Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Teen Challenge: Your tax dollars, paying for institutionalised abuse

In my research I've found that abuses of Federal Funding is by far the bottom line in the systematic abuse of our families and our children!

So when someone sent this story out yesterday I had to share it....


by dogemperor

Sun May 04, 2008 at 01:44:43 PM PDT

I've written quite a lot on the subject of coercive "behaviour modification" facilities in past--including legislative efforts to stop the industry in its tracks as well as exposes of their heavy usage as a dominionist "parallel economy" alternative to legit mental health and info on gross abuses in these facilities.

Over the past few days, we have focused on a specific chain of these facilities (which have been compared to Abu Ghraib)--Teen Challenge, a chain of Assemblies-run "faith based rehabs" that was the target of a "get out of jail free" deregulation of the "kiddie gulag" industry in Texas by none other than George W. Bush.

In our final installment, we note how Abu Ghraib and Gitmo aren't the only abusive facilities getting tax dollars--both by direct funding and by welfare fraud, Teen Challenge gets quite a bit of your tax money for institutionalised abuse...and Dubya is still to this day bailing them out when they're caught doing something wrong.

dogemperor's diary

And your tax dollars are paying for it

Teen Challenge is the recipient of US funds via the Faith-Based Initiatives program (that's right--some of your tax dollars are going directly to fund an Assemblies of God frontgroup that abuses kids). Not only this, but Teen Challenge has actually had VIP access to the Oval Office:

Bush has repeatedly singled out and praised faith-based organisations whose core philosophy is conversion while dispensing social services. During last year's State of the Union speech his invited guests were Tonja Myles of the 'Set Free Indeed Program' at Healing Place Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Henry Lozano of Teen Challenge, California. Both programmes use religious conversion as treatment.

Teen Challenge is one of the very few Assemblies frontgroups not to use the "church loophole" to avoid filing a form 990--in fact, their form 990 blatantly lies about their affiliation with other nonprofits (again hiding the fact they're an Assemblies frontgroup).

There is also an indication that Teen Challenge may receive indirect government funding through another source--namely, actively having members sign up for government benefits and then forcing their inmates to turn over all money to Teen Challenge as "rent":

After the application to join is completed,the member is then given the paperwork to receive food stamps,disability,and other social service needs. The rent for a member is $1400 a month. ALL OF THIS IS GIVEN TO THE CHURCH.If a member refuses to do so,THEY ARE DISMISSED FROM THE PROGRAM.

Security National and other companies have been hiring these people to do work for them.Brian Morrisey pays them $10 an hour,to work off of their rent,and again ALL OF THIS IS GIVEN TO THE CHURCH.

I believe that a complaint was sent to the state labor relations board two weeks ago.According to Sue Brandenberg,TeenChallenge does not provide workers comp. insurance,a claim dismissed by Lamberson,and there was another complaint filed with that,I don't have the details behind that,something in regards to forced labor.

Not only this, but--as has been noted in part 3 of the series--Teen Challenge's own documents actually admit as such, and even require people joining (or being forced to join by the courts) to agree to turn over their entire SSI checks and do unpaid work in the admission contracts.

And that's not the only part where the dole funds Teen Challenge, either--an article in WORLD Magazine published in 2005 showed some light on a practice Teen Challenge had of having their residents sign up for food stamps--and then forcing the residents to turn over their stamps to Teen Challenge for use by the group in a "food stamp pool" for groceries:

Ten years later, tables have turned. Roy Follis, director of Teen Challenge San Antonio, was bewildered when he received a memo last August from TCADA stating that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had determined that residents of Teen Challenge centers in Texas are no longer eligible to receive food stamps. The reason: The centers aren't licensed by the state.

With Teen Challenge receiving no direct government funding for its programs, and most residents unable to pay the $3,000 monthly program costs, the organization has found financial relief through the USDA's food stamp program for 30 years. Almost half of Teen Challenge residents are eligible for food stamps, and they typically turn over the stamps to Teen Challenge staff, who pool them and buy food for the program residents.

Mr. Follis says his center counted on the food stamps for nearly half its annual food budget for the 65 men at the 36-year-old center on 108 acres of rural Texas farmland. "Those stamps meant a lot to the center," he says, but they stopped coming last November: "Being cut off is breaking us."

This turned out to be so egregrious in the USDA's eyes--that an unlicensed facility was getting federal food aid largely by fraud--that Teen Challenge facilities in Texas, Florida, Massachusetts, and Oregon were cut off from the program. Teen Challenge promptly appealed (including the very facility, Teen Challenge New England, that has a registered child molester as its co-manager).

Unfortunately, the USDA doing the right thing didn't last long. Yet again, George W. Bush directly stepped in and gave Teen Challenge a carte blanche to essentially allow Teen Challenge to continue with abuse of food stamps in a way that would put the worst stereotypes the GOP put out of "ghetto welfare mothers" to shame:

The federal government has cleared the way for clients of the faith-based Teen Challenge drug and alcohol recovery program to resume receiving Food Stamps. In several states, including Massachusetts and Vermont, officials halted benefits to Teen Challenge clients because the programs were not formally recognized by state officials, and because clients were turning their Food Stamps over to administrators of the treatment program. The coupons were pooled together to buy groceries for those who live in dormitory-style housing for 18 months during their treatment.

In a joint opinion issued by the Secretaries of the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA), and Health and Human Services (HHS), it has now been determined that residents of such treatment programs are eligible for Food Stamps, so long as the programs are operating in compliance with provisions of the Public Health Services Act. Under the opinion, state agencies which administer Food Stamps must recognize such programs as "operating to further the purposes of Part B of Title XIX" of the act -- however it also specifies that such programs are not required to be licensed by states in order to be eligible.

"This Administration believes that to require licensure to determine residents' eligibility for the Food Stamp Program would pose an insurmountable barrier to their ability to access the recovery program of their choosing, including faith-based and community programs that are not licensed by the State," wrote U.S Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns and Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt in letters sent to the governors of all 50 states.

In fact, one of the major groups lobbying for the USDA's new policy (which amounted to "We can't be arsed to check if you're actually eligible because it's too much work") was none other than the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives--the very agency which has granted Teen Challenge money and Presidential access:

While Teen Challenge receives no direct government funding, and most residents are unable to pay the $3,000 monthly program costs, the faith-based organization has found some financial relief through the food stamp program for more than 30 years. Nearly half of Teen Challenge residents are eligible for food stamps, and residents typically give the stamps to Teen Challenge staff, who pool them to buy food for program residents.

The White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives had pressed for the change, and Jim Towey, director of the office, told WORLD he's glad that faith-based groups have been vindicated: "We're pleased that it's . . . not the policy of this administration that an addict should have to choose between treatment and food."

Let's summarise--in addition to "faith-based" money, Teen Challenge also takes the checks of people in the program (often forced into the program, at that) sent for SSI, and also takes their food stamps. And the US government says it's A-OK because they're "faith-based" and it's just too much work to investigate whether they're really eligible or not.

As if this weren't enough, states have often gone into partnerships with Teen Challenge outside of mandatory sentencing. One example is with an anti-drug partnership in Kentucky called Operation UNITE--Operation Unite being a program operated for twenty eastern Kentucky counties with particularly severe problems with methamphetamine and oxycontin abuse set up by Hal Rogers (and serving the Fifth Congressional District). Among other things, Operation UNITE promotes essentially a frontgroup of a frontgroup--a Teen Challenge Kentucky frontgroup called Lifeline of Eastern Kentucky whose solitary purpose is to recruit people into Teen Challenge--and as we've already established, Teen Challenge is a recruitment front and de facto missionary mill for the Assemblies of God (and Teen Challenge Kentucky is no exception). And disturbingly--on a page that is part of the governmental website for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, no less!--Teen Challenge and its frontgroup Lifeline are the sole resources listed not related to law enforcement and narcotics control agencies on Operation UNITE's website.

The scary thing is...Teen Challenge is probably among the less infamous of the groups within the "kiddie boot camp" industry...but the patterns of abuses are among the status quo throughout the industry.

And it is precisely because of this pattern of abuse--and an pattern of unrepentativeness by groups like Teen Challenge--why we--and the kids stuck in these facilities--need HR 5876 to pass.

Previous posts in this series: Part 1: Teen Challenge: The Assemblies' own "kiddie gulag"

Part 2: Teen Challenge: Coercive groups disguised as rehab

Part 3: Teen Challenge: A typical week in the "Jesus Gulag"

Part 4: Teen Challenge: Life within the "Jesus Gulag"

Part 5: Teen Challenge: Possible missionary mill?

Part 6: Teen Challenge: The depths of coercion at a "God Warrior" training camp

Part 7: Teen Challenge: Sex abuse and sexual predators

Part 8: Teen Challenge: Court-ordered coercion and CYA indemnity contracts

Tags: Religious Right, Scandal, Abuse, Children, Dominionism, Texas, separation of church and state, religion, boot camp, Mental Health, Doctors, Health Care, Assemblies of God, Rescued (all tags) :: Previous Tag Versions

Permalink 16 comments


Anonymous said...

As a Teen Challenge graduate, you have absulutely NO idea what you are talking about!!! None of what you said EVER applied to me. Learn the facts buddy!!! Find out where Teen Challenge was started and by who, it was not Bush!


Louise Uccio said...

Thank you for your input, I said I shared this because it was interesting. I never said I knew it to be true.

Please share if you have any other opinions or information, I'd love to hear it.