(locations: Bonners Ferry and Sagle, ID and Costa Rica)
(we are working to acquire the complete records for ALL years)
We advise current and/or former staff to report any abuses you may have witnessed while working at the Northwoods School. For information on your rights and how to take action, visit www.heal-online.org/blowthewhistle.htm.† If you were fired or forced to resign because you opposed any illegal and/or unethical practices at Northwoods School, you have the right to take action.†
If you were harmed (family or survivor) by Northwoods School, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you remember the long-term employees and from which years.† This will help!† Also, if you recognize any of these staff as having worked at another program, please send in any information about their past or present employment at other facilities and/or cults.
Please donít place your loved one in Northwoods and rescue them if they are there now.
|Dave Yeats||Founder||Formerly worked for Rocky Mountain Academy (CEDU).|
|Sharene Heisler||Therapist||Sagle location.|
|Matt Fitzgerald||President||Formerly worked for Rocky Mountain Academy (CEDU), Ascent Wilderness, and Northwest Academy.|
|Dell Jones||Staff||Reportedly on probation for game hunting violations in Idaho (2014). Reportedly formerly worked for Spring Creek (WWASPS) in Montana. Reportedly has no education or license in mental health, but claims to be a counselor (unverified). Reportedly lives in Arlee, MT.|
|*(Northwoods School, like many other programs in this industry, keeps a "tight lid" on any specific information regarding their staff, qualifications, and practices. Please contact us with the names of any staff of which you have firsthand knowledge or experience. Thank you for your help.)|
HEAL Review: Northwoods School Enrollment Materials
(This review does not constitute legal advice and is for information purposes only. If you need legal assistance, please contact an attorney.)
Following is HEAL's review of Northwoods School's application, policies, fees, contract, behavior management and discipline acknowledgement, behavior management and discipline policy, clothing and supplies list, community service acknowledgement, correspondence policy, and the cultural/religious heritage request form. The hyperlinked texts in the previous sentence will take you to the complete documents used for this review. The documents linked above are the original documents from Northwoods School and are the basis for this review. We will not be linking to the documents throughout the remainder of the review and advise readers to open the documents in a new window if greater contextualization is preferred. This review will follow the same format as others on our website. We will begin with the document/page title, page number (when applicable), and quoted text from those pages followed by our comments, questions, and concerns.
"Please complete this checklist and include it with all of the necessary documentation at time of enrollment."
"Two Months Tuition Payment plus $500 admission fee."
"Passport, if available"
We will discuss the tuition, fees, and other policies related to those fees in our discussion of the Schedule of Fees, contract, and other areas of the provided materials. We included it here to highlight the requirement of two months tuition and the requirement of a $500 admission fee. The admission fee is excessive and when coupled with the minimum stay required and monthly rates appears to be an unconscionable requirement.
Is Northwoods School an accredited school that provides proper academic services and transferrable credits? It appears the education provided through Northwoods is for children who have made it to the level of "transition phase" and are then enrolled in the local public school. Junior High School students appear to receive academic services through Calvert School.
The Calvert School is a home-schooling system. And, it is accredited by the Middle States Association Commission on Elementary and Secondary Schools and the Commission on International Transregional Accreditation. The only reference to Northwoods found on the Calvert School website references Northwoods Orchard in Minnesota. We were able to locate the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Secondary Schools. However, an accreditation body matching the exact language used by the Calvert School was not so located. We did a search on the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Secondary Schools website and there was no record of Calvert School in their database. This suggests deceptive marketing and raises serious concerns regarding the legitimacy of the academic services provided by Calvert School and/or Northwoods. The Commission on International Transregional Accreditation no longer exists and was incorporated into Advanc-Ed in 2008. HEAL visited Advanc-Ed's website to determine whether or not the Calvert School is accredited by that accreditation agency at this time. Advanc-Ed has no record in their database of accredited schools for Calvert School. Northwoods School is not accredited by that agency either. So, what we have here is definitely false advertising and it raises serious concerns.
For high school students not enrolled in the public school, public information (not provided by Northwoods so deniable by them) claims to use Keystone and University of Nebraska-Lincoln Independent Study High School. Keystone National High School (a/k/a The Keystone School) is another home-schooling program. Keystone is accredited by the NWAC. NAAS has been sued as co-defendants with WWASPS. And, NAAS was also sued for misappropriating the name of a non-active accrediting agency. NAAS was forced to change names and is now NWAC. NAAS was forced to change their name to NWAC after a lawsuit was filed for misappropriating the name of a legitimate accreditation agency. NAAS was also a co-defendant in a lawsuit against the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools in 2006. (Case Citation: Bruce Dungan, et al. v. World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools, Inc., NAAS, et al., United States District Court, Northern District of New York, July 25th, 2006) The attorneys representing the plaintiffs in this case were Hancock & Estabrook, LLP. The lawsuit was filed as a class action. Academy at Ivy Ridge was the basis of the lawsuit. NAAS "accredited" this school. Quote: "Ivy Ridge Academy accreditation rejected: The Academy at Ivy Ridge will not be allowed to resume issuing high school diplomas. The State Education Department has rejected the Academy's application, according to stories Friday in St. Lawrence County newspapers and The Watertown Times. A letter from the State Education Department to Ivy Ridge quoted in the Watertown Times says, "The Department's review revealed that AIR is principally a behavior modification program and not a school..." For complete story, click here. So, NAAS/NWAC accreditation does not provide effective assurance that the credits "earned" at Northwoods/Keystone are transferable. This is a serious concern.
Keystone also claims to be accredited by Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Secondary Schools. We also searched the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Secondary Schools website for KC Distance Learning and Keystone. The Keystone School does appear to be accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Secondary Schools. The links on the Middle States Association website for additional information on what various statuses mean were not working at the time HEAL wrote this review. Their conditions for membership and standards links were not working at the time of this review. The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Secondary Schools is a membership organization to which accredited institutions pay dues. This practice suggests that it is not a legitimate accreditation agency and that it is likely just another trade organization masquerading as an accreditation agency. Click here to see an important warning about "diploma mills" from Department of Education. According to the US Department of Education, the Middle States Commission on Secondary Schools is only recognized as an accreditation agency in accrediting non-degree granting, post-secondary career and technological programs in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Wash. DC, and the US Virgin Islands. It is not authorized to accredit secondary/high schools for credit/diplomas. The Keystone School does operate in Pennsylvania. However, since it operates an online high school (secondary school) and the Middle States Commission is not authorized or recognized as an appropriate accreditation agency for high schools (secondary schools)/diploma-granting schools, it again suggests false advertising and raises serious concerns.
What about the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Independent Study High School? The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Independent Study High School is an online program. It claims accreditation by the Nebraska Department of Education and North Central Association Commission on Accreditation & School Improvement. HEAL searched the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Independent Study High School website and found no information pertaining to any connection or partnership between the University of Nebraska and Northwoods School. Regardless, it would appear that if Northwoods School is using the University of Nebraska independent study program that they will incur or charge $140 (for non-Nebraska residents) per course per semester. There is an additional $50 administrative fee per course applied to the tuition rates provided by the University of Nebraska Independent Study program. This is a concern and further shows that Northwoods is falsely advertising itself as a "school".
So, what we have is a list of unaccredited and falsely advertised educational service providers and one apparently legitimate provider that has no record of Northwoods School. In addition, we reviewed the Idaho State Department of Education school directory and found no listing for Northwoods School. This more than suggests that Northwoods is a scam and best to be avoided.
We advise parents avoid placing any child in any program that will take them out of the country for months at a time. This is especially true when the countries include Panama and Nicaragua. Both of these countries are included in the destinations listed in documents/pages to be discussed below. You can see the State Department warning if you click here. (The page is saved at archive.org and that is the link provided. The link appears to be inactive on the State Department website at this time.)
Application Pages 1-2 Quotes
"Social Security #"
"Who referred you to Northwoods?"
"Mother's Maiden Name"
"Parental Religious Preference"
"Child's Religious Preference"
It is a serious concern that an apparently deceptively marketed program (discussed above and throughout this review) requires the birth date, birth place, and social security number of a child enrolled. This information can be used to harass, harm, and defraud the child and should not be provided to an unaccredited facility such as Northwoods School.
Legitimate schools and public institutions cannot require ethnic information nor the social security number of individuals enrolled. And, this raises serious concerns regarding the purpose of requiring such information on the part of Northwoods School.
Often, referrers to programs like Northwoods School receive a "kickback" from the program for each enrollment. Often this "kickback" amounts to 10% of the total costs of the program being paid to those referral agents. Parents should thoroughly investigate any referral agent to make sure they are not receiving compensation for their recommendations from the programs to which they refer. Many referrers are dishonest about their arrangements with such programs and parents need to do due diligence in determining the validity of any recommendation and any referral agent.
It is a serious concern that Northwoods requires information regarding the "mother's maiden name" which is often used by financial institutions as a security measure to protect sensitive data. Please do not share your personally identifying information that can be used to harm you and your family.
The request for religious preference is also a concern as it may lead to discrimination or harassment based on religious affiliation. At similar programs, children and families have reported being mistreated for not converting to the faith that is held by the staff. This is so even when the program claims to be secular. Again, we advise against placing any child at Northwoods because we have already established it is deceptively marketed and associated with CEDU which was sued for RICO (racketeering, organized crime) violations. This is a serious concern.
Application Page 3 Quotes
"I hereby authorize the release of information concerning my child."
"What are your goals for your child at Northwoods?"
Please do not give Northwoods permission to share private, protected health, or other information concerning your child. This will be developed in discussions of the Release of Information Acknowledgement and Waiver below.
It is a concern that a teenager/young adult is not consulted or evaluated by professionals to determine what goals/developments would be most beneficial for the child. Many parents are neglectful and abusive. And, it is a serious concern. Some parents institutionalize their children to avoid prosecution for physical and/or sexual abuse. And, HEAL has received plenty of reports of such incidents occurring. While most parents do not overtly abuse their children through physical and sexual abuse, neglect is fairly common and the general cause for most family struggles. It is inappropriate for a disengaged parent to set goals for a child they have neglected and a program that puts that authority on parents who have proven ineffective is placing children in harm's way. And, such is a serious concern.
Application Page 4 Quotes
"RELEASE OF INFORMATION ACKNOWLEDGEMENT AND WAIVER"
"That Northwoods' staff may disclose information regarding our son to educational institutions requesting a resident's academic transcripts and/or academic standing."
"That neither Northwoods, its owners, its director, its employees, or its agents, shall be held liable or accountable, by me or by my son, for the release of such personal information pursuant to the release contemplated in the above paragraphs, and I hereby expressly waive my rights and my son's right to initiate any such claim or action."
"I hereby authorize and consent to the transportation of the above named minor by employees of Northwoods. This authorization includes, but is not limited to, transportation within Idaho, the neighboring states of Washington, Montana, the Canadian provinces British Columbia and Alberta, and the countries of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama."
Northwoods does not provide legitimate educational/academic services. This was explained in full in the review of the Application Checklist above. And, parents should not entrust their child's future to Northwoods or their staff.
Northwoods denies any liability for any disclosure they may make of your or your child's protected health information and academic records. This is a serious concern. It is an additional concern that Northwoods permits a parent to waive their child's rights when parent's do not have the right to waive their child's rights and can only waive their own rights. See www.heal-online.org/legalarguments.htm for more information.
As stated in the Application Checklist review above, it is a serious concern that Northwoods transports children out of state and out of the country. This is especially disconcerting given the ongoing turmoil, poverty, and crime in Nicaragua and Panama. "The Franklin Cover-Up" by former Nebraska Senator John W. DeCamp explores how programs similar to Northwoods have participated in child-trafficking. And, this is a serious concern.
Application Page 5 Quotes
"I hereby authorize release of any medical or dental information regarding _____________ to Northwoods."
"Proof of medical insurance must be provided upon enrollment."
"Policy Holder Soc Sec#"
"Policy Holder Birth date"
HEAL searched the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and found no reference or licensing information in regards to Northwoods. Therefore, we believe Northwoods is not a licensed medical facility in Idaho. Please do not disclose protected health information to non-healthcare providers as this subjects you and your loved ones to exploitation and misuse of the information. There is also no record of Northwoods School as a licensed residential care provider in Idaho. And, there is no record of Northwoods School as a licensed business in Idaho.
It is a serious concern that Northwoods requires the parents'/policy holders social security number, birth date, and/or mother's maiden name throughout the application. This is sensitive information that can be misused and given the track record of the people involved with Northwoods and the other issues raised in this review, no family should entrust their sensitive information, let alone their children, to this program.
Application Page 6 Quotes
"AUTHORIZATION FOR TREATMENT"
"The undersigned parents or guardian (or placing agency or court having jurisdiction as the case may be) hereby grant to Northwoods written authorization to obtain the following services for our child, to the extent such services are necessary and/or required, and after appropriate consultation:"
"Routine Medical Care"
"Emergency Medical Care"
"Emergency Surgical Care"
"Mental Health Care"
"The request for release of information is required pursuant to Section 16.06.02.526 of the Idaho rules governing standards for child care licensing."
Northwoods School is not a licensed mental health nor medical facility. And, this remains a serious concern.
Is Northwoods a licensed child care provider in Idaho? HEAL representatives e-mailed VendorSpecialist@idahoaeyc.org on August 1st, 2011 after finding no evidence through their website that Northwoods is licensed as a child care facility. And, the child/day care licensing is primarily for daycare providers only and not residential services providers. We have already confirmed that Northwoods is not licensed as a residential treatment center, school, mental health services provider, or anything else that is claimed or implied by their materials. This is a serious concern.
"Accept staff direction"
"Act with restraint"
"Stay at the facility unless given permission to leave"
"Make or receive phone calls only with staff permission"
"Haircuts are required every six weeks"
"Hair is cut to keep out of the face and off the collar"
"No facial hair, students must shave at least once per week"
"No body piercing"
"No tattoos once enrolled"
"CD's with a parental advisory label or an edited version are not allowed"
"Personally recorded CD's need pre-approval"
"Any violations of policies will result in the loss of the music privilege"
"Calls home will be every week and should be kept to 30 minutes. Students may place a collect call or receive a call from parents. Phone schedules will be discussed with parents upon enrollment. An email account will be set up for your son at enrollment and an approval list of contact (usually family only) is provided by parents at that time."
"A monthly care package with consumables such as healthy snacks/batteries/socks etc. is welcome."
"Students are evaluated for home visits based on their individual progress."
It is important that children (as well as adults) be encouraged to question authority and refuse direction that places them or others in harm's way. Blind obedience to authority is not an American value and such indoctrination or forced adherence to authority through coercion or threat of force/punishment is abuse and should not be tolerated.
What does Northwoods mean by "act with restraint"? According to the "Behavior Management and Discipline Policy" documents (reviewed below), Northwoods uses physical restraint on children enrolled in the program. Many programs like Northwoods order and/or "encourage" children who are at upper levels of the program structure to restrain other children in the program. And, whether children or staff restrain children in the program, the practice of physical restraint often has seriously injurious and/or deadly consequences. The House of Representatives has introduced recent legislation (HR 4247, the "Keeping All Students Safe Act of 2010) to reduce and prevent the use of physical restraints because of the serious injuries and deaths associated with the use and misuse of this practice at programs like Northwoods. HR 4247 has passed the House of Representatives and is now waiting for the Senate HELP Committee/Senate to vote. In the meantime, this legislation and the reasons behind it evidence a serious basis for not placing any child in any program where such restraint is used.
It is a serious concern that Northwoods is holding children in lockdown in apparent violation of the children's due process rights. If a child has not been court-ordered into a program, it is very likely that such holding constitutes false imprisonment. Such has been found to be the case in countless civil suits. Please see www.heal-online.org/legalarguments.htm for more information. Again, this is not legal advice and if you need legal advice, please consult an attorney.
It is a serious concern that children are denied access to a telephone. This prevents children from reporting abuse to their families and/or the authorities in a timely manner. And, such delays often result in lack of prosecution due to the disappearance of evidence and witnesses. Denying children access to a telephone and/or monitoring telephone calls is one of the many warning signs of an abusive program. Please see www.heal-online.org/warn.htm for additional warning signs and questions you should ask any program you consider for your family.
Personal appearance and style is a form of self-expression which is a constitutional right. Hygiene is one thing, but, determining how an individual wears his hair to such an extent is overly oppressive and not in line with American values. This is a minor concern.
Teens at other programs have reported being shaved with dull razors as a form of punishment. And, it is a minor concern that boys in this program are forced to shave (and/or be shaved) weekly.
Does body-piercing include pierced ears? And, if the parents approve of the piercings, will the program allow it? Again, personal style is a form of self-expression which is a constitutional right. If there is a legitimate cause for concern and/or the parents did not approve of the piercings and the boy is not of age to consent to getting pierced without parental consent, then the piercings should go as a matter of law. However, if the parents do approve of the piercings and the boy wants to keep his piercings, why does Northwoods assume such authority over family/individual decisions? This again seems overly oppressive and not in line with American values.
Does Northwoods require teens with tattoos to have surgery to remove the tattoos once enrolled? This is a serious concern as tattoos can take a long time to remove and it is a painstaking and long process. It is also expensive and generally not covered by insurance. Some survivors of programs similar to Northwoods have reported intentionally getting tattoos upon reaching adulthood as a form of self-expression and a "protective" measure to avoid institutionalization in a program like Northwoods. So, such rules when explained to children without tattoos enrolled in programs like Northwoods often result in a young adult who might otherwise not have gotten tattoos to get them as a form of reclaiming their identity and autonomy. Parents may find our parenting guide useful at www.heal-online.org/parent.htm. The guide discusses suggestions for dealing with piercings, tattoos, and various other issues related to young adulthood and the family.
At what point in the program are children granted a "music privilege"? Most programs like Northwoods do not allow children to have or listen to any music until they reach a specific "phase/level" of the program. In addition, if parents approve of the music, is it appropriate for Northwoods to deny it? This is a minor concern and HEAL would need to see the parent/client handbooks and a full description of the level system to provide additional information/comment.
The phone schedule is likely based on a level system. Again, Northwoods doesn't describe their complete policies. But, given that it is likely based on CEDU and CEDU enforced a communications black-out period until "clients" reached the appropriate phase, this is a serious concern. Again, we recommend you review the warning signs list at www.heal-online.org/warn.htm for more information.
Northwoods does not take any responsibility for a client's lost/stolen items. So, parents should confirm with their children privately that any/all care packages are received and used by their child. Families and survivors have reported that care packages are often rifled through by staff and that items usually go missing. This is a serious concern given Northwoods' policy against taking responsibility for items belonging to their clients.
The visitation policies do not appear to be made explicit in the documents HEAL has regarding Northwoods. At similar programs, the programs dictate when parents can visit the program and when children can visit home. Any program that denies contact and/or controls a parent's access to their own child is overly oppressive and more likely covering up their abusive practices than doing anything beneficial for the child or his family. The phrase "individual progress" is a euphemism describing a level system that requires children "earn the right" to see their family. This is unacceptable and violates the family. Please see www.heal-online.org/warn.htm for more information.
"Admission Fee $500.00"
"Available Upon Request"
"Licensed Therapist: $65/Individual Session, $40/Group Session"
"Licensed Chemical Dependency Counseling: $65/Session"
"Transportation to and from the Spokane Airport $150 round trip"
For one year at Northwoods (including the admission fee), the total cost is $47,900. This is an extravagant cost and does not include therapy from a qualified therapist nor legitimate and accredited academic services (see review of application checklist above). $47,900 is more than the cost of tuition at Stanford University which is reportedly $40,050 (without room/board). The costs for attending the University of Washington (often ranked among the top ten public universities/colleges) is $18,150 with room, board, and school supplies/books included in the cost. The University of Washington also provides counseling services to enrolled students free of charge from licensed therapists and mental health professionals. Stanford University also provides basic counseling and short-term counseling services to enrolled students at no additional charge. The counseling is provided by licensed therapists. So, we have two universities, one public and one private, that are arguably less expensive than Northwoods and provide qualified mental health assistance to their students without additional charges. Northwoods charges extra per session for therapy from a licensed therapist. And, Northwoods claims it is a therapeutic boarding school. If Northwoods were a legitimate therapeutic program, therapy would be included in the tuition costs. If it were a legitimate school, it would be accredited. But, what Northwoods does is charge over double the cost of one year (with all the trimmings) at a public university while at best enrolling children in a local public school in Idaho once they've "earned the privilege" of attending such a school. 78 of the 115 public schools in Idaho are violating the law in regards to Title IX. "Idaho ranks fourth in the nation for lowest education achievement and job levels." (Source: http://www.boiseweekly.com/CityDesk/archives/2011/02/09/report-idaho-among-10-states-running-out-of-smart-people) Paying the equivalent of private, Ivy-League, educational costs (therapy included) for an unlicensed, unaccredited program in a state that's own newspapers report it is "running out of smart people" seems to be a poor choice for anyone. And, parents shouldn't send their children to Idaho. This is especially true when the program considered is Northwoods and is obviously a scam.
Northwoods charges plenty and charging extra for legitimate therapy/academic services and transportation shows that profit is the motivator at Northwoods. And, that is no parent should desire to throw their money away by giving it over to scam artists. Hopefully, you are smarter than that.
"Parent(s) or Guardian(s) Agrees To:"
"Pay for those expenses not covered by medical and dental insurance, including medications and test."
"Pay other expenses incurred by the above-named student as incurred and regularly billed by Northwoods."
"Services Provided by Northwoods"
"Provide an educational opportunity commensurate with the student's abilities and capacities."
"Furnish the student with adequate room and board."
"Schedule vacations, holiday's and visits."
"Comply with the provisions of Northwoods' Children's Residential Care Program license as administered by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare."
"Northwoods is not responsible for students personal items"
"Tuition and other fees are subject to late charges if not received according to this schedule. Thirty (30) days after payment is due, late charges will be incurred at the APR of 1.5% per month. The undersigned parent(s) or guardian(s) agree to pay reasonable attorneys fees and costs that may be incurred in the enforcement of this payment schedule."
"Fees Payable Upon Admission"
"An admission fee of $500.00"
"A pro-rated rate of $132.00 for the number of days left in the current calendar month."
"One month's tuition $3,950.00 for the next calendar month following enrollment."
"Last month's tuition of $3,950.00. Upon successful completion of the 12 month Northwoods program, the student's previously paid last month's tuition shall be applied toward the student's last month's enrollment. The last month's tuition is non-refundable if the minimum stay requirement has not been met."
If Northwoods were a legitimate therapeutic program, therapy would be included in the basic fees/rates charged. In addition, Northwoods should be required to carry insurance and cover any medical/dental/etc. expenses that arise out of Northwoods negligent and/or intentional misconduct. It is a concern that all such expenses are visited on the families that are already being over-charged by Northwoods.
As discussed in the review of the Application Checklist above, Northwoods does not provide accredited academic services. This is a serious concern and again demonstrates the deceptive marketing and claims made by Northwoods.
It is a concern that Northwoods charges such an extraordinary amount and then claims to provide "adequate" room and board. For the costs of this program, children and families should receive at least three star services. And, this is apparently not the case at Northwoods. Client satisfaction is not their concern. This will be discussed further when we address the lack of warranty/guarantee for services provided or claimed to be provided by Northwoods.
Northwoods taking control of when a family can visit or interact with one another is not a service, it is oppressive, domineering, and disrespectful. It is laughable that Northwoods would consider such control/scheduling as a service.
Northwoods is not listed among the licensed residential care facilities by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. And, we have sent an e-mail to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare requesting information regarding Northwoods. This also appears to be a false statement by Northwoods. It is not properly accredited nor licensed according to our research. And, this also suggests deceptive marketing and further confirms HEAL's opinion that Northwoods is a scam.
It is commonly reported by families and survivors of programs like Northwoods that personal items/property are often stolen by program staff (including directors). This is a serious concern. And, given the lack of accountability on the part of Northwoods for their own wrongdoing, a strong indicator that Northwoods should be avoided.
Northwoods only cares about money and will charge interest on late payments. This does not show consideration for families or struggling families and further exemplifies the motive of Northwoods, which is simply, profit.
HEAL discussed the fees in the discussion of "fees" above. We included it again here as it was included in the contract. And, to point out that Northwoods will charge interest and keep the last month's tuition (pre-paid) if a family wises up and removes their child before they "graduate" from the program. Families who have made the mistake of contracting with Northwoods should consult an attorney.
"Early Termination by Northwoods: The undersigned parent(s) or guardian(s) acknowledge and agree that because of the significant staffing and administrative costs not otherwise incurred by Northwoods in such an event, Northwoods shall not refund any portion of the student's current month's or last month's tuition in the event of the student's unscheduled termination from enrollment. An unscheduled termination is considered to be a student who runs away or a student whom Northwoods determines, in its sole discretion, to be inappropriate for continued enrollment at Northwoods."
"Early Termination by Parent(s) or Guardian(s): In the event the undersigned parent(s) or guardian(s) decide to terminate the student's enrollment prior to completion of the 12 month Northwoods program, the undersigned parent(s) or guardian(s) acknowledge and agree that because of the significant staffing and administrative costs not otherwise incurred by Northwoods in such an event, Northwoods shall not refund any portion of the student's current month's or last month's tuition."
"No Warranties of Guarantees: The undersigned parent(s) or guardian(s) agree and acknowledge that serious circumstances in the student's life have resulted in the student being enrolled at Northwoods. The undersigned parent(s) or guardian(s) further agree that because of said serious circumstances Northwoods makes no warranties or guarantees, express or implied, to the parent(s) or guardian(s) that the services provided by Northwoods will be successful to any degree for the student."
"The undersigned parent(s) or guardian(s) agree and acknowledge that parental or guardian failure to support the student's participation at Northwoods, either emotionally or financially, also can result in dismissal of the student. Any decision to dismiss a student under the above conditions will be made in the sole discretion of Northwoods. The undersigned parent(s) or guardian(s) shall have the right to terminate the student's enrollment and remove the student from Northwoods at any time."
"Governing Law: This contract for services shall be deemed to have been entered into in the State of Idaho and all questions of the validity, interpretation, or performance of any of its terms or conditions, or any rights or obligations of the parties to this contract for services shall be construed according to the courts of the State of Idaho."
"Authorization: The undersigned parent(s) or guardian(s) hereby specifically authorize Northwoods to provide residential care and services to their son during the period of time their son is enrolled at Northwoods."
"Financial Responsibility: The undersigned parent(s) or guardian(s) acknowledge that they are responsible for all fees and expenses incurred on behalf of the student."
Northwoods is a scam and parents who have been misled by Northwoods ought to heartily pursue a full refund and compensation for any additional counseling, therapy, or medical expenses incurred by the family as a result of Northwoods negligent and/or intentional misconduct. It is a concern that Northwoods is operating, period.
Northwoods claims that the minimum stay is 12 months. We include this here to support the basis of the one-year (12 month) of tuition in the discussion of the fees above. No family should contract with Northwoods.
Northwoods disclaims any claims made suggesting that the program will be effective for any child enrolled and the specific child enrolled under the "agreement". This is a serious red flag and families should avoid doing business with any program that disclaims its own services and/or the efficacy of those services.
Cults and cult-like programs (i.e. CEDU/Synanon/etc.) demand adherence and obedience from children and their families. This is an inferred condition by claiming that parents must support the program and their child's obedience to the program. Parents are paying for this "service" and ought to have a say in how their child is treated and the authority to recommend changes in treatment or schedules. Any program that assumes control over families enrolled/contracted in best to be avoided.
Northwoods advertises nationally and internationally online and through other media. If Northwoods does not wish to be subject to other jurisdictions, it should limit the scope of its own advertising to Idaho and only accept enrollment from Idahoans. The fact that Northwoods takes children enrolled out of the country is a serious concern and families and children harmed by Northwoods should reserve the right to file suit from their home jurisdictions given Northwoods interstate commercial activities.
Northwoods provides no legitimate therapeutic nor academic services and families should avoid doing business with Northwoods.
Northwoods should accept responsibility for any expenses related to its failure to provide a safe, secure, and healthy environment for children enrolled in their program. It is a concern that Northwoods lays the entire burden on the families they swindle. This provides additional reason to avoid Northwoods.
"The undersigned parents hereby acknowledge they have received and are aware of the Northwoods Behavior Management and Discipline Policy, a copy of which is attached to this acknowledgement."
"This authorization is required pursuant to Section 16.06.02.578 of the Idaho rules governing standards for child care licensing."
Again, Northwoods implies that it is regulated and/or licensed by the Idaho State Department of Health and Welfare. HEAL has found no evidence suggesting that Northwoods is licensed or accredited in any way in the state of Idaho. And, we are awaiting a response from the Department of Health and Welfare regarding any possible licensing of Northwoods. At this point, it appears this facility is not licensed and that they are misrepresenting that they are in the materials provided in this review.
"Individualized behavior management and discipline at Northwoods shall be based on an assessment of a resident's needs, stage of development and behavior to promote self-control, self-direction, self-esteem, and an acceptable pattern of social behavior appropriate to the resident's age and development level."
"Whatever methods of behavior management and discipline are deemed to be appropriate for a particular resident, employees shall be instructed by the Chief Administrator to make every effort to apply the methods in a positive and consistent manner."
"Northwoods shall use the following methods to manage the behavior of a resident or to discipline a resident."
"A Northwoods "group meeting" with employees and residents during which the resident accepts responsibility for inappropriate behavior, commits to appropriate behavior in the future, and accepts any group-determined work assignment(s)."
"Loss of personal items or privileges for an appropriate period of time."
"Various work assignments."
What does Northwoods mean by "stage of development"? Many programs use the phrase "stage of development" euphemistically to describe the level on which a child is in the program. Programs like Northwoods typically use a level system and those at the lowest levels of the program are denied contact with the outside world (including their parents) and are often mistreated and locked in isolation until they have a nervous breakdown. The phase system is fully described in HEAL's briefing on thought reform available at www.heal-online.org/brainswashing.pdf. For additional information, please see www.heal-online.org/ebook.pdf. Obviously, inducing a nervous breakdown and dissociative disorder is not appropriate therapy and is both ineffective and harmful.
What does Northwoods mean by "positive"? Generally, programs like Northwoods consider anything that results in obedience and compliance to be "positive" and anything that results in disobedience and/or non-compliance to be "negative". This is likely not how parents view the language used and further points to misleading language used by Northwoods.
The "group meeting" suggests the use of "positive peer pressure" and/or "confrontational therapy". Both terms are used interchangeably and this approach has been found to be ineffective and harmful. This is a serious concern. This is another indicator that Northwoods use of the word "positive" to describe their methods is misleading.
Parents should not use Northwoods, period. But, if you are insanely still considering this program after having read through the rest of this review, we will keep going... What does Northwoods consider an appropriate period of time to lose personal property or the "privilege" of speaking to or seeing one's parents? What Northwoods considers reasonable and appropriate is not what reasonable people consider reasonable and appropriate. And, this is a serious concern. This is especially so when the privileges include attending a proper school and earning legitimate academic credits. Education is a right, not a privilege.
Parents should investigate the types of work assignments children are assigned at Northwoods and check into whether or not Northwoods is violating child labor laws. It is very likely that Northwoods is violating child labor laws and this is a serious concern.
Children enrolled at Northwoods do not "earn the privilege" of leaving the campus (even to attend school) until they reach the "transition phase" of the program. This is likely after at least 6-9 months of "enrollment". This is a serious concern and children should not be held in lockdown compounds in the Idaho and S. America without contact with the outside world or any way to communicate or report harm/abuse. This is a serious concern.
Programs like Northwoods often refer to "Time Out" as days, weeks, and sometimes months in solitary confinement. This is a serious concern as solitary confinement is considered a form of torture and certainly no child should be subjected to such treatment.
Behavior Management and Discipline Policy Page 2 Quotes
"Northwoods shall not use the following methods to manage the behavior of a resident or to discipline a resident:"
"Physical force, except the physical restraint procedures authorized by the Department of Health and Welfare."
"Any kind of punishment inflicted on the body, including spanking, hitting, slapping, spitting, kicking, shaking, pulling hair, pinching, twisting of an arm or leg in a way that would cause pain or injury to the resident, kneeling and sitting on the chest of a resident, placing choke hold on a resident, bending back a finger, and shoving or pushing the resident into a wall, floor, or other stationary object."
"Cruel and unusual physical exercise, including forcing a resident to take an uncomfortable position."
"Verbal abuse, ridicule, humiliation, profanity and other forms of degradation directed at a resident or a resident's family."
"Locked confinement in any area on the premises except an area that has been previously approved by the Department for confinement of a resident and that is deemed to be in conformance with the rules administered by the Department."
"Withholding of food, essential clothing (non-essential clothing may be withheld), bedding, rest, toilet use, bathing facilities, and entrance to the campus or residence house."
"Denial of visits or communication with the resident's family except as specified in the resident's Service Plan or court order."
"Denial of educational, medical, counseling, and social services."
"A physical work assignment that produces unreasonable discomfort."
What does the word "shall" mean? "Shall" is the present tense of the word "should". According to Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, should is used in an auxiliary function to "express what is probable and expected" and/or to "express a request in a polite manner or to soften direct statement". Synonyms for "shall" include "have to", "must", "ought to", and "should". This is not significantly clear language and allows for a lot of word-play to avoid responsibility for taking any of the actions precluded by the policy. This is a serious concern as such word-play and manipulation is common at programs like Northwoods. It is a serious concern that Northwoods does not use more clear language in regards to the treatment of children enrolled in their program. An additional concern is raised by limiting the scope under which Northwoods does not employ abusive methods in claiming it does not use such methods to "manage behavior" or "discipline" a child in the program. However, nothing is claimed regarding whether the methods are used for other purposes or whether the program encourages other children in the program to use such methods against other children in the program. Such is a common occurrence in programs like Northwoods and the entire policy raises serious concerns.
As stated above, we could find no evidence suggesting Northwoods is licensed and/or regulated by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. What, if any, physical restraint methods are approved by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare? HEAL searched the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare website for the following terms "physical restraint guidelines". The results did not show any specific law or guideline regarding the use of physical restraint in residential programs for children. The only guidelines we could find regarding the use of physical restraint were in regards to "Skilled Nursing Facilities". Northwoods is not licensed as a "nursing facility" and therefore would not be subjected to those guidelines. Many programs like Northwoods claim compliance with laws they know do not apply to them or that are not applied to them because they are not properly licensed nor qualified to perform the services they claim to provide. This is a serious concern as physical restraint has resulted in the untimely deaths of many children at programs like Northwoods.
Since children are not allowed to communicate with their families or use the phone without staff permission and monitoring, it is very likely that in the event physical abuse as described in the "should not" list would not be reported or investigated in a timely manner. Programs like Northwoods operate secretly and keep children in locked facilities with no real access to write or call home without it being monitored/censored. Northwoods has already been shown to be deceptive in other areas of the enrollment materials and parents should not take Northwoods at their word regarding the use of physical abuse as punishment. As stated above, many programs will have children who are "junior staff" inflict abuse on other children at lower levels/statuses in the program. The program then claims that any abuse is "between residents/students" and that it is not the program's fault. Please do not place your child in Northwoods or any facility that does not provide a significantly transparent and safe environment for all children enrolled.
Northwoods claims it does not engage in cruel and unusual forced physical activity. However, it does not define what it means by "cruel and unusual" and it does not explain what methods are used or what exercises are used as a form of discipline. It is always disconcerting when a program focuses on what they don't do as opposed to what they do in establishing their policies. Especially when those policies are in the form of "shoulds" or "should nots" and do not include a strict set of guidelines or policies to which all staff and enrolled individuals are to adhere.
Again, Northwoods claims it will not itself engage in ridicule and humiliation, but, it says nothing about the group sessions or whether or not the "confrontational" and "positive peer pressure" methods include the use of ridicule, degradation, and humiliation during group sessions. Now, these group sessions may constitute what Northwoods considers "therapy". However, such methods have been proven to be ineffective and harmful. Now, while Northwoods may not use such methods to "manage behavior" or "discipline" a resident, they may use it as part of a "therapeutic milieu" and thereby not violate their own standards in their discipline policy. It is important to understand that deception and manipulation of language is a tool of the program industry and that nothing can be taken for granted when reviewing the materials provided by Northwoods or any similar program.
As discussed in the review of page one of the discipline policy, Northwoods uses isolation and "time-out". It claims it is in compliance with the "Department". But, the Department of Health and Welfare doesn't even appear to license or regulate Northwoods at all. This is a serious concern and shows additional misleading on the part of Northwoods in regards to its compliance with any expected codes of conduct.
Many programs will put children on a bread, cheese, and water diet. Or, a diet that does not meet their nutritional needs as punishment. Northwoods claims it does not withhold food as punishment, but, does it withhold food for any other reason? And, does it deny a balanced diet to children at any time during enrollment? If so, then this is a serious concern. We mention it because that is the reported practice at many similar programs. What does Northwoods consider essential clothing? If it is summer, they may think stripping a child down to their underwear or completely nude won't place the child at risk of hyperthermia or hypothermia and therefore the clothes are not "essential". However, such a punishment is humiliating and would not be something reasonable and loving people would do to another human being. We mention this because that is the reported practice at some similar programs and it is a serious concern. Also, while Northwoods may not withhold a shower, they may limit shower time to 1-3 minutes and to cold water only. This has also been the reported experience of survivors of many different programs that are similar to Northwoods. This too is a serious concern.
Does Northwoods ever provide a "Service Plan" that does not include a "level system" in which a communication black-out period is enforced? It is quite likely that Northwoods institutes a phone/letter black-out period during the initial "phases" of its program. And, this is a serious concern and a warning sign of an abusive facility. See www.heal-online.org/warn.htm for more information and questions you should ask any program you consider for your family.
Does Northwoods deny educational, medical, counseling, or social services for purposes other than discipline and behavior management? If so, then the stated text is misleading. We already know they do not provide proper academic services. We already know they are not a licensed medical facility and that they do not provide licensed therapists without charging extra. So, it would appear that based on the rest of the review it is unnecessary to deny these services as a form of behavior management or discipline as these services are already denied them as a matter of the program's own practices. This is also a serious concern.
What does Northwoods consider "unreasonable discomfort"? The language throughout this section is ambiguous and non-definitive. This is a serious concern and further reinforced our opinion that Northwoods is a scam and should be avoided.
"We are not responsible for lost, stolen, or unclaimed personal items."
Again, Northwoods declines to accept responsibility for the property of the children enrolled in their program. Given the high level of reports of theft by staff against children enrolled in similar programs, this is a serious concern.
Why doesn't Northwoods provide children an ID card? This is a minor concern. It becomes a major concern if the ID card contains personally identifying information that can be misused by staff or owners at Northwoods to harass or otherwise intimidate/interfere with a child after leaving the program. Adult survivors of programs have reported being harassed by the program staff and/or directors accessing their personal information for such misuse and it is a serious concern.
Please do not enroll your child in any program that wishes to take them out of the country. This was already addressed above. But, it is important that you take this warning seriously as many young adults, even after turning 18, if held outside the US are denied access to home and are not allowed contact or directions to the US Embassy to get help. This is a serious concern and puts children and young adults at serious risk of exploitation and harm.
Northwoods claims it allows children to have some family photos. Often the photos are denied the children in programs like Northwoods if they include siblings who are close to them in age or friends that are not related. Programs also use family photos as a way to manipulate and abuse children and destroy the happy memories the photos represent. It is a sick practice, but, commonly reported by survivors of programs like Northwoods. One child at another program was given a quilt made by his/her mother with family photos, pictures of their home and pets, and made with love. But, the program said that it was contraband. The child was allowed photos and a blanket/quilt/comforter from home according to program rules. But, the program felt that the quilt was a "distraction". This is unreasonable and any program that denies such an item to a child away from home is not working in the best interest of the child or the family.
"The undersigned parents or guardian, by virtue of signing this Community Service Acknowledgement and Waiver, hereby acknowledge and agree with the following statements regarding the release of private information pertaining to the period of time our son is a resident at Northwoods."
"That the occasion of service projects in and around the Bonners Ferry and Sagle communities performed by Northwoods is of general interest to the community and may be attended by coverage in a local or community newspaper. That coverage 1 a local or community newspaper might include a photograph of staff and residents participating in the service project, with the disclosure of their names to accompany the printing of the photograph."
"That neither Northwoods, its owners, its directors, its employees, or its agents, shall be held liable or accountable, by me or by my son, for the release of such personal information pursuant to the release contemplated in the above paragraphs, and I hereby expressly waive my rights and my son's rights to initiate any such claim or action."
It is a serious concern that Northwoods does not protect nor respect the privacy of children enrolled in its program and that it will use the children for self-promotion.
It is a serious concern that Northwoods implies that parents have the right to waive the rights of their child in regards to the child's privacy and other constitutional rights when this is clearly not the case. See www.heal-online.org/legalarguments.htm for more information. Parents can waive their own rights, but, not the rights of their children. Such a term further suggests illegality and unconscionability in the contract and waivers and raises additional serious concerns regarding the practices of Northwoods.
"According to Regulation 612.2 of the S.S. Postal Service's Postal Operations Manual, a minor's parents may control delivery of correspondence addressed to their minor child."
"The undersigned parents authorized Northwoods to open and inventory packages addressed to their son to ensure the contents of a package are not detrimental to their son's health, safety, or well being."
"Until this signed authorization form is returned to Northwoods, your son will not be permitted to receive correspondence. In such a circumstance, the correspondence will be returned to its sender. After your son's admission, incoming correspondence to him will only be permitted from those family members and individuals who have been approved by you."
"In addition, at the time of admission, when this policy is explained to your son he will also be asked to sign this authorization form."
First, there is no known entity that is the "S.S. Postal Service". However, HEAL did locate the U.S. Postal Operations Manual online. But, it was not provided by the USPS or any official website of the USPS. And, through the USPS, we were only able to locate the "Domestic Mail Manual". In reviewing the U.S. Postal Operations Manual through the first link in this paragraph, we found the following in regards to "Regulation 612.2". The regulation states, "A minorís guardian may control delivery of mail addressed to the minor. If there is no guardian, and the minor is unmarried, then either parent may receive delivery of the minorís mail." However, it does not state that the parent can sign over the right to control mail to a third-party and such is not implied by the regulation. This regulation, if legitimate, would be intended to allow authority of parents over mail sent to children living in the home. In Milonas and Rice, et al, v. Provo Canyon School, the federal court ruled that controlling, monitoring, and censoring the mail of children in residential programs is a violation of the minor's rights which counters the claims made by Northwoods and further suggests deception and arguable illegality of the terms of the contract.
Minors also cannot be held to any contract signed in minority that is not for necessities. And, therefore Northwoods uses deception, intimidation, and coercion on children in the program as well. This is an additional serious concern.
In reviewing the Domestic Mail Manual, no such regulation is mentioned. And, this raises additional concerns regarding the legitimacy of the supposed "Postal Operations Manual". In fact, the United States Postal Service only lists four manuals for its operations. Those manuals are: Employee and Labor Relations Manual, Domestic Mail Manual, International Mail Manual, and Purchasing Manual. It would appear that the US Postal Operations Manual is not a legitimate manual of the USPS and again shows deception on the part of Northwoods in regards to the law. The U.S. Postal Operations Manual when searched for online shows up first at the imperialmailboxsystems.com website and second in the Northwoods enrollment documents when searching google.com. Imperial Mailbox Systems is Imperial Door Systems "doing business as" Imperial Mailbox Systems. It is a private business located in Millbrook, Alabama. Imperial Door Systems is also known as Imperial Manufacturing, Inc and was founded by John H. Clark, Sr. Imperial Klans of America is an Alabama based white-supremacist organization. There may be no connection to be made, but, it is interesting that any company in Alabama would choose "Imperial" as the first word in its name given the likely negative association with that word in that area of the country. Sagle, ID (one of the towns where Northwoods operates) is a prominent white supremacist/white nationalist (neo-Nazi) town. And, it is possible that Northwoods is a front for the new slavery movement and that it associates with other such groups to construct or supply misinformation to support their false claims. We are not saying Imperial Manufacturing nor Northwoods is definitively associated with any white-supremacist/hate groups. The possible "Freudian slip" of using "S.S." instead of "U.S." on the paperwork may also be telling. The "SS" forces in Nazi Germany during World War II are described as the "corps of the Nazi party" and "the Nazis regarded the SS as an elite unit" in charge of the holocaust. However, given their location and other issues with their materials, we think the possibility is quite strong and this further leads us to be concerned about any child being entrusted to Northwoods.
"It is the policy of Northwoods to be respectful of and make reasonable efforts to accommodate the cultural or religious heritage of our residents...Your son will be encouraged to maintain his cultural or religious heritage while he is a resident at Northwoods. This is accomplished in the flowing ways:"
"Cultural or religious material can be read during a resident's leisure time."
"A resident is allowed visitation by a cultural or religious advisor or counselor on the request of his parents or guardian."
"A resident shall have access to off-campus cultural or religious activities and events depending on his eligibility and transportation availability."
"This information is being requested pursuant to Section 16.06.02.528 of the Idaho rules governing standards for child care licensing."
Given that Sagle, ID is a known hotspot for white supremacist activity, parents should inquire as to what types of "cultural activities" their children will be exposed to at Northwoods and what "cultural or religious" materials they may be exposed to as well.
We also repeat here that we were unable to find any evidence that Northwoods is licensed, accredited, or in any way regulated by the state of Idaho's Department of Health and Welfare. Were were also unable to locate any information referencing Section 16.06.02.528 regarding the rules governing the standards of child care licensing in Idaho. We are still waiting to hear back from the Department regarding our initial inquiry about Northwoods after discovering that no Department of Health and Welfare licensed provider list included Northwoods.
HEAL recommends no child be placed in Northwoods and that all children currently enrolled be rescued as soon as possible.
Last Updated:October 19th, 2016