Mother says KIDS used ‘emotional blackmail’ to keep her children
There is remorse in *** voice when she talks about how she gave up her only two children to strangers. *** was 13 and *** was 16 three years ago when *** enrolled them in KIDS of Bergen County in New Jersey. That program is affiliated with KIDS of America, the parent program of KIDS of El Paso County Inc. The *** transferred to the El Paso center when it opened in February 1986. KIDS of Bergen County, like KIDS of El Paso, offered treatment and rehabilitation for young people with drug and behavioral problems and eating disorders. The programs, modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous, are under fire for their methods. Officials of the local program in the past have conceded they run a "rough" program. However, the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, a state licensing agency, recently released the results of a nearly yearlong investigation that found KIDS of El Paso to be in violation of 56 rules. The center will close April 12 unless it corrects its deficiencies, the commission has decided. Program directors have not returned numerous telephone calls from the *** during the past week to discuss the investigation. *** said her children were the victims of treatment the commission has ruled as inhumane and abusive. *** and *** were allegedly forced to strip to their underwear and sleep with other teenagers on the floor. They were yelled at and exposed to diseases, and *** was beaten at times, *** said. "It was worse than any prison," *** said. "It was a nightmare," *** said her children were in the program for drug problems. "I don't know how I could have put my, children through something like that, ' she said bitterly. “My friend told me about the program. . . She said it worked fine, . . . I thought it was the right thing to do then." The *** family was one of six El Paso families that raised money to help open KIDS of El Paso, *** said. After watching the program operate, "it scared the living daylights out of me” she said. Parents are discouraged from discussing or questioning the program's methods, she said, adding that the KIDS staff "emotionally blackmailed" her to keep her children in the program. *** ran away from the program in November 1986, and *** was disqualified later."They told me my children would die if I pulled them out, but they didn't," the 38-year-old woman said. *** recently received a certificate for "Most Improved Academic Performance" at school, and *** will graduate next week from the U.S. Coast Guard training in Cape May, N.J. "He is one of the top five graduates out of 80," said ***. Clients of the five-phase program are stripped of all their rights when they first enroll. As they progress, they earn certain rights, such as the right to speak to their parents after the first 14 days, or return home or to school according to the program directors. In the second phase, the clients take about five of the program's newcomers home to supervise. *** home was a host home when *** reached the second phase she said. "One Sunday, we had 24 kids in our home it was like a three-ring circus. Crash, bang, scream. One kid was standing in the corner and others around him were yelling and beating him. "There is no control. It was scary to see my 15-year-old daughter was in charge of five lives, and there was no trained staff person there to see that things didn't get out of hand," *** said. A year and a half and $40,000 after they signed up with KIDS, the family was "free," *** said. "They brainwash you," said ***, now a sophomore at Loretto Academy. "They make you go crazy. They control and direct you in every way."
CRISIS AT KIDS OF EL PASO, INC.
- KIDS OF El Paso Inc. is a treatment and rehabilitation program for young people with drug, eating, or behavioral problems
- THE TEXAS commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse investigated the program for one year and have found 56 violations of rules.
- THERE HAVE been numerous complaints from clients and their families about abuse and mistreatment of those enrolled in the program.
- THE COMMISSION has decided that KIDS of El Paso must shut down its operation by April 12 unless it brings itself back in line with regulations.