If you have arrived at this page, we assume that you’re are interested in The Family Foundation School and that you may have read some of the smear campaign that exists on the web about us. If not, a thorough search of the internet will unearth it. You need to sort out these claims. We are now telling you our side of this story.
Who evaluates and monitors the practices of the Family Foundation School including advertising?
· The Joint Commission for Behavioral Health Care
· The Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges
· The New York State Department of Education
Who evaluates and monitors their web sites?
· No One
Who are these critics?
A small group of disgruntled former students seem to be fueling the issue. Through their web page and FaceBook page, they have solicited more “testimony.” To the extent that we can count individual voices the complaints are about 1.6% of our more than 3000 students ever placed in our care.
We are constrained by both personal and professional ethics from commenting directly on the issues that brought these students to us. We would point out the obvious. We work with students who have behavioral difficulties including substance abuse, oppositional defiance, depression, and bi-polar disorder. No one working with this population can claim 100% success.
What about that Congressional Investigation?
There was no investigation into the Family Foundation School. There was a legislative hearing in support of a bill regulating residential treatment at which one of our alumni volunteered his testimony. He had been working with a advocacy group called CAFETY which had lobbied for the bill. As is common in such hearings there was no rebuttal or chance for cross examination.
At about the time he graduated, Cornell University developed Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (TCI). TCI is a series of techniques to deescalate crises and failing that to safely restrain residents who threaten themselves or others. The Family Foundation School was an early adopter of this program. Since 2000, we have required all direct care staff to become certified in this approach. We support two TCI trainers on our staff.
Why do these alumni feel so strongly?
That’s not a question we can answer. The work we do is intense. We ask students to adopt some values that are not part of the current youth culture. If a student has started a recovery, and then slips back into old behaviors, the personal contradictions can be very painful. Reordering the past to relieve this cognitive dissonance is a possible outcome.
Also residential treatment is not inexpensive. Parents have often used college money and even trust funds left by grandparents to pay for college in order to attempt to get their children help. Twenty-somethings burdened with college debt may really resent this loss of capital.
Finally we have a bandwagon effect. These alumni repeat their “truth” to each other. The distortions of memory are intensified and emotions build. They convince each other.
Why don’t you sue for slander or libel?
The internet is the new Wild West. The laws governing its use and misuse are few and far between. We’d love our day in a fair court with real rules. The best legal advice we can get says that in any case of “internet speech” all the advantageous go to the libeler. We are trying to help families and will not waste resources in futile battles.
Like many others we underestimated the power of the new social media. Tactics like we are experiencing are common in the political world. Look at the White House, during the election no one had a better handle on social media than the Obama campaign. When Sarah Palin made her remarks about “death committees” as part the health care bill, everyone at the White House thought that it was so obvious an absurdity that they need not refute it. But conservative tweeted and blogged enough to get it taken seriously. The liberal camp does the same thing to mobilize public support. During the Bush years both personal and policy attacks were relentless from groups like moveon.org. Passion and repetition give lies life on the internet. Our only defense is a reply like this one.
How have you responded to Alumni?
In 2006, at our founder’s 50th wedding anniversary, we had an Alumni reunion. At that time we talked with many who had mixed feelings about the school. We listened carefully to them, apologized when appropriate, and took their criticism to heart. Alumni input has made us a better school.
We have met face to face with three of the four leaders of the disgruntled alumni and have talked with many that offer “testimony” on their website. Some have genuinely responded with a desire to work through their feelings toward us and have even adjusted their comments accordingly. For others, it is clear that nothing we can do other than close the school will satisfy them.
All other alumni have an open invitation to return and easy phone or email access to staff members. We form strong attachments to many of our students that do not disappear at graduation.
What are our policies concerning student behavior?
We provide a safe, structured environment. Like any social order we have rules and consequences. Parents seriously interested in entering their child in the school will find full discussion of our policies through our admissions process. There is no need to present them here. We need to note that all of the practices are reviewed by our accrediting bodies and that they interview students during their site surveys. Additionally, complaints from the smear campaign have reached Child Protective Services in New York. None of these went further than a preliminary investigation. These findings of course lead the smear campaign to claim that all of these bodies are incompetent since they disagree with the intent of the campaign. As Brian Lombroski, President of CAFETY has expressed his opinion regarding The Joint Commission: “it’s pretty meaningless without licensure. Better that you have it than not, but it’s kind of like having nice rims on the tires without doing anything to the engine when you’re trying to sell something.”
What should you do?
The decision to send a child to a residential school is a serious one. Read the material carefully. Remember how each side is held accountable.
Mostly we urge to come visit us with open eyes, open ears, and an open heart. If what you see, hear, and feel gives you hope, we would love to work with your family.
Turning Lives Around…
Some Context to the Smear Campaign (from the comments below)
Thanks for addressing the many lies and distortions being propagated by the alleged Truth campaign.
It is common knowledge that the campaign was started by a family member of mine who disagreed with my parental decision to enroll my daughters at the Family School. This family member has no children of her own, and maintained at best a superficial relationship with my children. She is estranged from her siblings and parents, who are all supportive of my decision to provide my daughters with the best help I could find. I can only describe my sibling’s behavior in pursuing and funding this campaign as disturbed and out of touch with reality. It is indeed unfortunate, both for the sibling and the apparently troubled individuals who choose to follow her lead.
The Family School helped my daughters turn their lives around and rebuild relationships between them and with me. They successfully transitioned from the school in June 2009 – one to a top-notch college and other to a top-notch prep school.
With my parents, friends, and partner, I spent perhaps hundreds of hours at the Family School during the 18 month period my daughters were enrolled there. I attended countless table topics, many sports events, choral performances, picnics -in short, with two daughters at the school and the many opportunities for parental involvement, I felt Family School was my second home for those 18 months. Every visit left me feeling that my daughters we receiving the best possible support, care, love and guidance available anywhere. On top of that, they received an excellent high school education.
My gratitude for the Family School is immense. I am an attorney and dedicated mom who left no stone unturned in trying to find the best therapeutic program anywhere to help my daughters. I searched from Vermont to Hawaii, making personal visits to several schools. No where did I find the unique opportunities offered at the Family School.
The Family School was undoubtedly the best thing I could have done for my daughters, and indeed my family. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart, and know that the truth will prevail – it always does. I pray that the troubled individuals relentlessly pursuing the anti-Family School campaign will find peace and move on with their lives, rather than remain stuck in their torrent of anger, denial, and confusion.
Peace to all.
Return to Index: The Family Foundation School Responds to its Critics