I hope my story will help other parents avoid the same mistakes we made when dealing with what we perceived as a "problem child." I am the mother of a daughter that we (her father and I) sent away to be "rehabilitated" at a home for girls called "Hephzibah House" (located in Indiana).
In 1981 we were new believers in Christ, and we wanted to be part of a church that could help us grow in our new found faith. We found one in a local independent Baptist church where we learned many good Biblical principles. After several years, we were compelled to move to another town to accommodate my husband's job. We moved and again joined a small Baptist church that we felt was like minded.
The pastor there was new and extremely charismatic, and though in the beginning he seemed kind and caring, it wasn't long before control became the issue of the day. The podium soon became a whipping post for members (who were called out by name) and sermons were always on the issue of standards rather than doctrine (i.e., hair, dresses, relationships with members of the opposite sex, total submission of wives to husbands, socializing, etc.). The teens in our church were all "suspect" (all the teens except his own daughter).
During this time our two teen daughters attended a Christian school, which was associated with another church, but our pastor convinced us that they should have no contact outside of school with the other kids. No more sports, teen groups, or extra curricular activities. Our girls could do virtually nothing for enjoyment. Everything came to a head when our oldest child, then seventeen, ran away from home to a friend's house. Long story short-we were advised to enroll her in a home for wayward girls-Hephzibah House.
We were so stressed at the time, that we agreed, due to the pressure and advice of our then pastor. Once we got to Hephzibah House, we had to agree to no visits for months at a time, and only once monthly phone calls. It was not until years later, that we found out that all the phone calls were strictly monitored and censored in order to prevent her from telling us the truth. We also found out that she received our letters with huge portions blacked out with a permanent marker, which she perceived as us saying something to her that was inappropriate.
It also took years for her to be able to tell us about the beatings, the deprivation, isolation and humiliation, and the rationing and withholding of food. Our daughter stayed at Hephzibah for the entire 15 months that we had agreed to. However, after about 6 months at Hephzibah, our daughter turned 18 years old. I had looked forward to this day as her homecoming. When I called to make arrangements to pick her up early, I was actually put on the phone with her, and she told me that she did not want to come home. I was heartbroken and asked her why she didn't want to come home, and her reply was that she was "not ready."
Years later, knowing how the phone calls were censored, this conversation now makes sense to me. In 1989-1990 we sent approximately $350 per month to Hephzibah House, and in addition we sent all of her personal needs items as well (deodorant, toothpaste, etc), yet she was denied the very things we sent for her.
While we now have a normal mother-daughter relationship, I have watched her struggle through the years with severe depression. I have seen her make less than wise choices regarding her life, and I am convinced that her experiences at Hephzibah House have played a huge part in that. You may be surprised to know that even now, my husband and I belong to a Bible believing independent Baptist church, and we have attended there for the past seventeen years. It is a place where Biblical doctrine is preached, and the people flourish.