Why I Believe Dundee Ranch Academy was the Wrong School for My Twin Boys
January 26, 2003
Before I explain why Dundee Ranch Academy was the wrong school for my boys let me say that I am not in denial of the fact that my boys did need help and I am not in denial as to the fact that they still do today.
Here is my experience with Dundee and why I felt the need to pull my boys from this "program."
When I found out my boys were sent to Dundee Ranch Academy in Costa Rica I was concerned. I began to do some independent information gathering. I wanted to make an informed decision as to whether or not I was in an agreement with the program chosen and be sure that it had the resources necessary to help my boys. I first began reviewing the information provided on the internet website for the WWASP schools and the website for Dundee itself. I followed that up by directly contacting the school. I emailed the director asking him to provide me with information on the school's employees. I wanted to know things like: where they had worked previously, how long they had worked with teens in crisis, how they were trained, what their specific credentials were and whether they did criminal background checks on all individuals who had contact with the teens. (The school does credit checks on the parents, why should I not be able to have criminal background checks done on the employees?) The reply that I received back from the director at Dundee, Joe, was that he did not have time to provide me with that information. He suggested that I look again at Dundee's website. I explained to him that I needed information, and not just boiler plate information, but specific information on the individuals who worked with the boys on a day to day basis and who were responsible for their well-being. I believe as a parent it was not only my right to have access to this information but my responsibility. Needless to say, after many requests, I was never provided with any information from Joe.
I then heard a story about a very serious incident that occurred at Dundee. I heard that as a result of the incident there were employees who had been fired. I emailed Joe, the director, and Ken Kay to see if they could either confirm the incident or deny it. I asked them why certain employees were not longer employed by Dundee. Neither one would address my question. Why? Don't parents have a right to know? If there is an explanation why would they not be willing to provide it?
The next thing I did was to have my attorney get me a copy of the enrollment agreement that had been signed. The first thing that I noticed that did not seem right was that the cover page of the enrollment agreement stated that "if joint custody both parents must sign." Well my case is and was a joint custody case and yet I never signed anything. I had never even seen the agreement. Anyway, I began to read over it. What I gathered from reading the contract was that it was written to protect the school and all affiliates and not the teens. I decided to have it looked at by a licensed clinical social worker. I wanted the opinion of a professional. I took it to an individual who has worked with Boys Town for over 10 years. This individual has had experience working with at risk teens and the credentials necessary for providing a professional opinion. This is what was pointed out by this professional:
1) By signing the agreement parents are signing over their right to what is known as in the States as "informed consent." (The right to be informed about all decisions relating to your child.)
2) The staff employed by Dundee are not professionals. These individuals who are responsible for the health and well-being of the children do not have to be qualified, trained or certified to provide the types of services that at risk teens need.
3) Teens were allowed to punish other teens. (Are these teens emotionally stable enough to punish other teens at lower levels? If so why are they still in the program? Wouldn't they or shouldn't they be able to go home if they are at a stage where they are emotionally stable enough to determine what is right or wrong for another student? Or, could it be that the students at higher level are cheap labor for the school?)
4) The school is not licensed or regulated by any outside agency that has the ability/power to monitor the methods and techniques that are being used in the school. (That will likely change now that the local authorities know that the school is there and that there are children there.)
There were many other red flags noted in the enrollment agreement. These were the ones that were the most concerning for me.
Children have to be protected. Information is vital for making informed decisions. They should never be isolated and not allowed to contact their parents. Even if they are the "manipulators" the school claims them to be. I would think that the very parents who lived with them for the first 12-18 years of their lives would be able to determine whether or not their child is being manipulative. There is nothing more important than communication between parent and child, direct open communication that is uncensored. If my child wants to vent or complain, then let them do that, I am an adult and I will decide whether or not it is something I need to be concerned with. I do not need someone who is 26 years old with degree in economics who has never had kids of his own telling me that my kids are manipulating me and that I should not have contact with them.