Family Foundation School / Allynwood Academy
CLOSED (August 2014)




Amy Johnson

My name is Amy Johnson and I attended The Family Foundation School in Hancock, NY from August 2000 through June 2002. Over my 22 months at FFS I witnessed, partook in and was encouraged to emotionally, verbally, mentally and in some cases physically abuse my peers. The school as it was during my 22 months operated on fear and isolation to force conformity in what I thought then and am certain now is unethical treatment of institionalized populations.

Although I graduated from FFS over 5 years ago and by the schools standards considered a success I still have nightmares, instrusive thoughts, panic attacks and an overall feeling of betrayal stemming from my time at the school. I however was one of the few who attended FFS, during my time and in my opinion, who needed some kind of long-term residential treatment. Afterall I was a teenage drug addict, I prostituted myself for the narcotics I abused and had been placed over a dozen times before being sent to The Family School. I think, to the school, I must represent the typical adolescent they are trying to save. But years later I have focused myself, my education, my career on stopping treatment centers like The Family Foundation School from abusing their patients/clients the way they abused me and the way I witnessed them abuse others.

The school was awful; when I tell people about standing in corners, work sanctions, contacting parents twice a week for five minute phone calls, the lengths other students went to run away, being refused an HIV/AIDS test until I passed a math course, never receiving dental or optical exams, being forced to contact my father who had sexually abused me for years because the school wouldn't let me graduate without forgiving him, staff laughing as students cried, screamed and urinated themselves in isolation rooms, staff throttle students to the ground, restraining them despite the student remaining still when I've told people this over the years their reaction is always the same "I would have done ... and gotten out of there" but it wasn't that simple. I was told if I left the school even after my eighteenth birthday I would spend the next X number of years in prison or the rest of my life in a psychiatric ward. I was told and believed what the school said but I never believed they were in it for my best interest. While a new chapel was being built our dorms were a filthy, disgusting, bug infested, rotting, molding mess that parents were prohibited from seeing. At the school the students do all the manual labor such as cutting the acres of grass, shoveling upstate NY snow each fall and winter, preparing and serving the meals, cleaning the school and house. The treatment aspects of the school were only apparent in our family leaders strict interpretation of Alcoholics Anonymous 12-steps and it's Judeo-Christian roots.

What I witnessed at the school was horrific; within my first 6 months I had witnessed an exorcism, several restraints, table topics that ranged from how writing to your parents that you missed them was a manipulation to multiple run-aways. I saw some terrible things at the school but for me the worst part was the hierarchy of things. If you were at the school for more than a few months you were encouraged, expected and eventually did participate in table topics. We all torn each other down for the approval of staff and to divert their attention from whatever we may have done that day. I personally went after several students and was always praised for doing so, I was a senior member by doing so.

I had been at the school for less than 3 months when I witnessed the exorcism of a girl who I only knew of as what could happen if the rules of Family Five weren't followed. Jessica was in sub-five, on a slew of sanction including standing 24 hours a day, mayo and tuna for meals, speak when spoken to, house blackout, family blackout, and a work sanction. I didn't know this girl or anything about her but I knew it was wrong that for taking too long in the shower or not completing a throughout inventory card she should be held down on the floor of our filthy dorm room while her peers told her to calm down and said Hail Mary's. It was also during my first 6 months that I was placed on family blackout (where you can not contact your family by either their or the schools request) and put in the corner for failing a math test. 


Amy Johnson