Not long ago, I was interviewed by Michael Wilson for an article for the New York Times. He was investigating the Family Foundation School, the therapeutic boarding school where Charles attended in 2012. A teacher in New York had died from overdose in the bathroom who had attended the school which left bread crumbs back to the Family School.
In 2015, Charles was one of three deaths of alumni from the school that happened consecutively. Liz was first on May 31, 2015 and hers was an overdose. Followed by Charles which was a suicide on June 5, 2015 and then another teen who died in an alcohol related accident was mere weeks after Charles. The kids who went there were devastated by these back to back losses. Most of these kids had drug and alcohol. mental health and behavioral problems or all of the above prior to being accepted in the school. It pains me to read what may have happened at the school in the early 2000s. Heartbreaking. Shocking
As a desperate parent, it’s hard to know what to do and had I known any of this was true, I’d not have sent him there. I do think some, if not all, of this happened in the early 2000s well before Charles ever got there in 2012. Had this been going on when Charles was there, or had happened to him, I would have heard about it. Nobody complained about this school more than Charles. He was exceptionally angry with us for sending him away.
He and his counselor Rochelle were close and I mean that in a healthy, positive way. He trusted her and I did, too. I still do. She also respected his talent and encouraged him to keep writing.
When he took a turn for the worse and started backsliding, she was the first to call and tell us she thought the placement was no longer working for him which was a risk for her.
I don’t think it was the right placement for Charles and I talk about why in a lot more detail in my book so I’m not going to go into it all here. But policemen and people in power did abuse Charles along the way so I know abuse of vulnerable populations by people in power happens. A teen with an addiction is just not considered a viable witness and that is an opportunity to take advantage. And ask any mother raising a black male in this culture how fair things are.
The article is as follows and I’m quoted about midway.
Charles wrote this song that includes a lot about how he felt about the Family School, I Don’t Wanna Be a Patient.
‘It’s Like, Who’s Next?’: A Troubled School’s Alarming Death Rate
When four former students from the same school died within months of one another in 2015, it seemed random, a morbid coincidence. Then the number kept growing. At least seven more died the next year…… Read more
11 thoughts on “New York Times: The Family Foundation School”
This school tore me down and never built me back up. My parents still think it saved my life but it only mad it worse. I was tortured emotionally mentally and physically. They cut my hair, they took me out of school and made me work til my nails fell off. They called my names and humiliated me. How anyone could work there and allow these things to happen is disgusting. I was in family 4 and 3. The mud groves were horrible, everyone was. They tried to get me to believe things about myself and I constantly gave them the finger. They punished me all the time. Parents need to take a king good hard look at themselves and take serious responsibility about how their kids lives turned out.
Lorraine you were there before my son. And I hadn’t heard about all the horrible torture that went on until after. I can’t say I am drowning in pride over having sent Charles there. But I can say he did not endure what the group before hi. Did which an abomination. I am so sorry. They took advantage of desperate parents and delivered something else entirely. I am so sorry for your trauma. Because that’s what those people delivered. Thank you for posting your story and telling your truth. I hate hate hate that you went through that. The level of cruelty in the name of power makes me shudder and it makes me cry.
Anne student 2005-2007
Mike Argerios Knew everything. This place is the only reason I got into heroin. I met other heroin addicts. I was drinking and what not, today I am 33 years old and I have lost so many friends. Just another one a couple days ago RIP Max.Rip Prescott RIP Brandon RIP-Katie -RIP Jackson RIP JAY. The list goes on. So many names now I cant recall of the top of my head. The Agerio’s sold the american dream get rid of your kid you do not have to worry. Well except when you have a place that torments you daily. Standing in the Corner ISO- A padded room with aircondition and no blankets. They taught you how to be tough for sure by making you wish you were fucking dead. Only years later did I grow to hate this place. The more I got off drugs the more angry I got at my parents for choosing the easy way out.
I am so sorry. Charles wasn’t there long but long enough. Specialists recommended it for my son whom we lost to suicide in 2015. We were desperate and we went up every other weekend. I HATED sending I’m away. Thank god you are in recovery and alive but I know the grief has to be overwhelming for you. That’s a lot of loss and each one has to feel like a dagger to your heart. You were definitely there when it was worse from what I can gather from speaking to other kids. My son went a lot later. The trauma that you endured.
Fuck this place my name is David zalk I ran away and was one of the few to never be caught and brought back. My shitty mom sent me here after it broke my brother who was there before me. Terry McCarthy I was in family 3 this abusive old man, a pedophile priest and forced standing in corners eating maypo. Niko. This Asian guy who worked there deserves to die. Anybody working there deserves to die or go to prison. Planting a tree there? They should light the whole place on fire. Paul, a tall skinny guy with black curly hair and a short guy with slicked back grey hair used to shove my friends head into a sink full of sanitizer and what could we do. Nothing. Fuck this place I hope everyone that worked there dies horrific deaths and their kids as well. This place destroyed any chance I had to lead a normal life. Thankfully my mom died horrible stomach cancer. I was adopted. My brother too. He went their first and he is fucked up. I went after him. Wish my dad had a spine. But when you are bought by a baby seller named Stanley Michaelman or some shit, fuck this place. Abusive, rapist, beatings by other kids on higher levels. I will never forget this horrible place.
Man what a horrific experience. I can say that charles didn’t have that experience but went after most of what you say happened. Tell me what years you were there. And I am so f-ing sorry. I did take charles out and I am sorry I sent him there. It was all good intentions and a lot of desperation to help him. It’s not what I would do today.
Tell me what you are up to, what year you were there. And again, I am so sorry for the awful experience. It is unbelievable trauma. You are a survivor and I am grateful you posted here.
Rochelle tipped is off when it was time to get my son out too. I agree that the abuse is much more wide spread and am so disturbed that places and people claiming to “support” desperate parents and struggling teens can be so hurtful and irresponsible.
I felt the same way M.B. I was so f-ing desperate to save Charles life. And there is a part of me that feels taken advantage of in my desperation. We didn’t send kids there because we caught them with a beer and a joint. It was to save their lives. And to see in some cases that it could have been a contributing factor is hard to read. However, just the fact that this school was our last ditch effort is telling in terms of the level of risk this school was taking on. I don’t think Mike A, for example, knew about all this. I think it happened behind closed doors and it was good to read that they cleaned up their act although there were still some things that happened there I deeply regret. But Rochelle was the best part. Charles never had had that level of trust in a therapist and never did again. And for that I’m very thankful. I also think the school didn’t close due to the truth campaign.
It was Curtis’s dismissal for sexual misconduct–charges on which he was later cleared but I think for FFS, that was the final nail in the coffin for that school. People starting leaving like rats abandoning a ship. That incident was the catalyst because it was when ours were there and I remember it vividly. The truth campaign may have pushed the ship over the edge but it all started with that incident. Charles had been taking rap therapy from him–the one and only time Charles made progress anywhere and that rug was yanked from underneath when those accusations were made. FFS had no disaster plan which is crazy given the population. A hard kind of school to open and operate because in terms of liability, you are so naked.
All of them knew all of them were profiting off of children suffering and would use gas lighting and mental abuse to excuse their lack of intelligence … all staff members there couldn’t find jobs elsewhere because they had already fucked their own lives up .. I survived 38 months … im still struggling to gain consciousness after 15 years of ptsd… not one bit of compensation and im still paying for it
I’m so sorry Shawn. I regret being so desperate that I sent Charles there. Some of the staff was really more into power trips and outdated methodology for helping young people. How old are you now?