The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, FL) (June 25, 2002)
Byline: Nirvi Shah, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
PORT ST. LUCIE -- About a year after Victory Children's Home surrendered its state license while under fire from state welfare officials for violating rules for caring for children, youths staying at the home for abused and troubled teens accused their caretakers of abusing them, according to a police report.
Some of the 15 children now staying at the home at 602 S.W. Biltmore St. told police Friday "they had been struck with metal pipes and a wooden paddle as methods of punishment. . . . Shackles were used if children attempted or had 'thoughts' of running away from the home."
The home's president, Alan Weierman, and several members of the board of directors could not be reached for comment Monday. No charges have been filed, but police and the Department of Children and Families are investigating the allegations.
When a DCF investigator tried to look into the allegations on Friday, staff members would not allow her to go inside, despite a court order allowing the agency to enter the home and interview the children, according to the police report.
Weierman eventually allowed the investigator to question youth at the home but only under conditions the DCF investigator found unacceptable. So police took all 15 children to the police station, questioned them, then released them to their parents. More than one youth made the accusation, police spokesman Chuck Johnson said.
Victory Children's Home works with children of all ages up to 17 who have behavior problems that are the result of abuse, neglect and drug and alcohol addiction. It also hosts a residential boot camp-like program that, according to its Web site, will push boys' bodies to their limits. Boys spend hours in the home's physical training area. They may not call home for the first two weeks after joining the program.
"Your son may complain to you about unbearable pain, crying that it's too hard. DON'T BE FOOLED!" the site states. Photographs on the site show young men wearing fatigues crawling in the sand and crossing shallow water walking on narrow logs.
"You've come to the right place for help for your daughter or son," writes Weierman in a message to people thinking about using Victory Children's Home. "Our professional staff work hard to insure that your confidence in us is never betrayed and I personally pledge the very best therapeutic care available. You will find our methods unconventional and unorthodox. Our expectations are very high, but I know that you will be very pleased with the progress you see in your child over the course of their stay with us."
Although the state no longer licenses the home, the Web site states it is a member of the Florida Association of Christian Child Caring Agencies, National Association of Christian Child Care Agencies and the Florida Coalition for Children. The Department of Children and Families no longer refers children to the home, spokeswoman Betty Robinson said.
Victory Children's Home opened in Fort Pierce in 1984, then moved to Port St. Lucie in 1993. Weierman has been president since 1987.
In a 2000 complaint, DCF wrote that that Victory officials left a 17-year-old alone in the parking lot at another children's shelter run by the Children's Home Society. Another alleged violation involved allowing an 11-year-old with a history of sexual offenses to share a bedroom with another child. The home surrendered its license without a hearing about six months after the complaint was filed and as the license was set to be revoked.