Family Foundation School / Allynwood Academy
CLOSED (August 2014)




Brendan McMahon

My name is Brendan McMahon I attended The Family Foundation School in Hancock NY from 95 to 97. I understand those of you investigating this matter will have much testimony from many facilities to read through so i appologize for the length. I wanted to make sure you had as full and accurate a picture as I could provide of a very complicated and very weird experience. Really it would take a novel or feature length film to give you an accurate idea.. regardless Link title If you wish to jump ahead the second and third paragraphs are probably going to be of the most interest to you.

I spent 14 months in the facility one of the record short stays at the time because there was an 18 month minimum though it was rare that they let anyone go in that short period of time. Upon arriving at the Family I was welcomed fairly warmly ( I soon realized this was only because my father was there) I smoked my last cigarette on the front step and handed the pack over knowing I would be searched and wrongly assuming I would find a student who would supply me with one later. They took my cloths and replaced them. They also took any reading material I may have selected to bring with me and music. They put me with a buddy (a senior member (a person who had formed into the model)) he seemed bizarrely positive about the place when speaking to my dad. He emphatically emphasized how grateful he was that he came here and that it changed his life for the better. I said goodbye to my dad and he drove off.

They explained to me what I was not to talk about, that I was not to hum any music that was not approved by the ffs, not to read any newspapers, I was not allowed to use the telephone, they would read my mail, “so I better not say anything negative in my letters”. I was not allowed to be alone. I was not allowed to masturbate (they monitored the showers 3 minutes max with someone standing next to the shower and went with you to the bathroom). Basically all information coming into or out of my mind was to be dictated by and monitored by the FFS, and anything I did or said which indicated a lack of 100 percent compliance and belief in the FFS philosophy would be punished harshly. In addition if I so much as suspected let alone overheard or witnessed anyone doing or saying anything "negative" I would be held equally responsible for their actions as if they were my own including witnessing someone else witnessing something and not saying anything about it, you seriously could not get away with anything period.

Aside from the strict rules something seemed awfully strange about this place from the very first person i spoke to. I asked questions and couldn't seem to get any answers. It was like talking to computers that were only programmed with certain responses. It didn't take long to realize everyone was brainwashed or pretending to be. Everyone was a brick wall. I was freaked out by this i started thinking i was on a very creepy episode of the twilight zone. I actually believed that I was going to find a way out of this place. I thought I could get my parents to come get me or something but that was pretty difficult considering I had no way of contacting them at first and when I finally did get that privilege they explained any attempt at "manipulating” my parents by being negative about the program would immediately result in the call being ended and I would be on blackout where I couldn’t speak to anyone period especially my family. I also found out later they had already informed my parents that I may attempt to “manipulate” them and that it would be in my best interest not to succumb to my dishonest behavior. After all they were the experts. They knew exactly how to handle a troubled youth, and in the end I would be grateful for this experience. I was labeled negative of course because I had not yet been conditioned by their weird mind control tactics. I tried to fight it but as one of the senior members said when I was trying to argue one night "he'll learn" and I did.

I was not to speak my own opinion or indicate that I had one under any circumstances, unless it was in 100 percent agreement with the FFS philosophy. In fact the FFS philosophy was to be my opinion 100 percent of the time if I indicated or was even accused of anything less I was to be publicly confronted and screamed at. Then I would be told to sit in a corner. The Corner... you know like in preschool go sit in time out. The Corner was indefinite, with a minimum of 24 hours. If you did not stay in the corner or if you refused you would be duct taped to the chair or your feet would be duct taped together your arms would be duct taped to your back and you would be rolled in a blanket like a burrito and that would be wrapped in more duct tape then you would be put in isolation in duct tape and a blanket which was actually a big boot closet with some book shelves in it. When they decided it had been long enough they would let you out of the blanket then maybe isolation then from isolation back to the corner then you might be aloud out of the corner 24 hours later if you were able to convince them you believed you had done something wrong and you were sorry ect.. It was pretty simple.

Most of us, knowing what they would do if we did not comply, allowed ourselves to be subjected to whatever other humiliating and strange punishments they would think of. If they told us to trot (which is where you have to trot any time you aren't sitting down) we trotted. If they stood us up at the table (which is where you stand up alone in front of everyone for any infraction of the rules) we stood up. If they asked a girl to recount her promiscuous sexual history (and she better have one to confess if she ever wants to be left alone) …she would. If they screamed at her telling her she was a whore and was destined to be dope shooting hooker…. she listened… and agreed. If they took away out privilege to speak… we didn't speak. If they said sit in the corner ….we sat there.

They had a pile of rocks which some kids would have to move back and forth all day from one spot to another which as tiring as it could be in itself could be worse if you were also on a trotting sanction. They also had a large pile of cow manure for the same purpose. This seemed to be a particularly popular sanction for kids that were too fat. Fat kids were always determined to be lazy slobs who needed to exercise and work more. They were very open with degrading language and screaming they would also throw food at you in some cases while they were verbally berating you.

I would like to also s take a moment to illustrate one very important part of all this. They did not restrain kids because they were a threat to anyone else or themselves physically. It was very rare that physical altercations were not initiated by staff either by ordering other students to wrap them up in duct tape or staff doing it themselves more times than not they utilized the other kids who were there to assist in these procedures. In most cases restraints were used because of passive defiance. As stubborn as many of us were very few of those who were restrained were doing any more than saying no. I can recall only once when a kid was threatening to attack another person and was restrained.

There was also another instance when a kid was cutting his wrists so they duct taped his hands in balls so he could not use them to hold anything. Most instances went something like this There was a kid named who refused to mop a floor saying he just wasn't going to do it.He did not threaten anyone physically he did not get violent at all he simply said no i won't do it. He was supposed to be mopping the floor so they threw him on the ground dumped mop water on him and used him to mop the floor until he agreed to mop the floor with the mop. The point was that he was going to mop the floor one way or another there was no way around it you were going to act say and become exactly what they wanted. Most of the time however they would just duct tape you up and wrap you in a blanket and wrap duct tape around that.

This is the way it was for us ….we smiled when any outsiders were there acting like everything was perfect… assuring parents on tours this was the greatest place in the world …Seeing kids being duct taped up became as normal as kids in a regular school going to detention or getting write offs. I would step over squirming bodies on the floor in the dorm while talking and brushing my teeth like it was perfectly normal ….and it was at the time that’s just what happened if you didn't want to listen. It was their fault for being in the duct tape. I saw kids get punched and lifted 6 feet in the air and dropped on the ground while in these restraints. The one thing though that never seemed right was the newsletter they sent our parents. It never mentioned any of this. It always talked about the great things we were doing grades sports choir. They never told our parents the truth and for years after I left, my parents were resistant to the truth. I told them about what really went on.

After I left I felt like an alien visiting earth… everything I saw people say or do seemed wrong. I felt like I was constantly doing something wrong.. It literally took years before I was able to cope with what the family did to my emotions my mind my spirit and my personality. It has been ten years since i was at the family and the last time i had a nightmare about being there again was 2 months ago. I was socially years behind people my own age. I had no idea how to handle the opposite sex considering for fourteen months I was monitored in the shower and the bathroom to prevent me from masturbating. Anyway I think this is enough to give an accurate picture of what the family school was like during the time I was there.