This is a  staff list for Shepherd's Hill Farm in Martin, GA

(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 Shepherd's Hill Farm.  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 Shepherd's Hill Farm, you have the right to take action. 

 

If you were harmed (family or survivor) by Shepherd's Hill Farm, please contact info@heal-online.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 don’t place your loved one in Shepherd's Hill Farm and rescue them if they are there now.

 

Name

Unit/Position

Additional Information
Trace Embry Director/Owner  
Beth Embry Co-Owner  
Tina Lawton Office Mgr.  
Terri Ross Marketing  
Eric Brubaker Program Mgr.  
Allison Wallace Program Mgr.  
Joshua Wallace Program Mgr.  
Steve Schyck Principal  
Nate Tilton Teacher  
Christina Jones Teacher  
Paul Mallalieu Teacher  
Dan Godfrey Consultant  
Mary Anne Brookshire Counselor  
Jeremy Brown Counselor  
Cheryl Harris Equine Mgr.  
Vikki Paese Counselor  
Nathan Harper Staff (reported by survivor on November 24th, 2009)  Harper may no longer work at this program.
Ian Sharp Staff (reported by survivor on November 24th, 2009)  Sharp may no longer work at this program.
Steven McGarvey Staff (reported by survivor on November 24th, 2009)  McGarvey may no longer work at this program.
Amin Embry Staff (reported by survivor on November 24th, 2009)  Embry may no longer work at this program.
Andrew Dollar Staff (reported by survivor on November 24th, 2009)  Dollar may no longer work at this program.
Heather Morrow-Wasko Staff (reported by survivor on November 24th, 2009)  Morrow-Wasko may no longer work at this program.
Brett Wasko Staff (reported by survivor on November 24th, 2009)  Wasko may no longer work at this program.
Jeremiah Laird Staff (reported by survivor on November 24th, 2009)  Laird may no longer work at this program.
Amy Laird Teacher (reported by survivor on November 24th, 2009)
Rebecca Bombet Staff (reported by survivor on November 24th, 2009)  Bombet may no longer work at this program.
Victoria Cox Staff (reported by survivor on November 24th, 2009)  Cox may no longer work at this program.
Chris Cox Staff (reported by survivor on November 24th, 2009)  Cox may no longer work at this program.

Shepherd's Hill Farm is a hell-hole--February 27th, 2010--

Got problem kids? Man, when they hit those teenage years they all get rebellious and willful, and start thinking independently, and often start doing things their parents would rather they didn't. This is one of the tough responsibilities of being a parent — you have to be willing to let your children grow into independent human beings.

But let's say you never got that memo, and you think your job is to raise children who are just like you: insecure, a little bit angry, shackled tightly into a fearful belief system that says all human beings are evil. Independent thinking is the last thing you want in your obedient little repressed child-slave! Well, there's help for you: Shepherd's Hill Farm, an accredited Christian boot camp that will stomp his wild soul right back down into the mud of conformity and obedience.

It's way out in the middle of nowhere, so there will be no place for the wayward teen to escape to…and no one to hear them scream.

Shepherd's Hill Farm is a counseling center, so they will also take care of the mental health of your child. Trace Embry, the director, knows absolutely nothing about mental health and even gives dangerous advice against all the evidence, but you don't have to worry — he's a very vocal Christian. God will forgive him.

We have testimonials from inmates residents of the camp about the other benefits of attending. Does your child have special medical needs, like seizures? They will take his medicine away, but their staff is well-trained in being able to simultaneously wrestle a child to the ground and pray for him. Is your child a bit on the hefty side? He will get 'special meals' — a can of beans, a bit of vegetable, and a piece of bread — until they reach that ascetic ideal. Your child will be 'brainwashed in the blood of the lamb,' so it's all OK — even the beatings serve to transfigure hooligans into robots for Jesus.  For complete story, click here.

HEAL has verified the submission below.  If you would like to contact the author, e-mail HEAL and we will forward the message to the author.

DECLARATION UNDER PENALTY OF PERJURY PURSUANT TO 28 USCA 1746                

I, _____ Anonymous*_____________, declare and state as follows: 1.   Shepherds Hill Farm.. 2.   2200 Price Road, Martin, GA 30557 3.   01/02 to 01/05 4.   When I lived at home with my family I grew up hanging out with older kids; kids who my father, and other parents of the neighborhood viewed as trouble makers. We mainly hung out and smoked pot, drank occasionally and hung around the neighborhood.                  When I was younger I was sent to a boarding school in Stone Mountain, GA  by the name of Gables Academy.  It was actually a very good school for the most part.  However, I was a problem child of sorts.  I never did anything serious but I would talk back to teachers, complain, smoke pot when I was home on break, but never anything serious.  One of the “counselors” named Sean who stayed with the boys during the day and night never liked me much and often yelled in my face and insulted me. One day I was standing on the porch with a couple other students minding my own business, as I see Sean walking up to the porch with the PE teacher.  I hear Sean say to the PE teacher “Hey, watch this” and laugh a little.  He then walked up to me on the porch and unexpectedly punched me in the side of the head, knocking me to the ground and causing my vision to fade to black for a couple of seconds.  I got up and ran into my room and locked myself in. The next day Sean took me behind a trailer, broke down into tears and begged me to not go to the authorities and get him in trouble, because he would lose his wife, his job and go to jail, and have his life ruined.  Within a short time after that (I believe a week or so) I was told I was being expelled and sent to Shepherds Hill Farm.  Shepherds Hill Farm was a wilderness christian therapy program owned by the owner of Gables Academy as far as I understand,  for the students that Gables could no longer handle.  Very soon after I arrived at SHF I was told that SHF and Gables Academy split ties and were no longer together.  I believe this may have been done to try and distance themselves from the incident of Sean hitting me, but I do not know for certain.  My father (now deceased) was a Greek Orthodox priest and Trace Embry(owner of SHF) is somewhat of a preacher and presents himself as a Godly man, so I believe Trace was able to use this to connect and manipulate my father with.  I believe Trace convinced my father that this would be a safe healthy environment, that would bring me closer to god, away from the older supposed drug addicts who were my friends and I would get an education.  I believe my father thought it was similar to monasteries in Greece.  However my father never saw what went on past the facade at the top of the hill.  He never saw the wood shacks we built deep in the woods and lived in with no electricity or running water or any type of entertainment or source of true self expression, he never saw the horrible horrible education they forced on us, and that I was against but still given. When I arrived I was brought to the porch of a house in the middle of the country with acers of land.  It smelt like flowers and I will admit was very appealing to the eyes.  Trace Embry sat me down as staff and he went through all my belongings picking out what I could and could not have. Trace began to ask me about myself and my history and informed me about the school and how it was run.  He told me my clothes were demonic and other silly nonsense that I tried to ignore.  I was feeling extremely angry, depressed, hopeless, abandoned (though I later learned my mother never wanted me in the program and this greatly worried Trace Embry) and scared.  Trace told me to go into the “school house” which was a trailer a few feet away with a counselor “teaching” without accreditation.  I was introduced to the class and sat down.  As Trace left the room I said under my breath “what a jackass.” The “teacher” heard me and went running, and yelling for Trace after him.  Trace came running back into the school building with paddle.  He bent me over in front of the class and gave me a swat.  I cussed and said “What the fuck?”  He bent me over and gave me another swat. I started to walk back to my seat and he grabbed me and yanked me towards him and bent me over and gave me another swat, and told me “you hug me after you receive a swat!” I said “No, why would I hug a person who just hit me?” He hit me again and began to give me special meals.  “Tell me your sorry”  he would say and I replied “Why?” He would say “ok thats a week of special meals”, anytime I said why after that I got another week.  In the meantime two girls began crying and went outside with two counselors.  I received somewhere between a month and a half of special meals and two and a half months of special meals. Special meals are when you are feed a cold can of beans and a can of some type of greens with water. The food they normally feed the students is food that is picked up from food banks and other places similar where they do not have to pay for it, or pay very very little.  They would get cartons of 2-3 day expired milk from the milk packaging facility to give to us.  The food quality was horrible and it in no way met the requirements of nutrition we would have needed for the amount of strenuous manual labor we did near 24/7. We were told that special meals were a healthy vegan diet and was very good for us.  That is absolute bs, vegans eat a large variety of foods in order to meet their daily intake and often take supplements and or vitamins as well; they do not simply eat a can of beans and a can of beats each day.  That is food deprivation and one of the many forms of abuse they offer for $58,900 annually.  I was punished for eating toothpaste after being on special meals for so long because I craved flavor so bad and was so hungry.  Other students were caught eating dog food while on special meals.  One boy by the name of Bobby (I will get to more on him later) was nearly always on special meals, and looked like a skeleton.  He would often get caught stealing food or snacks out of the kitchen or somewhere and would be punished and given more special meals.  One day the child was put in a room alone with nothing else.  The counselor places candy bars around him in a circle and told Bobby “we know how many candy bars are here, if any are missing when we come back in two hours you will be punished.” All of the other students laughed.  When we came back 2 hours later, several candy bars were missing.  Bobby cried and screamed and denied it but he was beaten and given more special meals.  When he went home for Christmas break Trace told his parents to continue giving him special meals for Christmas.  They did, however Bobby was caught eating a horse biscuit and was sent back to the farm early. We were not allowed to look at or make any type of communication with anyone of the opposite sex.  We were also not allowed to talk to other students unless staff was with us.  We were only allowed to talk to the staff and the camp owners.  All ingoing and outgoing mail and phone calls were monitored.  We had no electricity, no running water, no communication with the outside world or anything “secular”, we lived in giant wooden huts that we built ourselves with hand saws and axes and no building knowledge.  The “counselors” had no experience nor qualification to do their jobs they also received no training.  They were college students, high school students and a couple higher ups who had college degrees but no qualification for what they did.  We performed manual labor for hours upon hours in all climates from blistering heat, to snow and or rain. Homosexuals and those of different religions (mainly just me) were singled out and picked on and made to look like evil people but to be pitted and not trusted. If you visit shepherdshillfarm.org you can see a picture of one of the huts we built and lived in. believe that Trace Embry is a twisted sick man who used his good way with words and the bible, to abuse children and rob parents and families of $58,900 a year. I believe he is a threat to children, to parents, and family's and by extension voting and all of society and the future.  Trace and his wife are sick people who are leading a cult and harming hundreds and hundreds of innoncent people.  No one deserves to be treated the way I was treated at SHF; treated like some scumbag would treat a dog.  I have horrible anxiety and nervousness.  I have a hard time being around authority figures because they frighten me inside very much.  I have talked to other former students of SHF, from around when I went.  They agree to be in a class action law suit against SHF.  Some of them have had to undergo VERY MUCH therapy and real, professional help to heal the wounds left on them by SHF and Trace.  I really hope you can help me or at least help get the word out about SHF so that other ex students may come forward.  This place absolutely needs to be investigated and shut down.  At first all the students would be opposed to the farm and what they did.  However over time they all began to go along with it.  Soon enough they all enjoyed it for the most part and proclaimed the farm was helping, loving and saving them.  They all wanted to be baptized.  The bible was continuously used to validate every single thing they did.  Trace uses his great way with words, and his knowledge of the bible to justify what he does while at the same time tricking parents and kids.  He constantly preaches about how great he is and how love is not what most people think.  Love according to Trace is punishing kids and abusing them.  To Trace using sleep deprivation, food deprivation, humiliation, brain washing, child slave labor, encouraging racism and homophobia, physically beating children is all doing what the Lord wants and calls for and is the true way to love someone. If you go to www.shepherdshillfarm.org and listen to their podcast for Nov 19, you will hear some of Traces very strange views.  One day at the farm after Trace finished preaches I raised my hand and I said “You are brainwashing us”,  Trace smiled at me and replied “Yes we are!  We are brainwashing you in the blood of the lamb!”  Everyone laughed and shook their heads at me in agreeing with Trace.  On the podcast for Nov 19 he says that very thing.  That he is “brainwashing kids in the blood of Jesus” In the Nov 19 podcast he also describes an event where a child tried to escape at a mall from her mother while visiting her and they had to restrain her and bring her back to SHF.  She was told they did it out of love and for Jesus and she agreed. I saw this on the Heal legal page- “Certain official agencies have stated that the “escort services” provided by these programs constitutes kidnapping and those providing this type of service may be prosecuted on felony charges for kidnapping.  Contact the FBI to report crimes of kidnapping.  “              I went home at one point and I thought I would not have to go back to the farm. However, my father gave me a drug test and I failed it for THC.  I refused to go back to the farm.  In the morning I woke up to two very large men walking in my room.  I noticed my father driving off and leaving the house. I said “Who are you!” and they threw a pair of pants at me and told me to put them on.  They said “We are bounty hunters to take you back to Shepherds Hill Farm.”  They told me I could come calmly or they could cuff my hands and feet.  I figured I better not fight the police so I went with them calmly.                  I made a post on the Richard Dawkins web forum about medical misinformation that Trace has on his blog. He encourages parents to take children off medication and provides misinformation about certain psychological conditions and has zero tolerance to give advice on medication or to take his students off their medication.  He had talked students out of taking all types of medicine including anti-seizure medicine.  I witnessed two students have what appeared to be seizures.  Shaking on the ground foaming at the mouth, Trace and his staff held the children down and prayed for demons to leave them.                  The thread I made on the Richard Dawkins forum was picked up by someone named Peter Harrison who made a blog on his website titled “Shepherds Hill Farm- The Great Child Abuse Secret” on afraidofthelight.co.uk Trace replied a few times telling us how great he was and how much smarter he was.  It soon turned into me listing allegations of child abuse, this enraged Trace however he ignored the allegations over and over again and simply told me I was suffering THC delusions (that does not exist) or was evil or possessed by demons.  He told us we were all evil atheist doing satans work trying to shut down his farm and that we needed Jesus in us.  Here I will post the list of some of the abusive things that happened while there. I say abusive because my parents paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for what Trace told them would be a safe, non threatening, therapeutic wilderness program that would help and heal me.  SHF instead has left me with psychological wounds that I have suffered from for many years, they did not help me one tiny tiny bit, anything positive that I gained while there was due to me being strong and overcoming the oppresive environment. I have talked to many other students (ones who were told “its your fault for being raped you whore” basically in front of the whole school and other things) and it has taken them years and years of REAL therapy to overcome the wounds they gained while there.  My father was tricked into taking out his life insurance policy to pay for my tuition.  My father is now dead and my brother, I and my mother received nothing because he gave it all to Trace.  My mother is on disability can not work and has only disability for income (very little). I repeatedly told my father, Trace and other staff that I wished to leave and wanted to die.  I told them I would rather be in jail that in SHF but I was kept there.  Trace has parents sign over parental guardianship to him so he can tell us “everything we do to you is legal. I own you and your parents agree to this.” He would also say “Besides who would believe you, a troubled drug addict teen or me, an owner of a successful program and an ex cop and preacher?” Trace would tell our parents that whenever kids get there they will tell their parents they want to leave and everything will be fine if they let them come home.  Trace told them “do not believe this, they are trying to control and manipulate you.” If someone told me “if your kid tells you I abused them don't believe it.” I would probably either punch them in the face or call the police. I never wanted to be there.  I repeatedly said I wanted to leave.  My mother called Social Services while I was there but no one would go to SHF and investigate.  If they did they would only be shown the top of the camp and not where children live and the things they do and undergo every day for usually 2 years. My parents were never shown any of the horrible things, only the good fake part.  At the top of the school is Traces house and some other trailers, however a mile down into the forest is the boys camp and half a mile or more is the girls. The Greek Orthodox priest who was friends with my dad that came to see me was never showed the horrible part or what it was like. The entire time I was there I dreamed of some type of organization or group of people that I could contact and that would believe and help me.  The only thing I could think of would be an anarchist organization however I knew nothing about them or how to contact one, especially with no electricity or contact with the outside world.  I had no idea groups like HEAL, ISAC and Caftey existed. We were continuously told we were minors and belonged to Trace and had 0 rights or civil liberties.  I was even forced to go to church.  I told them I was against it and did not wish to enter in their Church as it was against my beliefs and religious beliefs.  They told me to bad and made me go anyway.  This is what I was told any time I brought up the bill of rights or legal matters.  I was a slave and prisoner against my will for no crimes, they knew it and knew that I knew it but couldn't do anything.  Thank science they exist and are doing what they do!  They are great people! Here I will copy paste the list of abusive things I made on Richard Dawkins forum. 1.    "Special Meals"- I was placed on something termed by the farm as "special meals" for a month and a half. I was feed a can of beens (a can of some type of vegetable for dinner) and bread a piece of fruit and water everyday for a month and a half. SHF claims this is a healthy vegan diet. It just does not taste good because it is punishment. Vegans eat a much much wider variety of foods in order to get the vitamins and protein their body requires. They usually take some type of vitamin or supplement as well. 2. Child in river- There was a student at SHF by the name of Bobby who would wet his bed. Without getting outside medical advice from an unbiased professional doctor, or psychiatrist. Instead they assumed the child was just wetting his bed out of disobedience and in order to cause havoc. Their cure? Make the child strip to his underwear in front of all his peers and bathe in the river. It was extremely extremely cold outside. He would then be made to carry his mattress a mile up hill to wash it, with or without help from staff or peers. Also, they made the kid wear a diaper. I do not know if they forced him to or not but I remember seeing him walking around in nothing but a diaper. Students would make fun of him calling him "Gandhi" because he looked like a skeleton(from months of food deprivation and taunting with candy bars for hours), wore a diaper, and carried a walking stick. 3. Horse allergy- I am allergic to horses. One day a counselor made everyone ride horses. I told the counselor that "I would like to, but I am allergic to horses", the counselor said "No! You just do not want to participate! You will ride the horse or you will receive a swat(paddle)". Being threatened I got on the horse. I broke out in hives, students and the camp nurse said I looked green and I was having difficulty breathing. The counselor apologized but that does not change the fact of what was done and the danger he placed me in. 4. Paddling- Students were spanked with a paddle. Some had bruises that lasted a week or more. We would be spanked for anything from asking "why?" after being told to do something or saying "no." If we did not hug Trace after he paddled us we would receive another swat. Why would someone want to hug someone that just hit you? 5. Brainwashing- They would take our books or not allow us to have them if they were deemed in appropriate. This includes mainly religious texts other then the bible or anything christian and nearly any type of secular book. They completely controlled our sensory input. They admitted themselves that they were brainwashing us, “brainwashing you in the lamb of the blood!” yuck and weird! 6. Contacting our parents- When arriving to the farm we were allowed no contact with out parents for the first few months whatsoever. After this we were allowed to write letter and receive them from only our parents. However they would be censored before coming in or out. They would read them and tell us to take things out or change things if they were deemed inappropriate, 7. Children building unsafe structures- 13 year old kids with no construction knowledge were made to build unsafe structures to live in. We would cut the trees down ourselves with hand saws and axes all without electricity or running water. 8. Tuition- Our parents paid a tuition that was higher then the tuition to most universities in the U.S. Yet we were feed food they got from food banks for free or next to nothing. I remember the counselor taking us to the milk plant nearby, where we would be given crates of their day or usually two day old milk for free because it was expired and going to be thrown away. We were then given this milk for food/drink. We had no running water, no electricity, lived in wooden huts we built with our own hands without electricity and with rusty hand saws. Not to mention the special meals, which were even weaker. 9. "School"- Their "school" is now accredited. In their "science" classes we were indoctrinated with the christian story. We were forced to watch Kent Hovind videos, as if he and all his "theorys" have not already been debunked. We were taught the world was 2000 years old and created by God. That is as absurd to me as teaching in a science class that gravity does not exist, but is actually god holding everyone down with his finger . I also at one point had to explain to my science teacher what plate tectonics were. He had never heard of such a thing, and thought I made it up...until another student said she learned the same thing in a real school. 10. Absurd accusations- The half way house at the farm was covered in flies during the summer. One day Trace wanted to talk with me one on one outside of the half way house. We sat and talked about Christianity. I of course was extremely dirty , sweaty, and smelly. After all I had been living in the woods and doing hard manual labor all day, with a shower twice a week. Trace on the other hand lived in a house and looked and smelled as if he had just come out the shower. He asked me if according to biblical terms would I rather be called a fool or a wise man? I replied a fool because the bible is rubbish to me. He replied " Ya know (anon), it's very interesting to me that all the flies are landing on you and none on me. Do you know that the devil in the bible is called Beelzebub-the lord of flies!" Later on when Trace had every student in the program and every counselor in a room together he was preaching to us. He went on and suddenly started to describe our private conversation to everyone. He said "(anon) willingly would be called a fool instead of a wise-man." He then told everyone about the fly thing. He said that he believes I could be possessed by demons or Beelzebub. This was humiliating to say the least, and hardly humble at all on his part. Later a counselor came to me and told me that he thought the fly thing was absurd and silly. He said the flys were landing on you (anon) because you live in the woods, haven't bathed in days and are extremely dirty..unlike Trace. Another child was sent to SHF after being raped at her highschool.  Trace asked her if she knew what a whore was.  She replied “someone who sleeps around with everyone?” Trace responded “Yes ,, dont you think you fit the bill?” and I believe then punished her. 11.Queers, homos and fags!- Trace would very often make jokes about gays, and homosexuals and "going to brown town” (saintly words, I know! He sure is the next St. Nektarios!) that I assume would be extremely offense to homosexuals. He taught it was sinful, wrong, evil and unnatural. 12. Medical misinformation- It seems to me and everyone else Trace has been debunked on his Anhedonia claims, and insists on providing dangerous medical misinformation on his website. 13.Prayer instead of medical attention- A child once was being disobedient. The child then suddenly collapsed and had what appeared to, my eyes, be a seizure (I do not know for certain, I am no doctor). The staff simply held him down got in a circle and prayed for the demons to leave him. Later the staff told us the student had green (or some color) foam coming from his mouth as he convulsed. The student soon stopped and went back to normal. Prayer cured him, we were told. This sounds similar to the story that has been in the news lately. The one where the child had diabetes and the family got around and prayed for the child instead of calling an ambulance, except in this case the child died and the parents were sentenced to prison. 14.Parental alienation syndrome- Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), consisting of the manipulation of children by the custodial parent, who incessantly tries to turn them against the other parent by arousing in them feelings of hatred and contempt for the target parent, as explained in the book Marital Conflicts, Divorce, and Children's Development (Conflictos matrimoniales, divorcio y desarrollo de los hijos, edited by Piramide), by professors Jose Canton Duarte, Ma Rosario Cortes Arboleda, and Ma Dolores Justicia Diaz, from the Department of Evolutionary and Educational Psychology of the University of Granada. This was repeatedly done to students. Thank God the students usually took great offense to this. We would be told our parents had failed us or had enabled us to make us even worse. We were told most of our parents needed to be in the program just as much if not more then we did. Trace also acted as if my mother was insane because she placed such a big influence on humility within the Christian religion, was against SHF and wanted me to come home and not bei n the program. Reference: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/94733.php 15. Medical attention- Teens were encouraged to stop taking their medication.  Nearly everyone was on medications though.  Some were talked into discontinuing their meds. These kids off of their medication sleep/slept around axes and saws and sludgehammers every night. I also witnessed people be taken off of anti seizure medicine and held down and prayed for while having seizures and foaming at the mouth.  My parents requested that I be taken to a dermatologist for my acne outbreaks. Months later (much to late) I was then talked out of taking acutane, by the camp “nurse”. My acne got much much worse, without the acutane. When I left the farm years later I had acne and scars all over my face. My mother took me to a dermatologist who told me that I should had taken acutane years before and I wouldn't have any scars. He then prescribed me acutane and I have not had any acne outbreak in years sense.   I once woke up during the winter and I could not move my neck whatsoever.  I told the staff and they took me to the camp “nurse” a quack who lived in a trailer on campus because her daughter went to school there and she wanted to be close to her. The nurse simply told me to put a neck brace on.  I put it on and I could not move my neck up, down or to the sides for nearly an entire month.  I do not know why this happened but I suspect it could have been something very serious and that I should have been taken to a real doctor.  ]            

 I give HEAL, ISAC and Caftey permission to use this statement.  I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.  Executed on _____November 23______________, 2009.                                                                             _______________[Anonymous*]  _________________                                                                                                                                                        [PRIVATE]                                                                                                                                                                                                            [PRIVATE]                                                                         SPECIAL NOTE:  STATUTE DOES                                                                         NOT REQUIRE NOTARY]     To submit your statement regarding Shepherd's Hill Farm, click here!     * The survivor who filed the report has asked to remain anonymous.  You may e-mail HEAL and request a message be forwarded and we will forward the message as long as it is not abusive, insulting, or offensive.
Shepherd's Hill Farm is a hell-hole--February 27th, 2010-- Got problem kids? Man, when they hit those teenage years they all get rebellious and willful, and start thinking independently, and often start doing things their parents would rather they didn't. This is one of the tough responsibilities of being a parent — you have to be willing to let your children grow into independent human beings. But let's say you never got that memo, and you think your job is to raise children who are just like you: insecure, a little bit angry, shackled tightly into a fearful belief system that says all human beings are evil. Independent thinking is the last thing you want in your obedient little repressed child-slave! Well, there's help for you: Shepherd's Hill Farm, an accredited Christian boot camp that will stomp his wild soul right back down into the mud of conformity and obedience. It's way out in the middle of nowhere, so there will be no place for the wayward teen to escape to…and no one to hear them scream. Shepherd's Hill Farm is a counseling center, so they will also take care of the mental health of your child. Trace Embry, the director, knows absolutely nothing about mental health and even gives dangerous advice against all the evidence, but you don't have to worry — he's a very vocal Christian. God will forgive him. We have testimonials from inmates residents of the camp about the other benefits of attending. Does your child have special medical needs, like seizures? They will take his medicine away, but their staff is well-trained in being able to simultaneously wrestle a child to the ground and pray for him. Is your child a bit on the hefty side? He will get 'special meals' — a can of beans, a bit of vegetable, and a piece of bread — until they reach that ascetic ideal. Your child will be 'brainwashed in the blood of the lamb,' so it's all OK — even the beatings serve to transfigure hooligans into robots for Jesus.  For complete story, click here.
At Unregulated Christian Boarding Schools, Students Face Conversion Therapy, Abuse, And Indoctrination Unsplash What happens when the government fails to regulate Christian reform schools? One academy in Georgia is just the beginning. This is the second in a two-part series examining the therapeutic Christian boarding school Shepherd’s Hill Academy and its founder Trace Embry. You can read the first part here. Shepherd’s Hill Academy is a Georgia-based Christian boarding school with a history of alleged abuse, conversion therapy for LGBTQ teens, and religious indoctrination. If it were just one school, it could be viewed as an alarming anomaly. But this is not the story of just one school. When it comes to the state of education in this country, politicians and community leaders regularly debate the merits of charter and public school reform, standardized testing, federalized curriculums, and universal pre-K at the local, state, and federal levels. What is often missing from these conversations are reform schools, wilderness boot camps, and “therapeutic” boarding schools where there has been a worrying lack of oversight and regulation for decades. The majority of these institutions are privately run, and many are connected with a church or have a foundational religious component. Brandy Zadrozny reported last June for The Daily Beast on the allegations of abuse at Blue Creek Academy, a now-shuttered Christian reform school for at-risk teenage boys, in West Virginia. She wrote: “As in many other states, religious private schools in West Virginia aren’t held to the same standards as their nonreligious counterparts. Though the ways in which they are exempt varies from state to state, for many schools that operate with a religious mission — 80% of private schools nationwide — accreditation or licensing, the hiring of certified teachers or the approval of curriculum, or even simply notifying the state as to its existence is completely voluntary.” Last June, actor Jeremy Jordan brought national attention to this issue when he started a GoFundMe campaign to assist in getting his teenage cousin released from the therapeutic boarding school associated with Heartlight Christian Ministries. Jordan claimed that his 17-year-old cousin was sent to the “East Texas Christian boarding facility for troubled teens to ‘pray away the gay.’” She was released a few days after his campaign made headlines. Mark Gregston, founder and executive director of Heartlight Ministries, released a statement denying that the girl was there against her will and that the facility practices any form of conversion therapy. (The girl has never gone public with her story.) There are other institutions across the country that echo SHA’s practices, including religious indoctrination (Wings of Faith Academy in Missouri helps girls with “spiritual confusion”; New Lifehouse Academy in Oklahoma scores student behavior on metrics including “spiritual development”) and abuse (a Tampa Bay Times investigation from 2012 detailed cases of abuse at several Christian homes and boarding schools in Florida; 22 boys were removed from a Christian boarding school in Alabama last year due to allegations of abuse). While institutions like these have at least faced scrutiny in the past, it’s hard to imagine them being met with resistance from political leaders in 2017. Why Does The GOP Still Support Dangerous Gay ‘Conversion Therapy’? theestablishment.co Under the auspices of the Trump administration and powerful far-right politicians and pundits, religious indoctrination has been propped up as a key element of educational development. Evangelical leaders have been celebrating what they see as the end of government intrusion on matters of faith and family, and recently confirmed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has a history of steering tax dollars away from public schools and toward private, often religious, alternatives. Mother Jones reported that DeVos’ $100 million in donations over the last decade “show an overwhelming emphasis on funding Christian schools [and] evangelical missions.” Meanwhile, the administration has made it clear that the anti-LGBT measures common at these religious camps and treatment centers will have its support. Before assuming her cabinet post, DeVos donated millions to anti-LGBTQ organizations that advocate for conversion therapy. And as governor of Indiana, Mike Pence not only provided businesses in the state the legal right to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals in an effort to protect so-called religious freedom, but proposed taking federal dollars away from HIV/AIDS prevention by redirecting that funding “toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” Of course, there are many Christian therapeutic programs and boarding camps that don’t engage in abusive practices. But governmental oversight is necessary to ensure that institutions aren’t allowed to harm students. And it’s clear from looking at SHA and other schools that this oversight, as it exists, fails to protect children. The Oversight Gap Shepherd’s Hill Academy operated unlicensed and unsupervised by the state of Georgia for more than 10 years. It was not until September of 2010 that Georgia’s Department of Human Services (DHS) and its Office of Residential Child Care (ORCC), now the Residential Child Care Licensing (RCCL) unit, was forced to investigate the school. And that only happened after it received a complaint from a social worker, alleging, “[I]t appears to us they are ‘driving without a license.’” After an investigation was concluded, four months after the initial complaint was filed, Carol S. Winstead, then-program director of Georgia’s ORCC, sent an official letter stating that within 45 days, SHA must either cease operation or submit an application for an Outdoor Child Caring Program (OCCP) license. This license covers child-caring institutions that provide “room, board and watchful oversight along with a variety of outdoor activities taking place in a wilderness or camp environment that are designed to improve the emotional and behavioral adjustment of children.” All of the academy’s activities, save for the academic portion of the program, are governed under this license. The initial license was received and went into effect on January 3, 2012. That is 15 months after the initial complaint was filed with the state of Georgia’s Department of Human Services (DHS) and approximately 11 years after Trace and Beth Embry first started treating troubled teenagers on their farm. Shepherd’s Hill Academy operated unlicensed and unsupervised by the state of Georgia for more than ten years. According to documents provided by the DHS, SHA repeatedly failed their on-site inspections and off-site evaluations during the licensing process, including having too many residents for the allotted land area. Though it has since been licensed for a reduced capacity of 36 residents, instead of the 50 it once had, SHA has still failed its annual inspection each year since becoming licensed by the state in 2012. Despite this, SHA has managed to stay in business, likely due to a bureaucratic idiosyncrasy. If violations are found, the ORCC requires a “Plan of Correction” to be submitted within 10 business days. As long as the ORCC approves the plan — at their discretion, they may permit the institution to submit a revised plan — there are no penalties. SHA has presumably been able to stay in business because of this process. Trace Embry himself has been the source of licensure violations as well. According to the state of Georgia’s rules and regulations for Outdoor Child Caring Programs, the administrator or executive director of a program: “…shall have a master’s degree from an accredited college or university and a minimum of three years of increasingly responsible experience in the human service, mental health or health care field, or a bachelor’s degree plus five years experience in the field of child care, human services, mental health, at least two of which includes supervisory and/or administrative responsibility.” Yet Embry, who is listed as the executive director of Shepherd’s Hill Academy Inc. on all official documents, has no college degree. Rebecca Bombet Basile, former employee at Shepherd’s Hill, testified to a court of appeal that “Trace Embry and his wife, Beth Embry, run the program, but neither has a college degree.” Records from Toccoa Falls College (TFC) provided by the National Student Clearinghouse confirm that Mr. Embry was enrolled at TFC from 1991 through 1998, but he did not obtain a degree from the school. This isn’t necessarily unusual; according to DHS, the third most requested waiver in 2013 for OCCP programs in the state was for the “Education/Experience for Director/Human Service Professional.” Confirmed by documents provided by the DHS, Trace Embry and Shepherd’s Hill Academy have, in fact, received a waiver for this requirement. The waiver was granted in April 2011 during the licensing process because “[Trace Embry] has over 10 years of experience…[and] will employ staff who possesses the required educational credentials.” The waiver was renewed in June of both 2014 and 2015. It is not merely coincidence that the “over 10 years of experience” referenced in the waiver approval memo is the same decade during which SHA operated illegally. The Not-So-Subtle Censorship Affecting Our Schoolchildren theestablishment.co During the summer of 2011, Beth Embry repeatedly requested that SHA not be required to comply with two rules, mandating that all incoming students receive both a physical exam and psychological or psychiatric evaluation prior to admission. Beth provided numerous reasons as to why SHA should be excused from wholly complying with these rules, including their faith-based status, the “high standard for moral character” of the parents, and the alleged risk involved to both the “well-being of the prospective student” and the “integrity of [the student’s] family dynamics.” Notably, Beth repeatedly asked the state to take into consideration SHA’s 10-year history, and in one instance claimed “a precedent has been set as we have successfully operated…for over a decade.” While these numerous requests were denied, SHA has violated these rules on more than one occasion since receiving their license. A license loses all its credibility if its requirements are routinely not met; it is merely another piece of paper that gives organizations the legal protection to abuse children. A license loses all its credibility if its requirements are routinely not met. It is merely another piece of paper that gives organizations the legal protection to abuse children. Meanwhile, despite these troublesome practices, Trace and Beth Embry have worked hard to ensure that Shepherd’s Hill Academy looks aboveboard on first look. As advertised on their website, SHA is accredited by the Georgia Accrediting Commission (GAC) and licensed by Georgia’s Department of Human Services (DHS). But as confirmed by the executive director of GAC, an independent state-approved agency, the accreditation only applies to the academic portion of SHA. That is, the lectures and classes that happen on the main campus—not the equine therapy or the beekeeping or the construction projects. SHA also advertises their membership in the American Association of Christian Schools (AACS) and their state chapter, the American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC), and the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSP). These are membership organizations to which member schools pay fees to be included in their network. For example, NATSAP is a trade association, not a federal or state-approved agency. As stated on their site, it “does not provide oversight of our member programs, believing that responsibility lies with the licensing and accrediting agencies.” The issues at Shepherd’s Hill are alarmingly neither unique nor the worst that have been reported. Residential treatment programs and therapeutic boarding schools across the country have had enough horrific incidents connected with deceptive marketing and a distressing deficit in state oversight to prompt a congressional hearing. The issues at Shepherd’s Hill are alarmingly neither unique nor the worst. At the request of Representative George Miller, a Democrat from California, in April 2008, a hearing was held before the House Committee on Education and Labor on “Child Abuse and Deceptive Marketing by Residential Programs for Teens.” Addressing the hearing’s chairman Miller in a letter, Jill Ohanesian-Ryan wrote that her daughter was admitted to what they understood to be a “therapeutic boarding school” called Hidden Lake Academy (HLA) in Dahlonega, Georgia. But HLA was not licensed, even though it was marketed as such to other states and accepted out-of-state Individual Education Program (IEP) students and children under the No Child Left Behind Act. According to HLA’s attorney’s own written words to Carol Winstead, then-program director of residential childcare at Georgia’s DHS, “therapeutic is a marketing term.” Peer group counselors, she noted, were also not licensed by the state of Georgia. For these therapeutic boarding schools, catering to troubled teens, ‘therapeutic’ is simply a marketing term. Incidentally, each state handles students who require an IEP differently, making it difficult to transfer a student with an IEP to an out-of-state program. Residential programs like HLA found a way through this and advertised heavily out of state. Shepherd’s Hill also takes advantage of this, stating on their site, “We are able to accommodate a variety of Individualized Educational Plans (IEP) adjustments.” And as their sitemap exposes, they are trying to take advantage of search-engine results by having regional advertising for hundreds of cities across the country in nearly all 50 states. Ohanesian-Ryan also wrote that she and several other parents contacted Georgia authorities — among them, Winstead, of the ORCC — “regarding the misrepresentations and abuses at HLA,” and that ORCC refused to take action until a class-action suit brought public attention. When an investigation into Hidden Lake Academy finally occurred, Ohanesian-Ryan testified that investigators discovered “suicide attempts, rapes, cuttings, broken bones, zip tying, cold cocking and the like [that] were never reported to CPS” by HLA, the local sheriff’s department, the local hospital, or any other responsible institutions. She affirms, “Despite the CPS report of 2006, ORS granted HLA two consecutive six month temporary licenses.” She was assured by the ORS that if HLA failed to comply with the regulations during their temporary licensure, they would be shut down. But, she said, “Nothing had changed; [they] did not shut them down.” In 2012, another federal investigation took place at a different DHS facility in Georgia, which alleged that agents were “destroying, delaying, changing and falsifying child abuse reports.” Former DHS Commissioner Clyde Reese III claimed in a statement in response to this raid, “the safety of children was ‘a fundamental guiding principle.’” Troublingly, the state of Georgia failed in its oversight and regulation of HLA during the early years of SHA’s unmonitored operation — and it appears a disregard for the physical, emotional, and mental health of the children placed in therapeutic boarding schools in the state of Georgia has remained consistent. The official titles, employees, and therapeutic programs may change, but the disregard for the physical, emotional, and mental health of the children placed in therapeutic boarding schools remains constant. Moreover, it’s not just Georgia that has contended with regulatory issues. A lack of sufficient oversight has been documented in Florida and Iowa, and one online guide to Christian boarding schools openly notes that: “…some states do not provide much oversight for programs designated as Christian Programs, or Christian Boarding Schools. This may be due to the desire to keep church and state separate. At any rate many Christian programs, Christian boot camps, and Christian boarding schools do not have a lot of regulations mandated by the state they are located in.” How Many More? In a promotional video produced by SHA, a parent of a student talks about her “investigation” into abuse allegations at the farm. “I found out from Trace Embry that there was a website where someone posted these inflammatory, derogatory statements,” she begins. “I went home and looked them up and I read them. And I could find no evidence of truth in any of them.” She goes on to say that she “went to the state of Georgia to find out if there were any complaints against the school,” and nothing was credibly substantiated. This video, uploaded in 2014, only two years after SHA was licensed, is referencing abuse allegations during the decade SHA was unmonitored by the state of Georgia. The aforementioned mismanagement, neglect, and abuse cover-ups that occurred for years at the offices meant to monitor facilities like Shepherd’s Hill — on behalf of children — puts into serious doubt whether the state did or did not receive complaints concerning Trace and Beth Embry’s “discipleship clinic.” The Embrys have concluded on more than one occasion that some of their students are suffering from demonic possession, which is why they are “brainwashing [them] with the blood of the lamb.” Trace Embry, who has no medical training or college degree, believes that students who have been diagnosed by professionals with very real and treatable mental illnesses are actually suffering from too much technology use, the overconsumption of media, and a lack of religious conviction. The Embrys long for the day when a teacher could paddle a student for alleged misbehavior without any legal consequences. They believe that teenagers who profess to have same-gender sexual attraction or are questioning their gender assigned to them at birth are being influenced by “Old Dark Eyes” and were sexually abused at a young age. They confer with ultra-religious counselors who are not licensed in their state, don’t hold nationally recognized certification, and believe that a smartphone is akin to carrying “Sodom and Gomorrah in your pocket.” And all the while, the state of Georgia has given Shepherd’s Hill Academy a stamp of approval where children’s safety is a “fundamental guiding principle.” How many more children have to suffer before SHA — which, it’s been noted, “brings in a lot of revenue for the county” — is shut down? How long before others like it are, too? There were enough allegations of abuse, with accompanying state-level cover-ups, concerning residential programs for teens in 2008 for a congressional hearing to take place. This is only one school, in one state. How many more are there? Fact-checking by Maxine Builder.  Source: https://theestablishment.co/at-unregulated-christian-boarding-schools-students-face-conversion-therapy-abuse-and-f584e1c72fbc#.wxq09zre1

 *(Shepherd's Hill Farm, 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.)

 Last Updated: October 30th, 2018

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