Family Foundation School / Allynwood Academy
CLOSED (August 2014)




Leah Bonner

I was sent to the Family Foundation School in Hancock, NY in the year 2000. I immediately was eager to please, I had come out of an enjoyable wilderness program and was on my way to pacify my parents who had given up on raising me after nights of staying out and they're fear of the serious nature of my drug use. They had been contacted by an educational consultant while I was in Utah serving my time hiking in the dessert. I believe he prayed on their fear for my safety by telling them that a child with a case my severe was beyond normal methods of help and instructed them to send my to the Family School for a minimum of 18 months.

Within two weeks of being at the school I was not allowed to talk to boys, my parents, or any other new comer to the school. I was confused about they're policies about "negative" behavior, music I had grown up listening to, stories of the people I had grown to love back home, including some of my own family memebers, and any mention of drugs or partying in any kind of positive way. They preached to me AA and absolute love, but continued to keep me from speaking to my parents. When I had the chance to have a brief conversation with them I was always punished after for something I had said, whether it was telling them about something that had happened to me, another student, or an employee.

Any mention of the school was considered manipulation and any mention of any success or progress I had achieved was considered prideful. I painfully got up day after day in front of my makeshift "family" where I was baraded with forced and influenced hate from my peers and they're insults and harsh words were not even comparable to what I endured from the staff. I was called a slut, a whore, an ungrateful human being; i was told by my family "mother" repeatedly that she hated me, and she clearly favored the other children, letting them get away with more than me. I struggled to be as honest as possible, but I was accused of lying on a daily basis. I was forced to say extremely embarassing things infront of 30-40 of my peers. If I developed a close friendship with one of the other female students I was accused of being a lesbian and was not aloud to talk to or look at her.

I saw my parents rarely and always got in trouble after. My Aunt drove 5 hours to come see me and the turned her down and sent her home. I was not aloud any comfort, they focused on humiliation. After I decided I was going to leave in three months on my eighteenth birthday (after a long year of being at the school) I was forced to stand outside in the hall, I wasn't aloud to eat normal food, and I had to work without school. I was feed flavorless Cream of Wheat, english muffins with dry canned tuna, and a small cup of water. I was starving, and then I was accused of being bulemic, even though I was never alone, not even for a second to go to the bathroom. I was repeatedly told I was going to end up "dead, institutionalized, or in jail" if I left the school. I took care of a pig that I watched get shipped off to slaughter. I washed it, feed it, and gave it clean hay and water three times a day. I was forced to trot, I couldn't walk. No shoes. I was made to wear the most humiliating outfit they could find, and working included shoveling and carrying rocks in the middle of July and was told that it was God's work.

I was forced to watch or listen to the other students having fun, and as my belly grumbled I had to prepare other people's food. I was one of the many children there who were singled out as being unbreakable, that I was still too prideful and they had to do everything they could to humiliate me and they did. Turns out I'm not a drug addict, sex addict, or a harm to myself or others. I am a successful adult who deals everyday with what I've been through.

Within 3 years of leaving the nightmares slowly faded to a dull roar - I felt less fear in my dreams. However, large parts of my memory are missing, my brain is permanently damaged from the 15 and a half months I was there and will do anything to educate parents, to help them find a better way then incarcerating their children in an abusive program. I am strong, but a part of me will always be with those horrible memories of no love, no hope, and a attempted destruction of the person that I am. Only now, seven years later, do I feel safe talking about this. I hope it helps other people.

Leah Bonner