Family Foundation School / Allynwood Academy
CLOSED (August 2014)




Jennifer Jacobs

My name is Jennifer Jacobs and I attended The Family Foundation School from October 1995 through June 1998 (32 months). The deception began prior to my attendance. Having been expelled from two high schools in New York City my parents became desperate for a place that could help me complete my education and remove me from my current environment.  The school board had suggested a number of "alternative schools" but my parents biggest concern was getting me out of the city.

They found The Family Foundation School in Hancock, NY through an educational consultant and visited one day without my knowledge. The kids there seemed so polite and well adjusted, my parents were sure they had found the perfect place for me. They knew that I would run away from home if I was told I was to be sent away, so they devised a plan based on the advice of the staff at FFS. That day my parents came home and advised me that my brother (who lived in Canada) had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. My brother was told to go along with the deception and would call a few times over the next few weeks, complaining of head pain.

On October 26, 1998 my mother called me and told me that we would be going up to Canada to visit my brother before he went in for surgery. She asked me to come home the next day while my parents were at work, pack my bag, and then go back to my friend's house and they would pick me up in the morning for the trip. I complied, I went home and packed my bag and on the table was a note from my mother that read "Have fun tonight, we'll pick you up in the morning" and $100 in cash. My mother knew exactly what she was doing. I took the $100, returned to my friend's house and stayed up the whole night getting high. In the morning, my parents picked me up to "visit my brother" and within minutes of getting in the car I fell asleep.

A few hours later we arrived at FFS, but I had not waken up yet. My parents went in to the office and filled out the paperwork, but I was still asleep. My father told the staff not to wake me up, that I would go a lot easier if I woke up on my own. The staff disagreed and advised that things at FFS would not be done on my terms. I awoke to 2 strange girls and a big man pulling me out of my car.  I had no idea what was going on and began to fight back.

My parents were told to stay inside the building, so I did not see them while this was taking place.  After injuring one of the girls, 2 new girls were sent down to get control of me.  They dragged me into a closet and wrapped me in a blanket and sat on me for about 3 hours until I eventually fell asleep. When I awoke again I was asked if I would remain calm. I agreed but wanted to see my parents. I was told that I had carried on too long, they had left." 2 girls immediately began searching through my bags and asking me questions about my belongings.

I still did not understand what was going on. I was told that I would be on "double buddy" because I had acted out so badly- this meant I could not go anywhere without 2 girls who complied with the program going with me. I was finally brought upstairs for dinner. Luckily, your first night you are allowed not to eat. My first night was beef stroganoff, which had been poorly prepared by one of the students and everyone in the school who ate it got food poisoning. At the end of my first week there, I attempted to run away. I never made it very far, but I was restrained again by students and wrapped in a blanket.

I requested a phone call to my parents- in consideration for my promise to comply, I was allowed a phone call to my parents in the presence of at least 4 staff members. I begged my parents to take me home but they had already been warned of my manipulation and the 3 minute phone call was ended with my parents telling me I would remain at FFS until the day I graduated high school. At that time I was placed on blackout with 6 months and under (which meant that I could not speak to anyone who had been at FFS for less than 6 months) and told that I would not be allowed to speak to my parents again for at least 3 months. In the next few weeks I made 2 more halfhearted attempts to run away, and was caught and restrained and placed in isolation.

Finally, I began to settle in and learn the “game.” Approximately two months into my stay I was “brought up” for a “house topic.” FFS was broken into three families of approximately 25 people when I got there, a house topic meant that you stood up in front of all 75 people and these were reserved for the most horrible of infractions. I was told in front of all of these people that I had been flirting with two or three of the boys in the house by making eye contact with them and smiling. I was yelled at, degraded and humiliated. Then the three boys were told to stand up and they were advised that I was a “black widow” and would have sex with them and then bite their heads off and throw them out.

After over an hour of public humiliation I was placed on blackout with boys (meaning I could have no contact whatsoever with boys) and allowed to sit down. I remained on blackout with boys for 28 months. In January my parents came up for the first time- this was also the first time I had spoken to them since the week after I arrived. The first thing I asked was how my brother was doing- it was only then, three months later, that I was told that my brother had never been sick and it was just a ploy to get me up to FFS. In those three months I had spent at FFS I had gained nearly 40 pounds and had hit puberty. My parents were told to buy me minimizing bras “so that the boys would not look at me.” Later I was put on a “no makeup” sanction a “no jewelry” sanction and forced to cut my hair. The staff member who designed these sanctions specifically said she did it to make me look ugly so the boys would not be attracted to me. I was constantly degraded, but never picked back up.

Over the next two years, I began to comply, at least outwardly, with the rules. I moved up and became one of the more trusted members of the school. I confessed to every “negative” thing I did, thought, said, and heard and was punished every time. I was forced to eat foods that made me sick, even after doctors told FFS I shouldn’t eat them, I was forced to go to school when I was sick unless I could prove my sickness by throwing up at the table, and forced to stay outside in blistering cold and hot weather for far longer than necessary. I was labeled an alcoholic, although I hated alcohol, a drug addict and a sex addict because I sought attention from boys. The school staff believed that boys were weak when it came to the opposite sex, so girls, and usually me, were blamed for inciting flirtation or leading the boys on.  When I began applying to colleges, the school principal advised my parents that they were not designed to assist students with getting into college. They said that most of their students went on to community college or enrolled in the military. My parents demanded that FFS allow me to meet with a college advisor they had hired- this was met with severe reluctance by the staff but eventually they gave in.

After two years of being at FFS and having gained some trust, I admitted that I had been writing notes back and forth with a boy at the school and that I believed I had genuine feelings for him. I was immediately placed in isolation and then brought up in front of the whole house and humiliated. The boy was forced to tell me in front of the house that he thought I was ugly and disgusting and had never really been interested. I was put on a work sanction picking rocks outside and remained on this sanction for 3 weeks during which I missed school. During meals I was to eat in the corner and at night when I could not be outside I was placed back in isolation. I was not allowed to speak to anyone except the staff. Finally, at the end of three weeks, seeing no end in sight, I demanded a phone call with my parents. I explained everything that had happened and begged my parents to allow me to come home and finish high school at my zone school. My parents called the director of the school and told him that the reason they had sent me to FFS was to complete my education and that if I was not returned to classes in the morning they would unenroll me. The next morning I was allowed to return to classes but during all study periods and after school I was to remain on work sanction. This lasted another month. The boy involved never received any sanctions.

In April 1998 I was allowed to go on my first home visit. When I returned I admitted to my sponsor that I had visited an ex-boyfriend to apologize for my actions prior to being sent to FFS. I was again sent to isolation for a week. Finally, on the morning of my graduation I refused to eat the sausages served for breakfast.  I was told that if I did not eat them, FFS would “doctor my transcripts” so that I could not graduate. I was stood up at the table and told that I would never amount to anything, I would relapse within a week of leaving FFS and be pregnant within the month.  I ate my sausages and graduated that afternoon.

My first year of college was a disaster. I did not know how to socialize with people in general and the opposite sex specifically and I was not academically prepared for the scholastic work. I stopped attending classes after the first month and stayed in my dorm room not eating for months because I had not figured out how to make friends in the “real world” and was embarrassed to go to the cafeteria alone. I was constantly afraid of getting yelled at and getting in trouble and the only way I knew to get attention was to be loud and obnoxious which did not lead to good relationships with my peers. At the end of my freshman year, I had squeaked by with a 2.0 GPA and I transferred to a larger university in the hopes of blending in

Today I am a successful attorney in Orlando, FL. Although my career is thriving, my social relationships are still tainted by the effects of The Family Foundation School on my emotional growth, which has been severely stunted. I often feel as though I am emotionally still 15 years old living in a professional world of thirty-somethings. In a little over a month it will have been ten years since my graduation day and although I am often able to put the specific memories behind me, the experiences affect my life everyday.

Submitted By: Jennifer Jacobs