TB troubles very public

It is a shame to think that children continue to be sent to Tranquility Bay even though TB has made headline news with allegations of abuse and neglect and has been featured in two documentaries; one that aired in France, Lost Children of Tranquility Bay, and another that aired in Australia, The Cutting Edge, Tranquility Bay.

People around the world have shared their concerns and distress over what they saw.

In John Gorenfield’s January 23, 2006, article No More Nightmares at Tranquility Bay? Gorenfield said that as a teen at Tranquility Bay you can’t call home and can’t walk from room to room without a Jamaican chaperone.

You can be wrestled to the ground for talking out of turn while they twist and pull your limbs and grind your ankles.

Some of WWASP’s programs have been shut down on allegations of child abuse and neglect. In one of WWASP’s programs, High Impact, a WWASP affiliate in Mexico, which closed in 2002 after ‘dark stories emerged,’ teens said they were kept in dog cages.

Two parents, Chris Goodwin and Stephanie Hecker, told the Rocky Mountain News their children were made to lie in their underwear for three nights with fire ants roaming over them and were threatened with a cattle prod if they scratched.

These stories are told time and again. When will people start to listen? When will people realize they must do their homework before sending their child away?

One child recently lost his life. He was victimized at TB for nine months, during which time he was pepper sprayed multiple times a day, every day, according to news articles we have read and the Fox News report that aired in June 2005. It is easy to ask ourselves: ‘Could this really be happening to children?’ I asked that very question for months as I delved into a research project that has, for me, lasted for years.

I have interviewed hundreds of victims and their families and have seen there is a consistency in their stories – a consistency that is impossible for me to ignore. I would ask others to listen to these children with an open mind and with an open heart.

Layne Brown is gone and many of us who knew his family grieve with them. This child suffered at the hands of those who were supposed to be there to help him. And though it is hard to imagine that someone could abuse a child in this manner – pepper spraying him every day, multiple times a day, then at times putting him out in the sun causing chemical burns, taking a toilet brush and brushing his private area. We ask ourselves, ‘how could this happen to an American child by another American?’ We think of something like this happening in a concentration camp or to victims of war – not to our American children – children who experimented with drugs, stayed out late, weren’t excelling in school, and a myriad of other reasons children find themselves in programs like TB.

People generally do not want to believe this sort of thing happens. But unfortunately it has happened and children continue to complain of abusive practices in residential programs.

For me it became all too real the day I first saw the video of the man responsible for pepper spraying Layne all those months – Randall Hinton. He admits that yes, the child was pepper sprayed at least one time a day, and yes, it is safe to say he was pepper sprayed at least two times in a day. Fox News interviewed Layne and his mother, Terry Cameron, when he was still alive. It was disturbing to hear him tell of the abuse he suffered and of his mother telling about the negative way in which his experiences there impacted his life.

Layne is one of many. We have heard his story, and the stories of many others. Time and again we find consistency – it is hard to turn a deaf ear.

Our organization, the Coalition Against Institutionalized Child Abuse, strives to get the word out about abusive practices in residential facilities for children in an attempt that parents and those concerned about the well-being of children will be informed about what can and has gone on behind closed doors.

Not all programs are abusive. We understand that, but it is critical that people know what to look for, and more importantly, what to look out for. For more information, visit www.caica.org.

Isabelle Zehnder