(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 Phoenix Outdoor. 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 Phoenix Outdoor, you have the right to take action.
If you were harmed (family or survivor) by Phoenix Outdoor, please contact email@example.com 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 don’t place your loved one in Phoenix Outdoor and rescue them if they are there now.
|Gail Carpenter||Finance Manager||Phoenix Outdoor and SUWS of the Carolinas are the same program. They have merged into one and are sharing both names. HEAL chose not to verify Carpenter's qualifications as it is not generally expected that office professionals have specific professional licenses.|
|Lynn Wadsworth||Program Manager||Formerly worked for SUWS and unnamed juvenile correction facilities. Wadsworth is not a licensed medical professional in NC. Source: http://wwwapps.ncmedboard.org/Clients/NCBOM/Public/LicenseeInformationResults.aspx. Wadsworth is not a licensed psychologist in NC. Source: http://www.ncpsychologyboard.org/search.htm. There is a Genena Lynn Wadsworth (may be a different person) that is a licensed professional counselor in NC. Source: http://www.ncblpc.org/license-info/verification|
|Erin Marcus-Levine||Clinical Director||Formerly worked for Four Circles Recovery Center. Erin Marcus-Levine is not a licensed medical professional in NC. Source: http://wwwapps.ncmedboard.org/Clients/NCBOM/Public/LicenseeInformationResults.aspx. Erin Marcus-Levine is not a licensed psychologist in NC. Source: http://www.ncpsychologyboard.org/search.htm. Erin Marcus-Levine is not a licensed mental health professional in NC. Source: http://www.ncblpc.org/license-info/verification.|
|Eric Belsterling||Therapist||Formerly worked for Aspen Achievement Academy, Four Circles Recovery Center, SUWS of the Carolinas, and Passages to Recovery. Belsterling is a licensed professional counselor in NC and has been since 2009. Source: http://www.ncblpc.org/license-info/verification. Belsterling is not a licensed medical professional in NC. Source: http://wwwapps.ncmedboard.org/Clients/NCBOM/Public/LicenseeInformationResults.aspx. Belsterling is not a licensed psychologist in NC. Source: http://www.ncpsychologyboard.org/search.htm.|
|Christopher Herndon||Field Instructor||Herndon is not a licensed medical professional in NC. Source: http://wwwapps.ncmedboard.org/Clients/NCBOM/Public/LicenseeInformationResults.aspx. Herndon is not a licensed psychologist in NC. Source: http://www.ncpsychologyboard.org/search.htm. Herndon is not a licensed mental health professional in NC. Source: http://www.ncblpc.org/license-info/verification.|
|Andy Hill||Field Instructor||Hill is not a licensed medical professional in NC. Source: http://wwwapps.ncmedboard.org/Clients/NCBOM/Public/LicenseeInformationResults.aspx. Hill is not a licensed psychologist in NC. Source: http://www.ncpsychologyboard.org/search.htm. Hill is not a licensed mental health professional in NC. Source: http://www.ncblpc.org/license-info/verification.|
|Eric Janoski||Field Instructor||Janoski is not a licensed medical professional in NC. Source: http://wwwapps.ncmedboard.org/Clients/NCBOM/Public/LicenseeInformationResults.aspx. Janoski is not a licensed psychologist in NC. Source: http://www.ncpsychologyboard.org/search.htm. Janoski is not a licensed mental health professional in NC. Source: http://www.ncblpc.org/license-info/verification.|
|Jess Woodard||Medic||Woodard is not a licensed medical professional in NC. Source: http://wwwapps.ncmedboard.org/Clients/NCBOM/Public/LicenseeInformationResults.aspx.|
|Kelly Pace||Human Resources||HEAL chose not to verify Pace's qualifications as it is not generally expected that office professionals have specific professional licenses.|
|Larry Farber||Yoga||Yoga does not appear to be a profession for which NC issues licenses. Therefore, HEAL was unable to verify Farber's qualifications.|
|Kedar Brown||Therapist||Brown is not a licensed medical professional in NC. Source: http://wwwapps.ncmedboard.org/Clients/NCBOM/Public/LicenseeInformationResults.aspx. Brown is not a licensed psychologist in NC. Source: http://www.ncpsychologyboard.org/search.htm. Brown is a licensed professional counselor only in NC. Source: http://www.ncblpc.org/license-info/verification.|
|Jesse Quam||Clinical Director||Formerly worked for Aspen Achievement Academy and Passages to Recovery. Quam is not a licensed medical professional in NC. Source: http://wwwapps.ncmedboard.org/Clients/NCBOM/Public/LicenseeInformationResults.aspx. Quam is not a licensed psychologist in NC. Source: http://www.ncpsychologyboard.org/search.htm. Quam is not a licensed mental health professional in NC. Source: http://www.ncblpc.org/license-info/verification.|
|Shawn Farrell||Executive Director||Formerly worked for Aspen Achievement Academy, SUWS of the Carolinas, Passages to Recovery, Explorations Wilderness, and On Track. Farrell is not a licensed medical professional in NC. Source: http://wwwapps.ncmedboard.org/Clients/NCBOM/Public/LicenseeInformationResults.aspx. Farrell is not a licensed psychologist in NC. Source: http://www.ncpsychologyboard.org/search.htm. Farrell is not a licensed mental health professional in NC. Source: http://www.ncblpc.org/license-info/verification.|
|Jennifer Fazzolari||Executive Director||Fazzolari also worked for Parkersburg Treatment Center and Pressley Ridge Schools (West Virginia). There is no additional information on staff at this program at this time. Fazzolari no longer appears to work for this program. Fazzolari is not a licensed medical professional in NC. Source: http://wwwapps.ncmedboard.org/Clients/NCBOM/Public/LicenseeInformationResults.aspx. Fazzolari is not a licensed psychologist in NC. Source: http://www.ncpsychologyboard.org/search.htm. Fazzolari is not a licensed mental health professional in NC. Source: http://www.ncblpc.org/license-info/verification.|
|*(Phoenix Outdoor, 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.)|
|Phoenix Outdoor is an Aspen Education Group program. Thomas J. Croke, Educational Consultant, has denounced Aspen Education Group for putting profits over the safety and care of children in Aspen programs.|
HEAL Contract Review:
SUWS of the
HEAL has found multiple problems with SUWS of the Carolinas/Phoenix Outdoor's enrollment agreement including apparent unconscionable terms and/or contradictory terms leaving us to believe that SUWS of the Carolinas/Phoenix Outdoor is running a money-making scam on families in need of assistance. We will be alternating between "quoted text" from pages of SUWS of the Carolinas/Phoenix Outdoor's (SUWS) enrollment agreement (as was downloaded from suwscarolinas.com on October 13th, 2010) and HEAL's questions/concerns. HEAL will not repeatedly link to the enrollment agreement in full throughout this review, and, we advise readers to scroll back and/or open the enrollment agreement in a new window while reviewing our work for accuracy or if additional contextualization is preferred. This is an independent review and if you are in need of legal assistance or advice, please consult with an attorney.
Enrollment Agreement (Page 1)
"If sending your child unaccompanied is not an option for your family, the admissions department can help you arrange travel plans for your child."
HEAL's primary concern is that the above sentence suggests that SUWS of the Carolinas/Phoenix Outdoor may recommend the use of paid "kidnappers"/"escorts". According to Deputy District Attorney in Fresno County, Elvoyce Hooper, “Whenever you use force or fraud to take someone, that can be a kidnapping case, even against a parent.” (Source: Holding, Reynolds, Chronicle Legal Affairs Writer. “When Parents OK Abduction: Troubled teenagers snatched away ‘for their own good’. The San Francisco Chronicle. June 22nd, 1994.)
HEAL has received confirmation that Aspen Education Group/CRC Health does recommend using these "transport services". This will be covered more extensively in the review of page 9 of the enrollment agreement below.
Enrollment Agreement (Page 2)
"SUWS of the Carolinas provides all clothing and gear to help ensure optimal safety in all weather conditions. All you need to pack is 10 pair of underwear, and 3 sports bras for the young ladies."
"If your child requires corrected vision, please send glasses only."
"Send a 30-day supply of each of your child's medications. If your child arrives with less than a 30-day supply, please have your physician write the necessary prescription. Your credit card will be charged for the initial physical, medication(s), and any other medical expenses."
"Please leave expensive items, such as jewelry and cell phones, at home."
"Sunglasses are not allowed."
HEAL's concern is that we have received reports that Aspen does not provide necessary clothing and gear for proper hygiene and good health. In addition, we will discuss later on how SUWS does not take any responsibility for the welfare of children placed in its care and leaves the sole responsibility of the child's well-being to the parents or subcontracted clinicians. Given that SUWS does not accept responsibility for the children in its care (see pages 7 & 8 of enrollment agreement), it is unwise to rely on SUWS to provide the gear and clothing necessary to reduce risk of harm. You can learn more about the lack of proper gear and clothing Aspen claims to provide by reading the statements at www.heal-online.org/ale.htm.
Children are not allowed contact lenses while enrolled in the program. This is a minor concern given that there are sometimes medical reasons for choosing contact lenses over glasses.
SUWS of the Carolinas is not a licensed medical care provider and it is a concern that they will be administering medications to children while enrolled in the program. Beyond this, it is a concern that SUWS does not accept any responsibility for any medical expenses that may be the result of the negligence or tortious conduct of SUWS and/or its staff. This will also be discussed at greater length when we cover pages 7 and 8 of the agreement.
SUWS of the Carolinas has multiple unconscionable terms in its contract. One is related to personal property. SUWS accepts no responsibility for the personal property of children enrolled in its program. This is why they advise against bringing "expensive items". But, they demand parents take full responsibility for any damage their child may cause, even partially and even if provoked to cause intentional damage or it is an accident due to lack of proper supervision by staff. This will also be discussed further in the discussion of page 7 of the agreement.
There is something unreasonably cruel in denying sunglasses and/or bandanas to children hiking in the sun and through dusty terrain. Children hiking up to and sometimes over 20 miles a day in the sun should be allowed protective gear (i.e. sunglasses) for their eyes. This particular policy suggests an inhumane program. It is not the most offensive policy of this program. Keep reading.
Enrollment Agreement (Page 3)
"You and the field supervisor/therapist will schedule follow up calls at regular intervals throughout your child's SUWS experience."
"The Extranet is intended to support the communication received from the therapist, NOT replace it...You can also refer to this site to learn more about our staff, facility, and post SUWS of the Carolinas travel arrangements."
"Your child's therapist is available to you via e-mail, but please remember that his or her responses won't be instantaneous as the main focus is working with your child in the field."
"Your child will receive journaling and writing assignments as part of his or her therapeutic experience."
"You will be asked to write and fax or e-mail letter(s) to your child. Friends and family are discouraged from sending cards/letters. Your Therapist can address this and direct the frequency of correspondence."
"The letters written by your child throughout the program are typically sent or given to you with other documentation at the end of the program."
"Parents are encouraged to attend this engaging two-day, activity-based workshop led by Dr. Brooke Judkins, the Family Program Coordinator at SUWS of the Carolinas."
"Workshops take place at the Wolf Creek Lodge and recommendations for area lodging will be provided."
"As mentioned previously, it is essential to identify the aftercare option at least a week prior to your child's departure from the program to allow time for transition into the on-call search and rescue phase."
HEAL's concern is that the Field Supervisors listed in the staff list above are not licensed therapists nor mental health professionals. To use the words "Field Supervisor" and "Therapist" in an interchangeable context, as SUWS does above, creates a serious concern regarding the qualifications and quality of so-called "therapy" provided to children enrolled in this program. Not only do the Field Supervisors lack professional licensure and qualification, the same is true of nearly all of the so-called "therapists". This screams "scam". Not a single one is even licensed beyond the status of "counselor". There does not appear to be a single licensed marriage and family therapist on staff. The conclusion HEAL draws from this information is that SUWS is a scam.
It is inappropriate to provide "therapy" via the internet. And, any legitimate family therapist will tell you that family therapy must be done in person with a licensed therapist. Third-party manipulated communications intended to provide the most profit for SUWS and Aspen and the most confusion and impotence for the family is not effective therapy.
The therapists at SUWS are not legitimate, licensed psychologists and therapists.
Many survivors of programs such as SUWS report that journaling and writing assignments consist of being forced to provide false confessions in order to provide a basis for the program recommending longer-term placements and thereby creating more profit for the program based on the fear and disturbance caused by parents being informed of outlandish "confessions" the children have made. These false confessions are generally coerced or forced as children will not make it to the next phase/level of the program until they have satisfied the program's requirement that they provide enough of a shocking confession that parents will have no doubts and completely buy into the program's scam. Given that these assignments are evaluated by unlicensed "therapists" and "field supervisors", it is quite clear that legitimate therapy is not the service provided and that there is an ulterior motive for the journals and writing assignments. This is a serious concern.
SUWS uses the "fax" and "e-mail" scheme to avoid the laws related to privacy and the illegality of opening or withholding mail sent through the US Postal Service. In the case of Milonas and Rice v. Provo Canyon School, the court ruled that monitoring and censoring of outgoing and incoming mail was a violation of the law. See www.heal-online.org/provocases.htm for more information. This is a serious concern as any reports of other legal violations or abuse will likely be censored and not permitted to be sent. This is further confirmed by the fact that SUWS will withhold letters written by a child to his/her family until the child graduates the program. This is a serious red flag and a major concern.
Who is Dr. Brooke Judkins? Judkins is not a licensed medical professional nor psychologist in North Carolina. And, a HEAL representative called Brandis Brooke Judkins this evening (July 16th, 2012) to determine whether it was the same individual. The individual refused to confirm whether or not they were the same individual as Brooke Judkins with Aspen Education Group, SUWS, and Lake House Academy. Judkins appears to be originally from Pennsylvania. Judkins does not appear to be a licensed therapist, psychologist, nor any other such professional in Pennsylvania. Source: http://www.licensepa.state.pa.us/. These are all serious concerns.
What is Wolf Creek Lodge? Wolf Creek Lodge is a "Fraternal Organization" and a "non-profit". There is literally no information online about this supposed "Fraternal Organization". A HEAL volunteer called the number of this "lodge" and the other line picked up and hung up without saying a word. Wolf Creek Lodge is not recognized nor licensed by the State of North Carolina. Source: http://www.secretary.state.nc.us/corporations/thepage.aspx. It appears that Wolf Creek Lodge may now be called Wolf Laurel Inn. Both seem to share the same address. But, not the same phone number. Wolf Laurel Inn dissolved (went out of business) in August, 2010. This all seems very shady. The address for the lodge/inn is 125 Valley View Cir Mars Hill, NC. HEAL has not been able to verify the current owners of that specific location. We are working on it.
The "after care" is the long-term residential "school" they want to sucker you into so you pay them upwards of double the cost of Harvard tuition with room, board, and counseling without the benefits of a Harvard education with room, board, and counseling. Can you say scam?
Enrollment Agreement (Page 4)
"If we will be taking your child to the airport, we will bag the gear for easy check-in at the airport. If you are going to be taking your child from the program, a bag will be provided for your convenience."
Seriously, at this point, hopefully you've already decided against SUWS of the Carolinas. But, if not, and you have enrolled or plan to enroll your child in this program, we recommend you accompany your child and pack with them to make sure they get all of their belongings, journals, etc. It is common for items to go "missing" when the program is allowed to do the packing. So, we recommend you handle it yourself.
Prisons have a check-list of items that come with the inmates into the prison. And, those items are returned and itemized to ensure that an inmate cannot claim theft. This is an easy solution for programs like SUWS. The child's belongings should be itemized by the family and the program and all items listed should be returned at the end of any program. The program should also take responsibility for anything missing since they have 24/7 supervision and control over the children in their care.
Enrollment Agreement (Page 5)
"Copy of the front and back of your medical insurance card."
"Copy of Custody Agreement if parents are divorced."
"Statement of most recent dental examination invoice, insurance statement, or handwritten note from dentist's office are all fine."
SUWS is not a medical services provider. They are licensed as a Residential Therapeutic (Habilitative) Camp by the State of North Carolina. Source: http://www.ncdhhs.gov/dhsr/data/mhllist.pdf. A HEAL representative is in touch with DHHS in North Carolina and is working on determining whether or not SUWS is effectively regulated by State Officials. HEAL finds it a serious concern that this program has no licensed psychologists nor therapists on Staff.
Both parents should have their custody agreements handy in the event a rescue from a program such as SUWS is required. You should consult with an attorney to make sure that your ex has not illegally placed your child in the program. Programs take the "word" of the parent enrolling the child and will require the non-contracting parent to provide a copy of the custody agreement, even if the program has a copy, before they release the child to the non-contracting parent.
It is unclear why the most recent dental examination information is required. It is possible that the purpose is to check if there are recent dental records and see if a child's body can be identified by those records and what may be needed to disappear a child so that they are never found nor identified. We hope this is not the case.
Enrollment Agreement (Page 6)
"This agreement ("Agreement") is entered into by and between SUWS OF THE CAROLINAS, a Delaware limited liability company (hereinafter "SUWS"), operating SUWS OF THE CAROLINAS, a licensed program which is described in the program materials that Sponsor has received previously and which is made a part of this Agreement by reference (the "Program") and ________________________parent(s) and/or guardian(s) of the Student (hereinafter the "Sponsors")... In consideration of the mutual promises set forth in this Agreement, SUWS, and Sponsor (hereinafter the "Parties") mutually agree as follows:"
"Sponsor warrants that Sponsor is legal parent(s) and/or guardian(s), having legal custody of the following child: _______________(full and preferred name), whose birth date is _______________(hereinafter the "Student"), and that Sponsor desires to and does hereby contract with SUWS for the Student's enrollment in the Program according to the terms and conditions of this Agreement. In entering into and performing under this Agreement, SUWS is relying on all representations and promises of the Sponsor contained or expressed in this Agreement and all other documents and information sheets from Sponsor to SUWS, and Sponsor expressly warrants the truth and accuracy of the same."
"Sponsor acknowledges and agrees that SUWS' conditional acceptance of the Student is subject to the personal evaluation and screening process conducted by SUWS prior to completion of the Assessment phase of the Program. If the Student satisfies SUWS' screening criteria, SUWS shall accept the Student and, excepts as otherwise provided herein, permit the Student to complete the Program. If the Student fails to satisfy SUWS' screening criteria, the Student will be returned promptly to Sponsor and a deduction for all reasonable expenses incurred by SUWS on behalf of the Student and/or the Sponsor prior to the Student's return."
"Assuming the Student is accepted into the Program, the term of this Agreement shall be a minimum of 28 Days beginning with the Student's arrival in, now anticipated on ____ (the "Arrival Date"). On the Arrival Date, Sponsor shall transfer by a Power of Attorney in the form received and executed by Sponsor, temporary custody of the Student to SUWS for the duration of the Agreement, unless either party terminates this Agreement prior thereto by giving written notice to the other party pursuant to the terms of this Agreement or until the Student attains the age of nineteen (19), unless the Student (a) has otherwise been placed in the custody of SUWS by a court of proper jurisdiction or (b) voluntarily consents in writing to remain in the Program for any period of time beyond said nineteenth (19th) birthday."
"PROGRAM FEE. The Student is accepted with the expectation that the Student will complete the entire Program. Unless otherwise set forth in Exhibit "A", the Program fee is $465.00/day with an initial enrollment fee of $2000.00."
"At the time of admission, private pay sponsors shall pay the full initial amount of the student's scheduled stay plus the enrollment fee."
"This initial payment may be paid by check. All subsequent payments, if any, shall be paid only by accepted credit card (VISA, Mastercard or American Express), wire transfer or pre-authorized electronic check debit (ACH)."
"Sponsor shall also provide a valid credit card number with available credit at the time of admission. In the event that any fees, costs or subsequent extensions, including but not limited to the initial physical cost, medication costs, outfitting costs and additional medical expenses, are not paid when due, Sponsor authorizes the program to charge these items, including late fees, to this credit card number."
"Students receiving school district assistance must pay tuition and fees when due. The program will refund Sponsor upon receipt of payment from the school district."
The purpose of including the first two segments are to show that SUWS is an LLC by their own admission and that throughout the remainder of the contract the parents and/or guardians are referred to as Sponsors. HEAL does not currently have a copy of SUWS' program description. However, we have reviewed the program description of one of their sister programs, Aspen Ranch in UT. We ask that you compare the program description SUWS has provided you with our review of Aspen Ranch's program description at www.heal-online.org/aspenrch.htm.
The third segment is an issue that will be addressed further when we review the sections regarding early withdrawal (page 7) and liquidated damages (page 9). The point is to show the inequity in the policies of the program in regards to its own decision to expel or dismiss a child from the program when compared to the policies in the event parents/guardians choose to terminate the contract or withdraw their child.
The minimum stay is 28 days. And, SUWS claims it can hold an adult until they are 19 years of age against their will. This appears to be an illegal term in the contract. The legal age of majority in North Carolina is 18 years of age, not 19. This is a serious concern.
If your child was to be enrolled in this program for a full calendar year, the minimum cost would be $169,725 + the $2,000 enrollment fee. That makes the minimum total expense for one year $171,725. And, that is an unreasonable cost. This is especially so where there is no clear purpose of the SUWS program. "Harvard University will increase tuition next school year by 3.8 percent, the school announced yesterday, bringing the annual cost of a Harvard education, including room and board, to $50,724." (Source: boston.com, March 19th, 2010) Think about it, this program is charging over triple the annual cost of Harvard University (including room and board) and doesn't even provide advanced placement classes. The cost of $171,725 is the minimum cost and does not cover the additional psychological assessment or care fees associated with the program. It does not cover anything but the base-price for the calculated at one-year of service. So, families are looking at over triple the tuition of Harvard for one year for a lot of nothing from SUWS. Also, SUWS subcontracts all arguably "legitimate" therapeutic work to third-parties and charges families extra for those "services". So, families are paying nearly three times the annual cost of Harvard tuition to send their children to a program in North Carolina which provides at best a below standard secondary education, no legitimate therapy, and out of the deal SUWS gets free labor. It sounds like a scam and one that could leave families psychologically and financially devastated. This will be developed throughout this review.
SUWS requires the cost of the minimum stay (28 days) plus $2000 up front. And, if parents get wise to the scam after payment has been made, SUWS has made it clear in the contract that refunds will not be forthcoming.
HEAL, again, recommends against placing any child in this program and that families avoid giving their credit card numbers or banking information to this program.
SUWS of the Carolinas is not a registered boarding school/private school in North Carolina. Source: http://www.ncdnpe.org/documents/hhh123.pdf. Due to the fact that SUWS of the Carolinas is not a registered academic program, no public school district should be financing a child's enrollment. This is a serious concern.
Enrollment Agreement (Page 7)
"A cancellation received less than seven (7) days prior to the arrival date will result in a 50% refund. The amount retained by SUWS may, if deemed appropriate by SUWS, be used as a credit against any future enrollment of the Student."
"If Sponsor withdraws Student before expiration of the minimum period of enrollment without the recommendations of the Program Director, Sponsor forfeits the remaining balance of the minimum stay. Any pre-payments above and beyond the minimum stay will be reimbursed to Sponsor."
"In addition to the Program fee, Sponsor agrees to pay for the following expenses of the Student: transportation from the student's current residence to Program, and return transportation to the Student's current residence; food and lodging expenses for any holding period before commencement of the Program and/or after completion of the program; all medical, dental, hospital, and related expenses incurred by or for the Student and all required personal items specified in the student clothing list. Sponsors are also responsible for any additional escort fees required for transporting Student to and/or from the Program to another location (i.e. airport, doctor's appointment, or special event). Sponsors are responsible for the cost of any psychiatric evaluations performed by a psychiatrists."
"Sponsor agrees to accept full responsibility for (1) the repair or replacement of any property damaged, defaced, or destroyed by the Student, whether owned, leased, or controlled by SUWS or any third party, and (2) any personal injury to any SUWS personnel, other students or third parties caused, in whole or in part, by the Student; and to promptly reimburse SUWS for any costs and expenses, including legal fees, it may incur in connection therewith."
"In the event the Student runs away from the Program, SUWS will make every reasonable effort to find the Student and return the Student to the Program or to the Sponsor. An accounting of the expenses incurred by SUWS in finding and returning the Student will be made to the Sponsor who agrees to accept full responsibility for any and all such costs and expenses, and to pay the same within seven (7) days of the Sponsor's receipt of said accounting."
:"SUWS is not liable for any loss of or damage to any of the Student's property. The Student is fully responsible for the same at all times."
"Sponsor agrees and consents to SUWS' subcontracting certain services to be rendered under this Agreement to persons or entities deemed by SUWS to be properly qualified to provide said services, at no additional cost to Sponsor unless otherwise agreed to by both parties. SUWS is not responsible for the services provided by such third-party contractors and is hereby released from any liability arising from such services. All clinicians furnishing services to the Student, including any psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health professionals, or internists or the like, are independent contractors with the client and are not employees of SUWS. The Student is under the care and supervision of his/her attending clinician and it is the responsibility of the Student's clinician to obtain the Sponsor's informed consent, when required, for medical, surgical, or psychiatric treatment, special diagnostic or therapeutic procedures, or other services rendered the Student under the general and special instructions of the clinician."
"Sponsor acknowledges serious hazards and dangers, known and unknown, inherent in the Program, including but not limited to ranch, agricultural and vocational activities, emotional and physical injuries, illness or death that may arise from strenuous hiking, climbing and camping in a natural environment, exposure to the elements, plants and animals, running away from the Program, "acts of God" (nature), the ropes course, kayaking, water sports, stress, involvement with other students, self-inflicted injuries, and transportation to and from the Program's field location(s). Sponsor understands that in participating in the Program Student will be in locations and using facilities where many hazards exist and is aware of and appreciates the risks, which may result. Sponsor understands that accidents occur during such activities due to the negligence of others, which may result in death or serious injury. Sponsor and Student are voluntarily participating in the Programs with knowledge of the dangers involved and agree to accept all risks. In consideration for being permitted to participate in the Programs, Sponsor agrees to not sue, to assume all risks and to release, hold harmless and indemnify SUWS and any and all of its predecessors, successors, officers, directors, trustees, insurers, employees, managers, agents, volunteers, community organizations, administrators, heirs, attorneys, executors, assigns and/or related or affiliated business entities including, but not limited to, Aspen Education Group, Inc. 5 and Aspen Health Services Corporation (collectively all of the above persons and entities shall be referred to as the "Released Parties" hereafter) who, through negligence, carelessness or any other cause, might otherwise be liable to Sponsor or Student under theories of contract or tort law except for any liability arising from intentional actions or gross negligence by released parties. Sponsor intends by this Waiver and Release to release, in advance, and to waive his or her rights and discharge each and every one of the Released Parties, from any and all claims for damages for death, personal injury or property damage which Sponsor may have, or which may hereafter accrue as a result of Student's participation in any aspect of the Programs, even though that liability may arise from negligence or carelessness on the part of the persons or entities being released, from dangerous or defective property or equipment owned, maintained or controlled by them or because of their possible liability without fault. Except for any liability arising from intentional actions or gross negligence by released. Additionally, Sponsor covenants not to sue any of the Released Parties based upon their breach of any duty owed ot Sponsor or Student as a result of their participation in any aspect of the Programs. Sponsor understands and agrees that this Waiver and Release is binding on his or her heirs, assigns and legal representatives and that the Released Parties shall be exempts from liability to Sponsor, his or her heirs, assigns and legal representatives." [section ends on page 8]
If you get wise and pull the plug before your child is sent to SUWS, you lose 50%, plus the $2000 enrollment fee. That amounts to $8,510 when calculated by the minimum stay. SUWS will take "emergency placements" on a "24 hour notice". But, they expect families to bear the burden if they cancel less than 7 days in advance of the arrival date. That appears to be a penalty clause (i.e. unconscionable term). This is a serious concern.
And, of course, if for some reason you decide it was a bad decision (with which HEAL would heartily agree) to place your child in SUWS and remove him/her from the program, you lose all of the money you paid to SUWS. Now, if SUWS isn't, which they don't appear to be, open about the "environment" they create for the children which reportedly includes both physical abuse and humiliating verbal attacks, then you should be due a refund. The comparison between the claims made in promotional materials and the "agreed to terms" of the contract may mean the difference between proving fraudulent inducement (i.e. misleading advertising and/or oral assurances of the programs safety/success rate) and assumption of risk (i.e. the terms of the enrollment agreement). If you pulled your child from the program and believe you are due a refund, you should consult an attorney.
It is a concern that the "therapeutic" services of the program are optional and appear to come at an additional cost. This too is contradicted. In the 3rd segment above, SUWS states that Sponsor will be charged additional fees for psychiatric and psychological testing and services. But, in the 7th segment, Aspen says it will cover costs of those services included in the agreement. This is confusing language and contradictory.
The third segment is reasonable, or would be reasonable, if SUWS's program did not intentionally provoke or cause violent or extreme outbursts by the very nature of their methods. It is reasonable for SUWS to demand parents accept liability for their child's actions resulting in damage to people or property. But, only with the caveat that SUWS is providing a nurturing environment and not provoking angry outbursts through humiliation or physical assault of the children. Since it has been reported that such outbursts are intentionally provoked by SUWS staff at times, this clause may raise concern for families. SUWS should insure against such incidents through good business practice and proper insurance that would be required of any licensed childcare program or facility. It is wrong to solely place liability with the parents who are entrusting the supervision and care of their child to the program. And, families should require an investigation into any incidents of this nature to insure that they are not being stuck with a bill that is not their own or their child's.
Even though SUWS demands full power of attorney and custody of your child, they do not accept any responsibility in the event your child escapes the program. Programs like Anasazi Foundation at least assume 50% of the financial responsibility in such events. Anasazi is troublesome too and this is not an endorsement, just a comparison of fact. Anasazi's practices in regards to such responsibility seems more appropriate or fair given the circumstances. And, SUWS's practices seem weighted primarily on financial gain with no risk for SUWS and likely nothing but debt and heartache for families.
SUWS is free to steal from your child as a result of the clause freeing them of liability for lost or damaged property. Theft of personal property at programs is fairly common. Theft of personal property at elderly-care facilities are equally as common. It is always a good idea to keep any items of pecuniary or sentimental value safe at home, this includes your children.
In addition, SUWS demands control of what "independent contractors" will be utilized and granted the fees charged for their services. However, SUWS does not take responsibility for the care provided by the contractors they deem "properly qualified". And, since they are asking you trust their judgment in regards to choosing said independent contractors, they would arguably be liable for faults found with their judgment in the event harm or other violations occur. But, they demand you hold them harmless if there is a problem with the subcontractor. And, they put full responsibility on the outside or "subcontracted" clinician for the supervision and care of your child which rights/responsibilities you transferred to SUWS with the Power of Attorney, and, they likely give permission in your stead with your permission protecting everyone else from any liability for any and all harms done to your child while in SUWS's program. This seems to be an unconscionable contract with many unconscionable terms.
The above also states that risks of emotional (i.e. psychological) and physical harm are inherent to the program. This may be true of physical harm given that exploring wilderness with limited supplies and/or improper supplies for warmth/hydration/etc. is likely to result in physical harm and is a semi-reasonable assumed risk when adventuring in such conditions. However, psychological and emotional harm should not be an inherent risk and stating that it is reveals the harmful nature of the SUWS program.
Stating that the child is voluntarily participating in the program is an open lie and contradicted by the sections on running away/recapture (discussed above) and restraint (covered below in the review of page 8). It is also contradicted on page 9 where it states that children are placed in the program without their consent. Again, we remind parents that they have the right to sign away their own rights, but, not the rights of their minor children. This is discussed further at www.heal-online.org/legalarguments.htm.
Also, SUWS states it will only be responsible for harms caused by gross negligence and willful misconduct of SUWS staff. And, repeatedly stated is that the parents waive their rights to pursue legal action even in the event of serious injury or death. These appear to be unconscionable terms given the inherent harm in participating in the program.
Enrollment Agreement (Page 8)
"Student is physically capable of participating in the Programs, and his or her medical care provider has approved his or her participation. If Sponsor is aware that Student is under treatment for any physical infirmity, ailment or illness, Student's medical care provider knows of and has approved Student's participation in the Programs. Sponsor acknowledges that Sponsor, and Sponsor alone, is solely responsible for Student's personal health and safety, and the personal property Student brings with him or her. Sponsor acknowledges that the medical insurance information Sponsor has provided on the Medical Form is current and complete and that Sponsor is solely responsible for procuring and maintaining all medical insurance Sponsor deems necessary and that the Released Parties have recommended that Sponsor procures and/or maintains medical insurance. Sponsor accepts full responsibility for any costs incurred for medical treatment due to failure to procure or maintain insurance, or providing outdated or falsified insurance information. Sponsor understands that it is ultimately Sponsor's responsibility to provide payment to any ospital/emergency response technicians/emergency transport company that may provide services to Student as a result of injury/illness during the Programs. Sponsor agrees that this Release extends to all claims of every nature and kind whatsoever, and hereby expressly waives all rights..."
"In the event of an accident, injury, illness, or other medical necessity, Sponsor hereby authorizes SUWS to: (a) provide emergency first aid to the Student in the field and enroute to any hospital or clinic, (b) arrange for any medical, dental, psychiatric, hospital, ambulance or other health-related care for the Student deemed necessary by SUWS' staff; and (c) authorize a physician, dentist or other health-care professional(s) to perform any procedure(s) that the health-care professional(s) deems necessary for the well-being of the Student. All costs and expenses incurred for these services shall be the sole responsibility of the Sponsor. Sponsor also authorizes SUWS to arrange for a physical examination (including a drug screen urine/blood test, at SUWS' option) and any psychological assessments of the Student deemed necessary by SUWS prior to the Student's beginning the Program. Sponsor also authorizes any and all medical doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, therapists, hospitals, clinics and treatment centers that have treated or counseled the Student, and whose names Sponsor shall provide to SUWS, to release all information regarding the Student's medical and/or psychological history, diagnoses and treatments to SUWS upon request. SUWS shall handle all such protected health information (also "PHI") pursuant to the guidelines promulgated in the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act ("HIPAA") Act of 1996."
"Sponsor hereby authorizes SUWS personnel to search the person and personal effects of the Student at any time, including a "strip search". In connection with such search, SUWS may, in its discretion, require Student to remove all of his or her clothing and may search Student's entire person, in which contraband may be hidden. SUWS is further authorized to confiscate any and all items deemed by SUWS to be contraband or counterproductive to the Student's successful completion of the Program. The disposition of the items confiscated by SUWS shall be left to the sole discretion of SUWS."
"Sponsor hereby authorizes SUWS personnel to physically restrain, control and detain the Student by the exercise of necessary restraints when deemed necessary by SUWS, for purposes including but not limited to escorting the Student to and from the Program's location, returning the Student to the Program if the Student runs away, or preventing the Student from jeopardizing the Student's own safety or the safety of others. In the event of a runaway, all appropriate law enforcement agencies or security personnel of any federal, state, county or municipal entity are hereby directed to detain and retain custody of the Student until Sponsor or any personnel of SUWS arrive, at which time SUWS personnel may re-obtain custody or control of the Student or authorize continued custody by the law enforcement agency until travel is arranged for the Student's return home."
HEAL thinks it is important for families to understand the indemnity clauses placing them in the position to take full responsibility in the event of serious injury or death of their child in the program. Many families have lost their children in programs similar to SUWS and some of these deaths occurred in Aspen programs. At least two children died at Aspen's SageWalk program in Oregon before it "voluntarily" suspended operations as the death(s) are investigated by authorities. These risks are very real and parents should think if the worst happens and Aspen's methods are responsible, how they will feel with nowhere to turn for justice. Be careful and always seriously consider what you are agreeing to in signing any contract. Again, this is not legal advice. If you would like legal help, please consult an attorney.
Also, parents should understand that in the second segment quoted above they are giving SUWS permission to seek and obtain psychiatric, mental health treatment, and medical treatment for the child and at the sole discretion of SUWS. In signing the Power of Attorney and the agreement, the parents are giving SUWS the right to seek and obtain such treatment. The clinician and/or other mental health professionals will be contracting with SUWS on behalf of your child and will likely report solely to SUWS in regards to the care of your child. SUWS's control and ability to deny you access to the records of such services is an additional concern. In the likely event your child is harmed, how will you begin to determine who should be held accountable? Who can be held accountable when the waiver extends to "volunteers" and "community organizations" with which SUWS contracts? Please consider these issues seriously.
Strip-searching without probable cause is a violation of the civil rights of the child. Assuming every child, with or without a history of drug use, is in need of a strip-search is unreasonable. Searching children at "any time" suggests such searches are used as a form of humiliation as opposed to being done for any legitimate purpose. And, this is a serious concern.
Using restraint to detain and control the child while in the program also shows that the program is not "voluntary" for the child and that the child is forced to participate in the program through physical force. Congress is working on legislation (HR 4247, the "Keeping All Students Safe Act of 2010") to stop these misuses of restraint in programs and schools that often result in serious injury and death.
Enrollment Agreement (Page 9)
"Sponsor hereby authorizes SUWS to use data from the Student's records, tests, and assessments for purposes of ongoing research, provided that the Student's name and identity will be kept confidential and not used in any published materials."
"SUWS reserves the right to terminate this Agreement at any time due to: (i) failure of Sponsor to pay any amounts due under paragraph 4; (ii) illegal, uncontrollable, or dangerous behavior by the Student; (iii) discovery of any unprompted or previously unknown physical, medical, mental, or emotional problem(s) of the Student; or (iv) for any other reason if SUWS deems it necessary for the protection of the Student, any other student(s) or the integrity of the SUWS' Program. In the event that SUWS elects to terminate the Student pursuant to the terms of this paragraph, Sponsor understands and agrees that Sponsor forfeits all mones pre-paid to the program." The forfeiture reflects the recognition that certain costs associated with making the program available to the Student are incurred, whether or not the program is completed, including such items as salaries, inventories, and other general operating expenses. Therefore, Sponsor understands and agrees that the policy of non-refundable payments and expenses is a reasonable estimate of the losses (i.e., Liquidated Damages) the program incurs with the early termination of Student."
"Sponsor agrees to attend the seminar for parents and guardians of the students conducted by SUWS during the Program, and to give Sponsor's full cooperation to SUWS personnel throughout the Program, in order to maximize the benefits of the Program for the Student and the Sponsor. Sponsor also agrees to read any educational materials and watch any video programs sent to Sponsor by SUWS, and to fill out and return to SUWS any interactive educational materials, while the Stu-dent is in the Program."
"If an escort is required to bring the Student to North Carolina for the Program, Sponsor agrees that any escort or escort service used by Sponsor, whether or not Sponsor is referred to the escort by SUWS, is in all respects an independent contractor contracting directly with Sponsor. Sponsor agrees that SUWS bears no responsibility of any kind for any such escort service or the negligence or failure thereof."
"Sponsor warrants that the Student is a minor, both by age and as a matter of law, that the Student does not qualify under the law as an "emancipated minor," and that the laws of the Student's state of residence permit Sponsor to place the Student in the Program without the Student's consent."
"In the event that either party is found in default or material breach of any specific promise, term or condition expressly set forth in this Agreement by an arbitrator(s) or a court of competent jurisdiction, said party shall be liable to pay all reasonable attorneys' fee, court costs and other related collection costs and expenses incurred by the other party in enforcing its contractual rights hereunder in said arbitration and/or court proceeding(s). In addition, Sponsor agrees to compensate SUWS for all reasonable attorneys' fees and costs incurred by SUWS in connection with those matters concerning which Sponsor has agreed to pay or indemnify SUWS herein."
SUWS references the use of your child and/or your child's data in "ongoing research". What is this research and will you be made privy to all studies in which your or your child's private information will be used? If not, why not? Informed consent to participate in any research includes knowing the purpose of the research and the projected risks involved in participating. This again suggests possible violations of the Nuremberg Code (International Human Rights Laws).
And, of course, if for some reason SUWS terminates the agreement and/or you decide it was a bad decision (with which HEAL would heartily agree) to place your child in SUWS and remove him/her from the program, you lose all the money you paid to SUWS. Now, if SUWS isn't, which they don't appear to be, open about the "environment" they create for the children which reportedly includes both physical abuse and humiliating verbal attacks, then you should be due a refund. The comparison between the claims made in promotional materials and the "agreed to terms" of the contract may mean the difference between proving fraudulent inducement (i.e. misleading advertising and/or oral assurances of the programs safety/success rate) and assumption of risk (i.e. the terms of the enrollment agreement). If you pulled your child from the program and believe you are due a refund, you should consult an attorney. In addition, it is a concern that you would forfeit or be forced to pay the minimum enrollment fee of over $15,000 as a "liquidated damages" clause. This seems outrageously steep and unconscionable.
HEAL recommends that parents ask what SUWS means by "full cooperation". If you witness abuse and try to prevent said abuse in opposition to the protocol of SUWS's program, will you be in violation of the "full cooperation" clause? This is likely how SUWS sees it. And, anyone who demands full cooperation and/or unquestioned authority over others is not acting in the best interest of that individual or family.
SUWS again refuses to take any responsibility for "independent contractors" to whom they refer or subject your child. Since they are holding themselves out to families as being experts who can best govern the "treatment" of a child, they would be considered responsible, at least in part, for any harm resulting from those "expert" recommendations. Also, does SUWS receive any benefit whether financial or promotional by referring and subcontracting with those to whom they refer? If so, why is it all benefits for SUWS and all risks for families? This contract seems to be an illusory contract with contrary and unconscionable terms throughout. This is not the way honest people do business.
In the fifth segment above, Aspen again reiterates how the program is not voluntary for the child. So, this directly contradicts page 7 that states the child has "voluntarily" agreed to participate in the program. This is clearly not the case.
The final segment above seems more a tool of intimidation to frighten you from pursuing legal action by having you agree to pay for SUWS's attorneys' fees regardless of the legitimacy of your claims. This seems unconscionable.
Enrollment Agreement (Page 10)
"This agreement may be amended at any time upon mutual agreement of the parties hereto, but any amendment(s) must first be reduced to writing and signed by both parties in order to become effective."
"This Agreement, and all matters relating hereto, including any matter or dispute arising between the parties out of this Agreement, tort or otherwise, shall be interpreted, governed, and enforced according to the laws of the State of California; and the Parties consent and submit to the exclusive jurisdiction and venue of the California Courts in Los Angeles County, California, and any qualified (American Arbitration Association-approved) arbitration service in the State of California, County of Los Angeles, to enforce this Agreement. The parties acknowledge that this agreement constitutes a business transaction within the State of California."
"In the event that any provision of this Agreement, or any operation contemplated hereunder, is found be a court of competent jurisdiction to be inconsistent with or contrary to any law, ordinance, or regulation, the latter shall be deemed to control and the Agreement shall be regarded as modified accordingly and, in any event, the remainder of this Agreement shall continue in full force and effect."
"Sponsor hereby acknowledges that Sponsor has read this Agreement and that Sponsor understands and consents to all of its provisions; that this Agreement constitutes the entire agreement between the parties hereto with respect to the subject matter hereof; and that all other prior agreements, promises, expectations and conditions, oral or written, between the parties are incorporated herein. Other than the express commitments set forth in this Agreement and the Program description, SUWS gives no warranties of any kind, express or implied, to either the Sponsor or the Student concerning the Program; and Sponsor acknowledges that Sponsor is not relying on any warranties or representations of any kind other than the express commitments of SUWS set forth herein."
"This Agreement shall be binding upon and inure to the benefit of the parties hereto, their heirs, personal representatives, successors and assigns."
"The parties authorize the release of the Student's information via E-mail, Internet technology, voice mail or US mail. While every effort will be made to maintain confidentiality, SUWS accepts no responsibility for the mistransmission that could result in information becoming available to someone other than the intended receiver. SUWS shall handle all such protected health information (also "PHI") pursuant to the guidelines promulgated in the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act ("HIPAA") Act of 1996."
"Any controversy or claim arising out of or relating to this contact, except at SUWS of the Carolina's option the collection of monies owed by sponsor to SUWS OF THE CAROLINAS, shall be settled by binding arbitration conducted in the State of California in accordance with the rules of the American Arbitration Association. Judgment upon the awarded rendered by the arbitrator(s) may be entered in any court of competent jurisdiction for the purpose of executing upon award."
If you are still considering SUWS, which we sincerely hope you are not, please consider asking to amend some of the unconscionable terms and illegal terms in the enrollment agreement. If SUWS refuses to limit restraint to situations involving imminent bodily harm, don't enroll your child. If SUWS refuses to amend the contract in a manner that gives SUWS responsibility for the well-being of your child while in the custody of SUWS, don't enroll your child. The unreasonable, unconscionable and arguably illegal terms of the contract have been discussed throughout this review. If the enrollment agreement can be amended to ensure equitability and fair treatment, then it should be done. Make sure any amendments are signed by SUWS as well as yourself. If not, SUWS will claim it is unenforceable based on the terms in the first segment of page 10 above.
Why is a program in North Carolina stating that the contract or agreement is a business transaction in California? Why is Los Angeles the sole location for disputes to be decided?
SUWS promises nothing in this contract but exposure to extreme risks, extraordinary costs, and a referral to another Aspen program. Families are asked to subject themselves to extreme risks, including death that is the fault of SUWS's negligence, carelessness, or other misconduct and to pay dearly for these risks with no guarantee or warranty regarding the outcome. This is such an unfair contract and seems to be illusory and arguably void/voidable as a result. It may also be void as a matter of law as some of the terms seem to imply conspiracy to commit kidnapping/false imprisonment of the minor.
Also, we again see that SUWS will not be liable for your private/protected health information being disclosed to unintended parties. This again suggests that they are not regulated by HIPAA as SUWS suggests in other areas of the contract. This suggests deceptive practices.
The final segment of page 10 above is included to show that SUWS gives itself leeway to file suit anywhere to collect monies it claims are due. But, it unconscionably states that victims of alleged fraud, abuse, or other violations do not have the right to sue for breach of contract or for "any reason whatsoever". This is an unconscionable term and raises serious concerns.
Enrollment Agreement (Page 11)
"I/we understand that the cost of SUWS of the Carolinas is $465 per day, $2,000 enrollment fee, and $2210 psychological testing fee. I/we understand that there is a minimum initial payment covering the first 28 days of the program for a total of $17,230 unless I choose to opt out of the psychological testing fee making the initial payment of program to be a total of $15,020. I/we further understand that if our child remains enrolled in the program beyond the initially indicated length of stay that ALL EXTENSIONS ARE BILLED AT A DAILY RATE OF $465.00 PER DAY, AND ALL EXTENSIONS ARE BILLED TO A CREDIT CARD."
"My signature below is a formal application to participate with SUWS of the Carolinas and an understanding of its physical demands. I agree to not sue, to assume all risks and to release and hold harmless AEG and any and all of its predecessors, successors, officers, directors, trustees, insurers, employees, managers, agents, volunteers, community organizations, administrators, heirs, attorneys, executors, assigns and/or related or affiliated business entities including, but not limited to AEG. We understand and agree that this Waiver and Release is binding on our heirs, assigns and legal representatives and that the Released Parties shall be exempt from liability to us, our heirs, assigns and legal representatives."
"I understand that even though the program works extremely well, results are not and cannot be guaranteed."
HEAL has included the first paragraph above to show the cost of the program as referenced in other areas of this review. Families should be aware that the "therapists" at SUWS are not licensed psychologists nor marriage and family therapists (see staff list above for more information). This program is also not an accredited academic/educational program. Since the therapy is arguably not legitimate and there are no transferrable academic credits, what are parents paying thousands of dollars for, exactly? Think about it.
Again, an additional waiver of your rights to sue if your child is seriously injured or killed in the program. This is a serious concern. Please do not enroll your child in this program.
What evidence exists that SUWS "works extremely well"? There is no independent evidence, other than its own promotional claims, that SUWS works at all.
Enrollment Agreement (Page 12)
"Inasmuch as I have enrolled my son/daughter (full name) _________________________ in the SUWS OF THE CAROLINAS Adolescent Program beginning (date) ______________ until graduation, and understanding that the program to be conducted in North Carolina is a rigorous physical and emotional experience for youth, and realizing that SUWS has exclusive control of (full name) _________________ during this time, I approve and consent to the following safety procedures to ensure the well-being of all participants:"
"Should a parent, legal guardian, or a child have a grievance, they should be encouraged to speak directly with the Field Supervisor or Clinical Director to resolve the grievance. Any issues that a client believes have not been satisfactorily addressed can be directed to the director of the program. In the event that this issue cannot be resolved please contact Susan Cambria, Eastern Region Vice President of the Aspen Education Wilderness Division, at firstname.lastname@example.org."
"That SUWS personnel have my permission to review, return or restrict all incoming/outgoing mail to/from my child."
"That any and all psychologists, medical doctors, hospitals, counselors, therapists, or others who have counseled or treated my/our child, and whose names have been provided to SUWS on the Parent Concern Questionnaire, are hereby authorized to release all information regarding medical history, diagnosis, treatment, or disability to SUWS staff and consultants who will be involved in my/our child's program."
"Should our son/daughter run away from the control and supervision of the SUWS staff during the term of the SUWS program, all appropriate law enforcement or security personnel of any federal, state, county, or municipal entity shall be directed to detail and retain custody of my/our son/daughter until my spouse or I or any SUWS personnel are contacted, at which time SUWS personnel may re-obtain custody or control of him/her, or they may authorized continued custody by the entity until travel is arranged for his/her immediate return to my/our home."
"That SUWS personnel shall be able to physically restrain, control, and detain my/our child for the following purposes:"
"To prevent from running away from SUWS supervision, jeopardizing his/her safety and that of other students."
"To detain him/her if for any reason he/she leaves the group and attempts to return home through any means of transportation. This detention shall be for a period of time until SUWS personnel have made telephone contact with me or my spouse, at which time a decision will be made to continue the expedition or return him/her home immediately."
"To prevent him/her from hurting or jeopardizing the safety of anyone in the program."
What does "rigorous" mean? According to Merriam-Webster, rigorous means:
1: Manifesting, exercising, or favoring rigor: very strict
2: a: Marked by extremes of temperature or climate
2: b: Harsh, severe
3: Scrupulously accurate: precise
Synonyms include: austere, authoritarian, heavy-handed and tough
Antonyms include: gentle and tolerant
It would seem only an inhumane, uncaring, and cruel family would subject children to a harsh, severe, heavy-handed, tough environment that is oppositional to gentle or tolerant practices. By using the word "rigorous" in regards to both the physical and emotional conditions at SUWS, one can only conclude that it is not simply referencing the natural conditions of a camping/outdoor environment. But, also the very nature of the way children are treated by staff in the SUWS program.
In the second segment quoted above, the issue is with the time-delays involved. Law enforcement and Child Protective Services require timely reporting of abuse or other such violations. In the third segment, it is clear the child is not free to report to authorities any tortures or abuses suffered in the program. And, in similar programs the delay in getting the reports to the proper authorities results in an inability to properly investigate and prosecute those who abuse children in such programs. So, if the parents are not notified because the child is not allowed to send a letter detailing any abuse occurring and the child is stuck in a bad situation, who is going to help? No one. And, this is a primary concern in regards to programs such as SUWS. If abuse or other serious violations (i.e. neglect--improper hygiene, food, etc.) are present and the authorities and families are not alerted, the child suffers illegal conditions without any assistance. This is completely unacceptable. Reporting to the Field Supervisor regarding any issues is not a solution. This is certainly true in situations where the Field Supervisor may be the individual abusing the child. The solutions offered for resolving grievances by SUWS are completely unacceptable and place children in harm's way.
In the third segment, the monitoring and censoring of a child's mail is a violation of his/her constitutional rights. This was determined by the Federal Courts in regards to Milonas and Rice, et al v. Provo Canyon School. This is an illegal practice. If a program is willing to violate the rights of minors in their program, they cannot be trusted. Such is common sense. For more information on what is considered illegal, see www.heal-online.org/legalarguments.htm and www.heal-online.org/provocases.htm.
The fourth segment is a concern because the "consultants" involved in such programs require no professional licensing nor credentials. This is giving permission for protected health information to be shared with those who are under no obligation to protect your child's nor your family's privacy. This is a serious concern.
Using restraint to detain and control the child while in the program also shows that the program is not "voluntary" for the child and that the child is forced to participate in the program through physical force. Congress is working on legislation (HR 4247, the "Keeping All Students Safe Act of 2010") to stop these misuses of restraint in programs and schools that often result in serious injury and death. In addition, restraint is only legally acceptable if used to prevent a threat of immediate bodily harm. Using restraint to enforce conformity to the program is not a legally nor professionally acceptable practice and this raises serious concerns regarding SUWS' program.
Enrollment Agreement (Page 13)
"Broad overview of the possible next steps and resources available to you and your child following the wilderness program."
"Information about how to prepare for a successful transition following your child's wilderness experience whether the next step is a residential treatment center or transition home with aftercare support."
"I herby agree to allow an Aftercare Transition Specialist to participate in a discussion of treatment options for the child named below. I understand that this discussion(s) may be with educational consultants, mental health professionals, and institutions. I also understand that the purpose of this conversation is solely for providing aftercare resources following my child's discharge from the wilderness program. Treatment, payment, enrollment, nor eligibility for benefits will be conditioned on my providing or refusing to provide this authorization. Information disclosed pursuant to this authorization could be re-disclosed by the recipient and might no longer be protected by federal confidentiality law (HIPAA)." [Emphasis added]
So, here's the big whammy. After wasting, and believe us you are WASTING at least $15,020 on this ridiculous and traumatizing wilderness "experience", you are going to be manipulated into buying a long-term package that could add up to $100-300,000 over multiple years of "residential treatment" in one of the other Aspen programs. Or, they may even recommend a program outside their network, for which they likely receive some form of kickback.
Why do we say it is traumatizing? Well, for starters, the "transport" for at least some appears to involve serious trauma. Would you be traumatized by strangers showing up to your home and dragging you out of bed and transporting you to an unknown location where you will be immediately strip-searched and physically assaulted if you resist? Most people would be traumatized by such an experience. So, we think it is a fair assessment.
Beyond this, they admit that your protected health information "might" no longer be protected or kept confidential. So, all claims to the contrary throughout other parts of the agreement are virtually voided by your signing this document (page 13). This is a serious concern.
Enrollment Agreement (Page 14)
"AFFILIATE PROGRAMS OF ASPEN EDUCATION GROUP AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OR DISCLOSURE OF HEALTH INFORMATION"
In the discussion of page 13, we covered why this is not a good idea. Do not share your protected health information with people who already spelled out that the information "might" no longer be protected if you give it to them.
The other issue with page 14 is that it pre-marks the box that all health information is to be shared, though it provides another unmarked box that allows you to put limits on the information to be shared. It is inappropriate for such a box to be pre-marked given the sensitivity of the information being authorized for distribution to those who "might" not have any obligation to protect your privacy and confidentiality.
Enrollment Agreement (Page 15)
"Information disclosed pursuant to this authorization could be re-disclosed by the recipient and might no longer be protected by federal confidentiality law (HIPAA)."
"A Representative from SUWS of the Carolinas will be able to sign as a witness once we receive the paperwork."
"If you have authorized the disclosure of your health information to someone who is not legally required to keep it confidential, it may be redisclosed and may no longer be protected. California law prohibits recipients of your health information from re-disclosing such information except with your written authorization or as specifically required or permitted by law."
HEAL is simply providing additional evidence that your protected health information "might" no longer be protected if you sign the enrollment forms for SUWS. This is a serious concern.
It is a minor concern that a representative of SUWS is willing to witness a document they did not actually witness being signed. This suggests some form of illegality (i.e. perjury) in claiming they witnessed a signature they did not witness. If they are willing to commit perjury in this instance, what else are they willing to lie about?
SUWS wants to make somewhat clear that by signing their documents your protected health information "might" no longer be protected and "may" be disclosed to third-parties with no obligation to protect your privacy and confidentiality. This is a serious concern.
Special Note: HEAL has chosen not to review the "Privacy Notice" included in pages 16-18 of the enrollment agreement as such appears to be nullified by other portions of the agreement. You may choose to review our review of Aspen's Privacy Notice included in some of our other contract reviews. If you visit www.heal-online.org/aspenrch.htm, you will find the Aspen Education Group Privacy Notice reviewed in pages 29-30 of the review.
Enrollment Agreement (Page 19)
"All psychological testing is conducted or supervised by doctoral level psychologists, who are contracted through one of the following agencies: Center for Research, Assessment, and Treatment Efficacy (www.createnc.com) or Clear View Psychological Services."
What is the Center for Research, Assessment, and Treatment Efficacy? It is located in Asheville, NC. And, the Staff are:
Sarah "Salli" Lewis, Ph.D.: There is a Sarah F. Lewis that is a licensed psychologist in Pisgah Forest, NC and has been since 2005. It is unclear whether or not these are the same two individuals. Source: http://www.ncpsychologyboard.org/search.htm
Sheneen Daniels, Ph.D.: Sheneen Garland Daniels is a licensed psychologist in Asheville, NC and has been since 2003. Source: http://www.ncpsychologyboard.org/search.htm
Scott J. Miller, Psy. D.: Scott J. Miller is a licensed psychologist in Asheville, NC and has been since 2004. Source: http://www.ncpsychologyboard.org/search.htm
Jane Brown, Psy. D.: Jane A. Brown is a licensed psychologist in Asheville, NC and has been since 2001. Source: http://www.ncpsychologyboard.org/search.htm
Catherine McClellan, Ph.D.: Catherine B. McClellan is a licensed psychologist in McMinnville, OR and has been since 2008. It is unclear whether or not the OR McClellan and the NC McClellan are the same person. Source: http://www.ncpsychologyboard.org/search.htm
Alex Pena, B.S.: Pena is not a licensed psychologist. Source: http://www.ncpsychologyboard.org/search.htm. Pena is not a licensed counselor/mental health professional. Source: http://www.ncblpc.org/license-info/verification.
What is Clear View Psychological Services? They appear to be located in Australia. Source: http://www.clearviewpsychology.com.au/. Their psychologists are:
Alex Montgomery (Ballarat): HEAL received confirmation from www.ahrpa.gov.au that Montgomery is a registered psychologist in Australia. However, the AHRPA said that they did not license nor regulate Clear View. We are awaiting response from Clear View regarding whether or not they provide evaluations for SUWS.
Sarah Ward (Ballarat): HEAL received confirmation from www.ahrpa.gov.au that Ward is a registered psychologist in Australia. However, the AHRPA said that they did not license nor regulate Clear View. We are awaiting response from Clear View regarding whether or not they provide evaluations for SUWS.
HEAL recommends families verify whether or not either CREATE or Clear View provide evaluations for SUWS from those service providers and whether or not they meet with the children for evaluations or rely on unprofessional evaluations by SUWS staff on which to provide their opinions based on information solely gathered from SUWS' internal "evaluations" of enrolled children.
Enrollment Agreement (Page 20)
"The workshop fee is $250 per parent."
Any workshops are services intended to be necessary for family unification and therapy should be covered by any enrollment fee. This is additional evidence of the real motive of SUWS, making money off of the pain of struggling families.
[HEAL chose not to include pages 21 and 22 of the agreement. The concerns regarding those pages are addressed elsewhere in the review and we did not see it as necessary to duplicate the concerns here.]
Enrollment Agreement (Pages 23 & 24)
"Date of Birth"
"Student's Social Security #" [end of page 23 quotes]
"Amanda and Eric Reitzel, R.Ph.'s"
HEAL is very concerned that a child's name, birth-date, and social security number is to be turned over to people who have not guaranteed to protect that information. This information can be misused in ways that can destroy lives. It is a serious concern.
We included the name of Amanda and Eric Reitzel of Sunshine Pharmacy & Health for informational purposes only. These individuals provide services to SUWS of the Carolinas and may be researched in the future.
Based on the above review and complaints we've received regarding SUWS, Phoenix Outdoor, and Aspen Education Group, we advise against enrolling any child in this program and removing any child currently enrolled.
Last Updated: July25th, 2012