you in a mighty way. If you do decide to send him, DO NOT PULL him at any cost or problem. Please work through the bumps and commit to see it through. I watched too many do the opposite and so did Richard. He even said in his parting speech, “stop asking your parents to pull you and succeed in this. It shows what a great parent you are because you are even investigating this!”

“I will never forget the hardships and great times that I had spent at (program name withheld). It really helped me turn my life towards the right directions surrounding me by great people and great counseling. Thanks”

“Eight years ago today I returned home from (program name withheld). As hard as it is to admit, it truly did make me who I am today. It probably took all 8 years for me to be able to give you guys the credit, but looking back it wasn’t so bad. You guys run a great organization. Keep up the good work!”

“(Program name withheld) did not perform any miracles with our son, but it did provide a place when we had no where else to turn. He was kept safe. His faith was nurtured. And, he was able to achieve a diploma, which he had to have to gain entrance to the Marines. “

“(Program name withheld) provided support when we needed it most.  I’ve been an educator for almost 40 years, including 10 years in various principal positions and been a school superintendent for 23 years. I’m well acquainted with the challenges (and benefits) of leading organizations that work with young people. All that just to say that my appreciation is knowledgeable and deep.”

“I graduated from (program name withheld)  back in 89. I was 14 and extremely angry. Today, I am 34 and am living life. Thanks to my Godly big Sis at (program name withheld) I am a changed person. It was a long year and a half that I spent, but I think it was time very well spent. I’m not sure where I would be today if it had not been for my (program name withheld)  experience. The relationships that I developed that year have lasted and will last a lifetime. I wanted to draw close to God, because I saw a glimpse of him in the way my Big Sister and House Director related to me. They made God very attractive. Thank you to all of the staff at SW and for the sacrifices you make every day!”

“I graduated (program name withheld)  in ’95 and am a better woman thanks to all the caring people there! Thank God for this place!”

“In spite of this painful period, we would make the same decision again because not only has our teen benefited, but each one of us has grown spiritually as a result of participating in the process. We are without a doubt, a better, happier family.”

 “(program name withheld)  saved our daughter’s life, gave her back to us renewed.”

“Without (program name withheld) , I am not sure that I would be alive today.”

 “It is Lisa from (program name withheld)  92-93. I have been meaning to write you for a long time but time slipped by. I have been married for 9 years no kids yet. I have always wanted to say Thank you for what (program name withheld)  did for me. When I first came to (program name withheld)  I was really shy and did not express myself. I have many fond… memories of (program name withheld) . It really turned me into a great person. …the program really helped me. I now this is 16 years late in saying but again Thank you and I am glad to hear that it is still helping trouble kids out! Thanks again!”

“To be honest I thought that I didn’t like the place, but now that I’m gone I can’t believe how much fun I had with everyone… unfortunately, I didn’t get to finish the program…but I still think it’s a great place for guys and girls to get our acts together.”

“Teenagers are not especially well behaved when they are not getting what they want, and I was no exception. I was an abrasive, dishonest, eating-disordered teenager who stopped at nothing to get what she wanted. I wanted to graduate with my class, to be in the senior theatre production, to call my best friend, and none of those plans included a flight to (program name withheld) . My parents, however, knew what I needed, and I thank them every day for providing me with it despite my efforts to make them miserable in their decisions. I wonder now how long I would have lasted without their guidance. (Not very long.) I will always aspire to show love like they did, and I can only hope that I can reciprocate the incredible caring that I found there, even when I least appreciated it. I only wish I could give the “If I knew then what I know now…” speech to every struggling teenager I see. (program name withheld)  is an amazing opportunity for a lot of teens to learn these life lessons in a safe environment, instead of learning the hard way in their adult life. While this seems like a hard decision in high school, it has the potential to save so much pain and heartache. I cannot tell you how much I love and respect my parents for making the hard choice to put me on that plane. (Really. I promise)

“God has blessed my life now with incredible healing that I could never imagine nor deserve. I love telling people about how my life has changed since then, and give the glory to God and those who do his work, which I can wholeheartedly say personifies those at (program name withheld) . I graduate college next year, and I can’t wait to work in ministry and change lives to the extent that mine has been changed.”

Andrew Nyakana:  His stint at (program name withheld out of dear of reprisals) left an indelible memory and improved his career trajectory. He went on to earn his BA in Sociology from the University of Nevada, worked for Big Brothers Big Sisters, and is now in a dual program studying to earn a Master of Public Health (MPH) and Master of Business (MBA) from Benedict University, a distance learning program. (Link to the rest at

Katy Kustos:  I can testify that there is an enormous need for programs like this one and a need for public understanding of their benefits. Moving to the (program name withheld out of dear of reprisals) gave me tremendous opportunities. I lived in a stable environment where there were three meals every day, household chores to teach me responsibility, and houseparents that consistently showed me they loved me. I attended school and I was involved in school activities that contributed to who I am today. I lived in a safe environment without fear of verbal, physical, or emotional abuse. (Link to the rest at

Larry Kelley: Simple words of inspiration at the (program name withheld out of dear of reprisals) made a lifetime of difference to me: “I love you. I am proud of you. You’re doing a good job. I am so glad you’re part of this family. What can I do to help?” I learned that parents have the responsibility to show children that it is not normal for a father to abuse his wife or his children. For their children, parents should provide food, clothing, education, and especially a safe and loving home.

From the example of the family setting I learned invaluable parenting skills. My son has never been hungry, unloved, unwanted, nor has he doubted that he could fulfill his dreams because of a limited level of education. Because I was cared for my son has what it takes to make his dreams become reality. Residential education programs may not always produce CEOs, but they do produce happier families. From those families come even more successful individuals, like my son. (Link to the rest at

 Pat Kelly: My mother struggled as a single mom raising three children – me and my two older siblings. We stayed with family members for several years, but eventually it became too tough. In 1952, my brother was placed at (program name withheld out of dear of reprisals). He was eight years old, the minimum age for enrollment. Although I was only five years old at the time, under the minimum age requirement, the Home made an exception for me so that I could live with my brother. I spent the next thirteen and a half years at what became my home. I believe giving back to my community is one of the most important things I can do. The loving, dedicated people at my residential education program shaped my life profoundly. I still keep in touch with Pop Hazelgrove (who I visit in the hospital), Pop Woods, other staff, and classmates with whom I have regular reunions in Richmond. Never forgetting the many opportunities I was provided, I created the Boys Home Foundation in 1999 to financially support the Home I grew up in and other residential education programs that are impacting the lives of at-risk children. (For the entire article go to:

Kelly Mills: I remember when I first arrived at (program name withheld out of dear of reprisals) – the “permanent placement” that I transferred to after my stay at the emergency shelter the summer before my junior year of high school. I had interviewed at two residential programs, and felt drawn to this program. As I stepped onto the Farm for the first time, it felt surreal. I thought, “People can’t really be this nice!” It took me awhile to adjust to this new environment and to realize that I could trust the people that would become my new family. I lived with married houseparents who taught me how to be cared for and how to care for others. Having never lived in a functional family environment, it was critical that I experienced what healthy family life could be. While we received unconditional love, we were also taught discipline. This had a huge impact on me as I had never experienced a form of discipline that was consistent, predictable, and done in love. As far as my education, I received individual attention and encouragement that later helped me attain my college diploma. (Link to the rest at

Dr. Herbert M. Turner, III: My life journey really began when my father decided to leave our home in West Philadelphia in 1970. His leaving had an indelible impact on my psyche, and left an emotional void that took me more than a decade to fill. It left my mother in dire straits financially. Moreover, at that time, the streets of West Philadelphia were controlled by gangs which made it a very perilous place to grow up as a young boy. Still, I remember that day—as if it were yesterday—in 1971 when, as a fourth grader, I was playing outside (a group of thugs had stopped me a few weeks before and gave me the option of either giving them my watch or taking a beating) and my mother asked me, “Would you like to go to (program name withheld out of dear of reprisals)?” I said “yes.” I also remember the day when, at the half way point of the 180 mile drive to (program name withheld out of dear of reprisals), the car we were riding in broke down. As the tow truck came, I asked my mother, “Are we still going?”

Educationally, I recently completed my doctorate in Education on the prestigious Fontaine Fellowship at an Ivy League School – the University of Pennsylvania (PENN). Professionally, I am the Scientific Research Project Director for the International Campbell Collaboration, which endeavors to ascertain what sociological, psychological, educational, and criminological interventions work through the rigorous quantitative synthesis of the existing research base. Through the Campbell Collaboration, I have developed an international network of brilliant colleagues along with the opportunity to travel internationally. I am also a graduate level instructor of research methods at PENN. I own a home in Bucks County, have been married for seven years to the love of my life, Annette Turner, and I have two sons, ages 6 and 8. Spiritually, I teach Bible study on Wednesday evenings and attend church with my family on Sunday on a regular basis, just as I was taught.

In sum, I am living my dream because of what I learned at (program name withheld out of dear of reprisals). Residential education is intimate, personal, and at times a very intense interaction among students, teachers, and staff. As a student, it is a home away from home. Residential education students, teachers, and staff are like family in many ways. Students learn as much from their peers as they do from teachers and staff. Students live, study, argue, laugh, and cry together. (Link to the rest at

Michael Jones: I currently am finishing my freshman year at New York University, where I am studying international affairs. I would not be where I am today without the help and influence of the caring staff, teachers, and houseparents at (program name withheld out of dear of reprisals). What is so amazing is that for any other person, there are roadblocks to the things I have done and want to do. For me, these roadblocks just kind of disappeared and I am free to go where I want to go. It gave me these opportunities. (Link to the rest at: