Mark Terrell, CEO: Stop the legacy of child abuse at Lifeline's boarding schools
Aug 27, 2012 —
I understand that you have questions and concerns regarding the programs now housed in the facilities that were once known as “Escuela Caribe.” I would like to take this opportunity to address those questions and concerns as proposed in your petition.
Question: Do you require students to "earn" back their freedom by asking permission to sit, stand, walk from room to room, begin eating, etc?
Answer: It never has been and it never will be the policy/practice of Lifeline and Crosswinds to require children to "earn" back their freedom by asking permission to sit, stand, walk from room to room, begin eating, etc. Our programming focuses on positive reinforcement to motivate youth to advance and succeed.
Statement: Extended solitary confinement, the “Quiet Room” should never be used for more than an hour at a time and should only be used for children who pose an immediate threat to themselves or others. It should not be used as a punishment.
Answer: Extended solitary confinement never has been and never will be the policy/practice of Lifeline and Crosswinds. We agree that confinement should never be used for punishment and should only be used for the safety of the child.
Question: Do your staff physically intimidate students by slamming them into walls, also known as “body slamming?”
Answer: It never has been and it never will be the policy/practice of Lifeline and Crosswinds to physically intimidate students in any manner including slamming them into walls, also known as “body slamming.” Furthermore, we would immediately dismiss any staff who physically assaults a child.
Question: Do you censor student communications, including all mail, phone, and Internet conversations?
Answer: Students are encouraged to create and maintain positive relationships with others. Students are able to make calls to and from any person on an “Approved Contact List,” this list will be determined with input from the parent/guardian and the therapeutic team. Crosswinds policy allows a minimum of 10 minutes of each phone call to be uncensored. The remaining time is censored to ensure that the conversation is not detrimental to the treatment of the child or parent. As part of the therapeutic process students review all written communication with their counselor.
Question: Do you practice “Rock support,” which forces children to carry rocks in their pockets and count them before speaking?
Answer: It never has been and it never will be the policy/practice of Lifeline and Crosswinds to force children to carry rocks in their pockets and count them before speaking. Our goal is not to make a child conform or comply to certain behaviors, but rather to help them see the value of making good choices so they want to make good choices. We encourage good choices by “catching them doing something right,” which leads to praise and level advancement.
Question: Do you require “Push-up support,” which requires children to do push-ups before entering a room?
Answer: It never has been and it never will be the policy/practice of Lifeline and Crosswinds to require children to do push-ups before entering a room. Again, our program focuses on positive reinforcement.
Question: Do you practice “Silence support,” forbidding children from speaking to anyone?
Answer: It never has been and it never will be the policy/practice of Lifeline and Crosswinds to forbid children from speaking to anyone. We believe that forced behavior is not changed behavior and not being able to speak to anyone serves no value.
Question: Do you practice “Bucket support,” forcing children to defecate and urinate in a bucket?
Answer: It never has been and it never will be the policy/practice of Lifeline and Crosswinds to force children to defecate and urinate in a bucket and we are appalled that any organization would consider using this practice.
Statement: Hire licensed therapists as counseling staff.
Response: We have a master’s level counselor supervised by two licensed counselors and each case is reviewed on a weekly basis by this team.
Statement: Immediately terminate all Caribbean Mountain Academy staff members who worked for Escuela Caribe. Escuela Caribe staff members were aware of the chronic child abuse at the campus but failed to stop or report it. We deem them unfit to work with children.
Response: All staff that are currently employed by Crosswinds went through a thorough interview process with background checks. We feel that each of our staff members are exceptional individuals and will make a positive and lasting impact on every child in their care. Yet, we are more than open to terminating any employee where evidence can show that they abused a child or failed to report abuse.
Question: Are parents allowed to have unlimited, private communication with their children who are at Caribbean Mountain Academy?
Answer: Crosswinds policy allows a minimum of 10 minutes of each phone call to be uncensored. The remaining time is censored to ensure that the conversation is not detrimental to the treatment of the child or parent.
Statement: Hire licensed teachers as teaching staff.
Response: We have a licensed teacher in the school.
Statement: Develop a staff rulebook delineating acceptable disciplinary measures and condemning abusive behaviors. Publish the staff rulebook on the school’s website.
Response: Neither Lifeline nor Crosswinds have ever condoned abusive behaviors by staff. Our policy always has been and always will be to treat students with dignity and respect. The staff rule book delineating acceptable disciplinary measures supports this philosophy. (A copy of the Staff Rule Book will be published on the Crosswinds website.)
Statement: Write up and evaluate all restraints of students.
Response: Lifeline and Crosswinds policies have always included thorough documentation and review of all restraints of students. In addition, all restraints are reviewed and evaluated by our Risk Review Committee.
Statement: Create a system allowing students to lodge complaints about mistreatment without fear of repercussions.
Response: We have two policies that address this issue and both are available upon request: The Whistleblowing policy (for staff) and the Clients rights policy (for residents). Each of these policies are in place currently at CMA, and are in effect to make sure that staff and residents are free to share their concerns about abuse and inappropriate staff behavior.
Statement: Allow an independent review board unrestricted access to the campus and students to ensure children’s rights are being respected.
Response: We currently have this system in place for our facilities in Indiana. We would be open to discussing how this could happen at Caribbean Mountain Academy and any facility we operate.
Statement: Stop holding students past their 18th birthdays—the age U.S. citizens are considered legal adults, free of parental control.
Response: Crosswinds has never and will never hold a child against their will past their 18th birthday. However, if a child requests on his/her own accord to continue services past their 18th birthday, Crosswinds will consider doing so on a case-by-case basis.
In closing, it is important to note that Lifeline and Crosswinds have no legacy of abuse. We desire to have open dialogue with anyone who wants to help children and families. We cannot take responsibility for the past but we are willing to learn from it.
If you have any additional questions please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition, we would like you to consider joining us for an open dialogue via webinar on Wednesday, September 5, 2012 (Details will be posted on our Facebook page in the coming weeks). This will be an opportunity for you to voice any other questions or concerns you may have, as well as any suggestions you might have based on your own experiences.