Doing runaways now

Having so significantly reduced my accumulating NamUs updates pile, I have turned my focus to all the runaways stacked and waiting. Most of them don’t take very long at all to write. At the rate of about 20 a day, the folder should be just about empty by tomorrow.

Of course, some of the cases turn out to be not runaways. Jiovany/Giovany/Giovanni/Xovane Gomez, for example, who went missing with four other men, one his uncle, when they apparently decided to go shopping just across the border in Mexico. That was almost two years ago and they haven’t been heard from since. No one knows what happened, other than that it probably wasn’t good.

Forest Ferguson ran from Carlbrook School, a boarding school for troubled teens. I don’t know much about it. Before he came to Carlbrook, Forest was at Diamond Ranch Academy, which I’ve heard is quite horrible. I don’t know anything about whatever problems lead to Forest being placed in residential treatment. All I know is that he hated Carlbrook bad enough to run away and he’s been gone almost two years.

I have serious concerns about such institutions. Some of them can be good, but there is so much potential for abuse, and it seems like a lot of those places just basically torture and brainwash the kids into good behavior. Back when I was a teenager, I would definitely have qualified for one of those “therapeutic boarding schools.” If it was a good place, I probably would have benefited. But then I would have graduated and returned home to the very environment which messed me up so badly in the first place, and it would have solved nothing.

As for Forest Ferguson, his grandparents would like to hear from him and apparently didn’t support him being sent away in the first place: on their website they say, “We know you weren’t happy at that school. You ran away. Good! You showed initiative, strength of character and spirit, and we’re proud of you standing up for your rights.” I hope Forest is all right. He’s over 18 now.

23 thoughts on “Doing runaways now

  1. LB September 28, 2012 / 4:28 pm

    I don’t doubt that the methods that these behavioral modification schools employ put such a fear in these kids, that many may refrain from contacting their loved ones, even if it’s in their best interest to do so. There’s not any easy or one size fits all solutions to deal with an aggressive kid with behavioral issues, but most of these places seem to be money rakers that basically warehouse the kids and don’t provide legitimate counseling. I’ll be amazed if Scientology, with their questionable Narconon centers, hasn’t got in on the act yet.

    These schools also appear to do little to guarantee the safety of students from their peers or staff – the now closed Cedu school has a few missing boys profiled here on CP. A psychiatrist, Burnell Forgey, counseled teens at Cedu at one point, and gave a convicted rapist and murderer, James Crummell, access to his patients, as well as the pair confessing to raping some of the boys.

    • Meaghan September 28, 2012 / 4:33 pm

      I have read that a lot of the former staff at Cedu now work at Carlbrook, the school Forest ran away from.

      It seems to me that the only way these places should work is if they (A) Don’t terrorize the kids which will just cause PTSD and make them resent their parents in the long run and (B) Closely involve the family in getting the kid’s problems taken care of. Because in many cases it’s not just the kid that’s dysfunctional, but the whole family.

      • NH September 29, 2012 / 8:29 am

        I actually had to place one of my kids in a residential facility due to focused suicidal behavior. It was heart wrenching but the only answer for her safety. We were lucky and were at what seemed to be a very good facility with a lot of family involvement and very low medication levels. Yes there were family issues at we have and are addressing (significant mental health issues other parent and older sibling) but she manifested the most dangerous behaviors. At this place a runaway would have even know immediately. However even here the early stages seem like what you imagine reform school would be.

        In this process we did learn how broken the mental health system is. After physical recovery we had to wait 4 days (in very expensive but covered) ICU for a bed at an acute care in the greater NYC area. As we learned acute care is just a holding bin to see if you recover or find $ for additional care – minimal treatment and a lot of drugs. In fact we were thrown out of one facility within hours of the insurance company stopping coverage – after her drugs had been tripled! With no care plan. We then discovers that in NYC there are no day programs for kids with self harm issues (which are rampant) only weekly therapy even at clinics. There are places for substance abuse and eating issues although none of these have a school component and most are very short term.

      • NH September 29, 2012 / 8:35 am

        What I didn’t say is that despite this journey there have been amazing transformations in our family and our daughter would propably have been sucessful on her next attempt. This could not have happened without this intervention. But I feel that we were lucky and had the resources and where with all.

      • Meaghan September 29, 2012 / 11:43 am

        Michael Schofield, whose daughter January is the poster girl for childhood-onset schizophrenia, says the system isn’t so much broken as we don’t even have a system anymore.

  2. Meaghan September 29, 2012 / 11:59 am

    @NH: The residential treatment facilities I’m talking about, like Diamond Ranch Academy, probably wouldn’t have taken your daughter. They usually don’t take kids with serious psychiatric issues, and certainly not those who are actively suicidal or who have thought disorders like January Schofield. Those RTCs instead deal with kids with behavioral problems like poor academic performance, truancy, running away, and so on. They charge upwards of $5,000 a month, out of pocket — insurance companies won’t pay for them — and the kid usually stays a year or more.

    I’ve heard terrible things about just about every one of those places, by people who have been there. Years ago, I was looking at the website for one of them and in the section for parents it said something like, “If your child at this school tells you they’re being served spoiled food, or that there are cockroaches everywhere, or that they’re being starved, don’t believe them. They are lying and just trying to manipulate here.” Oh-kay.

    • NH September 29, 2012 / 12:42 pm

      To be fair, although I am sure that you are generally correct, kids will say about anything if it will get them what they want especially when they are “off” and being pushed to change.

      The sad this is how few options there are, especially if you don’t have resources (although also even with resources). Running away is probably a reasonable choice for some at least short term although there are certainly risks. However is this really what we want as a society?

      • Meaghan September 29, 2012 / 1:09 pm

        Who knows. One of the reasons I’m glad I’m not a parent and probably never will be.

        I read a book written by a woman whose son had severe depression and attempted suicide, and she sent him to one of those RTCs like the ones I’m talking about. It was actually one of the very few ones I haven’t heard much in the way of complaints about.

        It sounds like it was a good place, but I couldn’t really understand why his mother sent him there. She emphasized in the book several times that her son’s depression was of the “clinical” kind and it was a matter of getting the right meds — which it was. Once he finally found the right antidepressant for him, which did take awhile, he was right as rain again. He didn’t really need all the therapy sessions and the hiking trips and the self-reflection in the mountains. He stayed at the school 10 months, only about half the time most people stay there, according to their website. It sounded to me like his mom was just panicked and afraid to have him at home — after he was released from the hospital following his suicide attempt, she was afraid to leave him alone and wouldn’t let him go out with his friends, even though he told everyone that he was very sorry for what he’d done and the happiest moment of his life was the moment when he woke up alive. She said one of the reasons she sent her son to the school was so he could be around other depressed kids and not feel alone in his depression, but the boy’s girlfriend also had depression and his mom wanted him to stop seeing her for precisely that reason — she thought it was bad for his recovery. Contradiction anyone?

        Of course he hated the school and resented his parents for sending him there. In the book his mom couldn’t seem to understand why. When he broke the rules by sneaking letters out of school to his friends and even managing to call his girlfriend on the sly, she was appalled. And I was like, “Uh, this is normal 17-year-old boy behavior.” She put in the book one of his diary entries where he was about to turn 18 and thinking about leaving the school without graduating. He wrote that he was tired of everyone telling him what to do and he wanted to make his own decision, but that he was not going to fake his way out by lying to all the doctors and therapists because he felt this was beneath his dignity. In fact he criticized the people whom he saw as fakers. His mother said the diary entry showed how immature he was, something I didn’t see at all. (He stayed. His parents threatened to cut him off completely and just leave him at the school gates with nothing but the clothes on his back if he left without graduating.)

        That was all ten years ago. I looked up the boy’s information online and found out he graduated from a well-regarded college. I sent him a Facebook message asking if he would like to talk about his experience at the RTC and whether, now that he’s an adult, he feels differently about it than he did at the time. He never replied. Which goes along with my hypothesis that he regards the entire thing as a bad memory and wants nothing more to do with it, and probably didn’t even want his mom to write the book.

  3. Princess Shantae September 29, 2012 / 7:09 pm

    He also probably didn’t care to have total strangers knowing what is honestly his private family business. I’d be mad too if I had that kind of trouble and my mother wrote a book about it and didn’t even change our names, and then somebody I didn’t know from Adam looked me up on FB and wanted to talk about it. I’m not saying you did anything wrong, just that its understandable that he didn’t respond to you.

    • Meaghan September 29, 2012 / 7:29 pm

      I understood too. I wrote in my message that if he didn’t want to talk about it, that was cool and he didn’t have to answer.

      I wouldn’t have written him at all if his mother’s book hadn’t bothered me so much. I actually had dreams about this boy. I wished to purge him from my mind and thought contacting him, even without hearing back, would be a good way to do so — and it worked.

  4. cindy October 2, 2012 / 12:35 pm

    I was just looking at Diamond Ranch Acadamy’s website. They have a video posted from his last day there where is so thankful to have had the opportunity to attend that he builds a totem pole as a way to “give back.” I hope he’s OK, seems like a really good kid.

    • cindy October 2, 2012 / 12:36 pm

      Forest Ferguson, that is.

    • Meaghan October 2, 2012 / 9:39 pm

      I don’t really trust promotional videos of that nature. I’d rather read accounts of alumni after they’ve gone home — preferably years after, when they’ve had some perspective.

      • cindy October 3, 2012 / 8:44 am

        totally agree- it was actually creepy to see him there on my computer screen knowing he’s now a lost runaway.

      • Meaghan October 3, 2012 / 10:31 pm

        The video says he made the totem pole in November 2010, so it looks like he was at Carlbrook less than a month before he split.

  5. bradley February 24, 2013 / 9:49 am

    There is so much going on wrong at Carlbrook School. If your child goes there you need to check with previous advisors not ones there now

    • jade March 17, 2013 / 8:13 pm

      I think there is a reason that there is so much turnover there. Either the advisors buy in to the craziness and stay or they leave within a year.

  6. CharlesEDederich July 28, 2013 / 5:02 am

    I went to Carlbrook School. Awareness is slowly creeping out about their tactics and the foundations of the program in Syanon and CEDU. Former students have a public facebook entitled Carlbrook Student’s for Accountability and Oversight in the Troubled Teen Field (ignore the extra apostrophe). The goal is to raise awareness so parents can get this information instead of blindly trusting “experts” in their own desperation. These places profit unbelievably off the desperation of families going through a hard time. There is information throughout the internet if you look hard enough. Googling “Carlbrook School” isn’t enough due to them paying to flood google results with positive press releases and reviews.

  7. Harold Copus October 7, 2013 / 7:54 pm

    I am a Former FBI Agent who has been hired to look for Forest Ferguson. If anyone went to school with Forest or knows him. please contact me.

    • NH October 7, 2013 / 9:30 pm

      I and a very experienced finder of lost people would love to help. megan can connect us.

    • m July 13, 2015 / 9:35 pm

      Not sure if he’s still missing. Went to DRA with him, know this is old though.

      • m July 13, 2015 / 9:36 pm

        Would like know if he’s alright, hope the best for him

      • Meaghan July 13, 2015 / 9:42 pm

        He is still missing.

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