Alumni Questionnaire ← Back to Index
What is your name?
To which institutions were you sent?
Escuela Caribe (Dominican Republic)
Missanabie Woods Academy (Ontario, Canada)
New Horizons Academy (Marion, Indiana)
How old were you?
16 to 18
When were you enrolled in The Program?
Escuela Caribe - September 1988 to June 1989
Missanabie Woods Academy - June 1989 to August 1989
New Horizons Academy - August 1989 to May 1990
What was the highest level you attained?
4th level - Off points
Please describe the circumstances that got you sent to The Program:
Depression + Ditching + Drinking = Dominican Dungeon … Damn!
I had never been arrested or convicted of any crime.
In which house(s) did you live?
Escuela Caribe - Huyck House
Missanabie Woods Academy - Cabin 4?
New Horizons Academy - Lare House
Please describe instances of abuse you experienced while in the program, if any:
I experienced literally hundreds of instances of abuse. Extreme abuse occurred in all three programs (D.R., Canada, Indiana). Here are a few of the things I experienced:
On my first day, I was strip searched by two staff in the school bathroom. I was ordered to remove all my clothes, display my genitals for inspection, bend over, grab my ankles and jump up and down repeatedly. This was after my body and belongings had already been thoroughly searched by these staff for about 1 hour. I was forced to shower using only freezing water almost every day for nearly a year. For my first few weeks in the program, I had to submit to a "soapiness" check during every shower where I had to display my genitals and spread my butt cheeks for inspection in order to get permission to rinse. I had to ask to use the restroom, and this request was sometimes denied. I had to defecate or urinate while a staff member or high ranking student "supervised" by staring at me from a few feet away. I was forced to sleep in a bed with an adult student. My house father threatened to handcuff me to my bed. I had my clothing confiscated and was forced to sleep nude in a tent with several other nude boys. I was forced to disclose personal sexual information to staff and students in a group setting. I was forced to hug 7 different staff members every day for 7 days. I had to have them sign a paper that I carried around confirming that we had hugged. This treatment technique was called a "hug support". During a chapel service, we were all told by the founder and leader of The Program to masturbate and pray while we masturbated…
I was threatened several times with beatings by different staff members. Several times I was jumped from behind and pinned to the ground or pinned to the wall by staff for no reason other than shock and intimidation. I was struck from behind with a canoe paddle by staff as a "joke". I was punched several times in the shoulder by a staff member who was telling me to box him. I was given back rubs and neck rubs by a staff member (inappropriate in that setting). Twice, I was taken into the bathroom and screamed at by a staff member while he forced me up against the wall. He also made me do numerous push-ups on the bathroom floor while he yelled at me. He also poked me in the chest repeatedly. He also forced me to climb into a pit of rotting trash and compost and dig through it for perhaps 20 to 30 minutes. I was often woken up at night by the sounds of other students being abused. Several times, I was forced out of bed at night to do exercises in the living room or on the outdoor patio. Once, we were forced out of bed at night and made to do push-ups and remain in push-up position on the patio while staff dumped buckets of cold water on us. I was routinely threatened and intimidated by many different staff members…
The punitive exercises were sadistic and criminal in my opinion. I have been involved in athletics, fitness training and distance running for years, and I have never seen anything even close to the extreme level of exercise we experienced in The Program. During my stay, I was often forced to run and do other forms of excessive exercise, sometimes during the night, sometimes past the point of vomiting and collapse. These punitive exercise sessions would sometimes last over an hour. I don't remember ever being allowed to drink water during these sessions. I often felt dizzy and felt like I was going to pass out. It was literally torture, and the staff members involved should have been sent to prison for this. These exercises were sometimes done behind closed doors, but were sometimes done outdoors in full view of the entire campus, so all staff knew about these punishments, and are guilty in my opinion. Several times, I was forced to remain in push-up position for long periods of time, despite repeatedly collapsing onto my chest. I was also forced to hold my arms straight out to the sides until I could no longer keep them up and I would be bent over in severe pain. We often had to repeatedly run up a long and very steep hill (1/4 mile to 1/2 mile distance?). Each trip up the hill was called a "running a casita". I sometimes ran up the hill over and over for close to an hour straight. I saw other students run a lot more than that. Students would fall down and staff would scream at them to keep going. Sometimes, staff would chase kids up the hill on their motorcycles - that happened to me once. I also once had to run the bases of the baseball field one hundred times without stopping. It took over an hour, with no water break. Off campus, we were also forced to run a few times. We also had to routinely run sprints and do hundreds of squat thrusts, burpees, bear crawls and other forms of exercise. Also, I was frequently forced to do hundreds of push-ups per day. I once had to do 350-380 push-ups at one time because I accidentally left some of my clothes in the living room. One staff member bragged to me about a time he had forced a particularly troubled boy to do 1000 push-ups at one time. The punitive exercises and other forms of abuse in The Program were so common that I became immune to the sight and sounds of children in pain - I began to think of it as normal.
Also…I was told I could not leave until I was 21…I was told cops and embassy officials were friends of The Program and would simply return me if I escaped, and I would be severely punished…I witnessed cops returning kids who had run away…I heard of specific Indiana cops who were used by The Program as transporters…I was locked every night in a room with bars on the windows (fire hazard)…We were surrounded by barbed wire on a campus patrolled by at least one guard with a machete, dog, and gun (I was told it was a pellet gun…I don't know for sure)…I had my shoes confiscated at night so that I could not run away…I was forced to ignore the existence of outsiders, low-ranking students, students who were being punished, and female students…I was forced to regulate all emotions, speech, facial expressions, bodily functions, and movements (We needed permission to sit, stand, go up or down stairs, enter or leave any room, begin eating, etc)…I was not allowed to disagree with staff or report abuse…All communication with the outside world was censored, restricted, and monitored…I was forced to sing solos to large groups of staff and students in order to receive my mail…Our personal items were sometimes stolen by staff and sometimes given to other students…I was forced to repeat many classes I had already finished because of “missing transcripts”. I found my “missing transcripts” crumpled and partially buried in mud near the front gate of the campus, but it didn't matter - I had been told to drop the issue and accept that I had to repeat the courses…my bed and personal items were routinely torn apart and tossed on the floor…I was subjected to random and unnecessary searches of my clothing, body, and personal items…I was forced to jump off cliffs up to 40+ feet into rivers and a lake…I was physically punished for being unable to swim to my house father while I was trapped in a river…less than a year later, one of my fellow students drowned in that river…I was forced to listen to recorded sermons and recorded Christian music, read the Bible and pray and attend chapel and church services and memorize and recite Bible passages……Sleep deprivation…food deprivation (I was always hungry for my first 8.5 months in The Program). I also dealt with hard and unfair labor conditions, and very harsh and unsanitary living conditions…Also, I had many untreated or poorly treated medical and emotional problems during those 21 months such as: no routine medical check-ups by an outside doctor, no dental care, several cases of severe flu, fever, cramps and diarrhea (all ignored), two severe facial cuts (pressured not to seek treatment, so I didn't), severe constipation (went at least 7 days without a bowel movement, went untreated), rectal cyst that later required 3 or 4 days in the hospital (inadequately treated until it got worse) blisters (punished for it and told to ignore it), severe skin infection, severe foot pain for weeks (punished for it and told to ignore it), severe depression (punished for it), severe anxiety (punished for it), suicidal thoughts expressed to staff (ignored), severe knee injury (ignored), and severe eye infection (inadequately treated until it got worse)…we were taught to ignore the pain…some of these problems still bother me today more than 20 years later…and there were many other instances of abuse and neglect I experienced that I won't list here…
Describe abuse of other students you witnessed, if any:
I witnessed abuse of other students on a daily basis in all three locations. Again, I clearly saw and/or heard hundreds of cases of abuse. I also have some vague memories of horrible abuse that I will not even mention here, because the memories are not as clear. Here are a few of the things I witnessed:
One day, I heard the camp director yelling and threatening to beat up a boy. I was in a nearby classroom, but the windows were open. I then heard as the boy was beaten by several other students while the director “supervised” (he may have helped to beat the kid, as well, I don't know). Later, I saw the badly bruised and swollen face of the boy (who was a ward of the State of Indiana) as he held an ice pack to his head. One of his eyes was blackened and swollen completely shut. I saw several student-leaders (called Staff In Training or S.I.T.'s) at the camp discussing how they had beaten up the boy. One of these student-leaders had injured his hand while beating the boy…the boy who was beaten told me he was not supposed to talk about the beating…
On a different day, I watched the camp director smack a student in the head for having a “disrespectful” attitude. He did this in front of all the male staff members and male students at the camp. This camp director often threatened to hurt students and bragged that he had beaten up many students in the past…
Probably an average of two or three times a week, I heard the sound of students being whipped with a leather strap called “Mr. Brown”. There were often dozens of staff and students around, and all of us could hear the sound of these whippings. Several staff whipped students, but the whippings (aka “swats”) I heard were usually given by the director of The Program. Sometimes I would see two or three students waiting outside his office to be whipped. I would also hear the director yelling and sometimes the sounds of a struggle or of a body being slammed. Three different staff threatened me with these whippings in the D.R. and in Indiana. I was supposed to receive between 7 and 12 blows each time, but I was always given a different punishment instead. During shower time, I would see the damage done by the strap. The boys would have severe welts and bruises and would be in pain, but would do their best to hide it. Girls were also frequently whipped, almost always by male staff members…
Intimidation was very common in Indiana, the D.R. and Canada…I heard many staff members threaten to hurt students…I heard and saw dozens of “slam sessions”. During these sessions, students were slammed to the ground or were slammed into walls, doors, or furniture. I saw the director slam one boy into a wall and pin him by the throat, choking him before slamming him back to the ground. I was in push-up position a few feet away. Sometimes, these sessions would be at night, and it would be hard to sleep with all the violence going on nearby…
I saw approximately six students in solitary confinement (aka the “QR”) at different times. They were locked in the cell for anywhere from a few days to more than a week at a time. We were supposed to completely ignore their existence. I think they were in there 24/7 and had to toilet in a bucket. They had their clothes taken away and slept on the floor. There was no furniture or anything in there, it was just a bare concrete room. I was in there once, but only for one hour during a pat-down search of my body and belongings. Sometimes a kid would just disappear for a few days or a week or more, and I think that is usually where they went. We were not supposed to talk about it…
Everyday, I witnessed children (individually and in groups) doing punitive exercises, sometimes to the point of torture. Although usually milder in Canada and Indiana, this was a constant part of life in all three facilities…My first night in The Program, the boy in the bed next to me spent the night handcuffed to his bed. This may have gone on for more than one night…Also, students as young as 11 were housed in the same rooms as adult students who were 18 or 19. In each house, we were all locked in the same room at night with no staff supervision, so the younger boys and girls were easy targets for the older and adult students…Also, students who had reached the age of 18 were routinely held against their will in Canada and the Dominican Republic…We were told we could not leave the facilities until we were 21, except in Indiana, where we could leave at age 18. Our passports and tickets and cash and all documents were confiscated upon arrival…Several students told me that they had been awakened, restrained, and taken by force out of their homes by “transporters” (who were sometimes police officers). They were taken directly to one of the New Horizons Youth Ministries facilities, sometimes straight to the Dominican Republic…Most of the students I knew at New Horizons Youth Ministries had never been arrested or convicted of any crimes…
I saw a student who couldn't swim get forced off of a 40 foot cliff into the lake…
I saw and experienced numerous incidents of public humiliation used as punishment and behavior modification…
When out in the community, low ranking students were not allowed to communicate with any outsiders. We were not allowed to respond to questions or even make eye contact…
There was no religious freedom. All students were forced to follow The Program's version of Christianity, and it was a very conservative Protestant perspective…Students of other faiths, or students who did not conform to the same beliefs were harassed and had a much more difficult time progressing through the levels…Many students were forced to fake religious experiences and conversions…There was constant brainwashing and indoctrination backed up by the use of force…There was a lot of discrimination and psychological abuse…I heard threats and derogatory comments made to students who may have been gay or lesbian…I heard derogatory comments made to a black student, who was also forced by staff to alter his speech pattern and the way he pronounced certain words…I witnessed a student who was forced to keep from stuttering under threat of punishment…I witnessed several students who were banned from speaking or making any sound 24 hours a day for weeks. This was called “silence support”…There was also “rock support”…“bed support”…“hug support”…“square meal support”…“pushup support”…“bucket support”…and many other “supports” that were cruel and abusive behavior modification techniques…There was extreme sexism and males and females were forced to comply with rigid rules and patterns of behavior based on their gender…All forms of media and communication with the outside world (including family) were completely restricted, monitored and censored, so parents almost always had no idea of the abuse…Abuse was carefully hidden when visitors were on any of the campuses, and we were warned not to be “negative” about The Program…in other words, we were not to disclose any abuse…
I also learned of six different staff members from my time who had sexually molested students while in The Program. To my knowledge, only three of these staff were ever fired. The other three were simply moved from house to house. This doesn't even include the staff members who subjected us to all the forced nudity and body inspections I mentioned earlier. I suspect there were other cases of sexual abuse that went unreported, because we were told not to question the "authority" of staff members.
Do you have any good memories of The Program? If so, what are they?
Despite the abuse, I have a lot of good memories of all three locations. I saw a lot of natural beauty and had fun experiences in Indiana, Canada, and the Dominican Republic. My best memories are of the friendships and laughs I had with many other students while I was there. I will always feel a strong bond with the other students…even the current students and the hundreds of former students that I have never met.
What is your overall impression of The Program? Did it “help you”?
It was a horrible experience. New Horizons Youth Ministries should have been shut down by the government and had all of their property and assets taken away many years ago. Many of the staff members should have spent years in prison. The Program helped me a little, but it hurt me a lot, and it still hurts.
What do you think of the quality of education you received?
It was not that good, but at the time I didn't really care, because we were generally not abused while we were in class. The classroom was a bit of a sanctuary, where we could almost relax for a few hours without being abused. For that reason, I hated to leave class each day, but I didn't care about learning, I cared only about surviving and getting out of The Program. There was a lot of Christian propaganda in the curriculum that I did not care for. A lot of the education was stuff I wish I never learned. I learned a lot of bad things in The Program that I have tried to unlearn over the years.
How old are you today?
40 years old.
Did you go to college after attending The Program? If so, what degrees do you have?
Yes, I have a Bachelors degree (B.A.) and a Masters degree (M.S.W.) in Social Work.
What is your profession?
I have done many different types of work over the years. I am currently working mostly as a father and child advocate.
Do you consider yourself a Christian today?
Yes, I am a follower of Jesus Christ, but my beliefs are very different than the “Christianity” I experienced in The Program.
What effect did “The Program” have on your faith?
I was raised in a very strict, conservative Christian home. It was a difficult environment for a child. In addition to my other problems, I was suffering from compulsive religious behaviors (i.e. praying hundreds of times a day) when I entered The Program. The Program made this and many other issues worse, and I struggled with these challenges for years after leaving New Horizons Youth Ministries. I still struggle a lot, and it is partly because of the trauma of The Program. It was very damaging to my faith, but fortunately I think I have been able to overcome most of the negative effects The Program had on my faith and religion.
Please feel free to add comments here:
I have been disgusted and angered by the hypocrisy and denial that has been demonstrated over the years by many New Horizons Youth Ministries staff and administrators. There seems to have been a pervasive “code of silence” on the part of staff for many years. I have never seen a serious apology or any serious effort at reconciliation. Instead, I have seen defensiveness, denial, outright lies, and attacks on those who have had the courage to disclose that they were abused and neglected.
These facilities are still being used as residential treatment centers for “troubled” children. Abuse continued for decades after I left. Abuse has been documented as recently as 2009, but it is hard to know if it is still continuing, because there is currently a very poor system of accountability and oversight. In 2011, all the assets of New Horizons Youth Ministries were donated to another Indiana “faith-based” nonprofit called Lifeline Youth and Family Services. Lifeline has changed the name of the New Horizons programs to “Crosswinds”, but they have retained many former New Horizons staff members, some of whom witnessed and may have participated in child abuse (and failed to properly report it). Lifeline Youth and Family Services programs appear eerily similar to New Horizons programs. Lifeline appears to publicly claim that they are completely different. Lifeline appears to publicly deny and attempt to hide nearly every connection they have with New Horizons. Privately, it appears that Lifeline is maintaining many of these connections. Despite several alumni requests, Lifeline has failed to show how their programs are different than the abusive programs of New Horizons Youth Ministries. The fact that they employ the same staff (while hiding the fact that these people used to work for New Horizons) is very troubling. I fear that the code of silence and ignorance and denial is continuing with Lifeline Youth and Family Services, and I am very concerned about the welfare of the current students.
New Horizons Youth Ministries abused children for approximately 40 years. They were extremely good at hiding the thousands of incidents of child abuse that they perpetrated. I have seen estimates that as many as 4,000 children may have been housed over the years in their various facilities. The U.S. government, the State Department, the Dominican government, the Canadian government, and the State of Indiana failed to adequately protect these children. These entities need to closely watch Lifeline Youth and Family Services and their Crosswinds programs to assure that these campuses are no longer abusive facilities. Nobody did a good job of checking on our well-being, and these government entities should be ashamed of that. There needs to be a system where U.S. companies who own abusive facilities on foreign soil can still be held responsible in the United States. It seems that Indiana does not properly monitor children in residential care who have been privately placed by parents or guardians. Indiana seems to be especially negligent when it comes to monitoring private “faith-based” homes for children. This is a huge hole in the child protection system, and allows private nonprofits with privately placed children to easily get away with child abuse and neglect. This needs to stop.
I am aware of approximately 10 students that I knew in The Program who are now dead…One student drowned while he was in The Program…The students I knew who have passed were all in their early 40s or younger when they died…murders, suicides, drugs, diseases, car wrecks…I hold The Program partially responsible for their deaths, because I think the trauma we experienced shortened their lives…Many students who I didn't know have also died…all of them far too young.
I have had a hard life since leaving The Program. I have had a lot of struggles. The trauma of The Program has damaged me in many ways. Yet, I have also had a wonderful life filled with a lot of joy. Every day is a new day and I try to make the best of it.
I was brainwashed, and I denied this abuse and stuffed these feelings inside for many years, even though I was a social worker and worked in residential facilities with abused children. It has only been in recent years that I have openly dealt with all of this. I have forgiven the abusers, but I am still angry and I am still healing. As someone pointed out to me recently, there is a difference between forgiveness and healing. I don't want revenge, but I do want justice. I want redemption and reconciliation. I realize it may never come, but the hope is always there…I encourage all former staff members to be honest with themselves and others about what really happened at New Horizons Youth Ministries…It is never to late to change your ways and seek redemption…but the first step is to acknowledge the abuse and end the shameful legacy of denial…
Also, where did all the money go? The parents and the States that sent children to the facilities were deceived by The Program and paid up to $6,000+ per month for our care. Multiply that by 12 months for 40 years for hundreds if not thousands of students and add the many donations this “ministry” received over the years. That is a lot of money, millions and millions of dollars. Where is it? Many of the buildings owned by New Horizons were constructed using mostly the slave labor of students. Staff were paid very little, and both staff and student living conditions were modest to put it nicely. They were a tax-exempt non-profit. Where did all the money go? I suspect fraud and greed and corruption may have a lot to do with it.
Several of the men who severely abused me and others are now working as therapists and at Christian universities. I am still deciding how to deal with that knowledge, but it bothers me a great deal. I hold most, if not all, of the staff members I knew (except Jim and Theresa) at least partially responsible for the abuse at New Horizons, because they all saw at least some form of abuse, yet they continued to work there and did not properly report it. The staff members who worked there for many years are especially guilty. The following men deserve special recognition for the things they did to me and/or for things I witnessed them do to other students:
Charles Philip Redwine aka Phil Redwine aka Chuck Redwine severely abused me and other students.
Budd Teare severely abused me and other students.
Mike Harmon severely abused me and other students.
Gary Martens severely abused me and other students.
Mark McReynolds severely abused me other students.
I would appreciate a sincere apology from these men and from any other staff member who wishes to apologize. A public apology to all former students and their parents or guardians would also be appropriate.