The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, FL) (June 26, 2002)
Byline: Nirvi Shah, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
PORT ST. LUCIE -- When a single mother from Lake Worth enrolled her son at Victory Children's Home more than a year ago, she was delighted by the thought her unruly, disobedient son would be surrounded by other boys in a structured, Christian environment.
"I wanted him to be around other Christians and learn about the Word," said the woman, who did not want to be identified. "We knew it was going to be kind of strict. . . . (But) I felt safe. I slept at night."
For a while it seemed the regimen was working. Then, she said, something changed. The home began its boot-camp-like program that tested her son's and other boys' physical limits.
On Friday some of the youths living there with the woman's son told police they had been hit with metal pipes and wooden paddles and shackled if they tried to run away. Port St. Lucie police and Department of Children and Families investigators took all 15 teens staying at the home for abused and troubled teens and released them to their parents, pending the outcome of an investigation.
The case may be turning cold, however.
"It does not appear right now that the other children substantiated any of the allegations," Port St. Lucie police spokesman Chuck Johnson said Tuesday, although he said Monday that more than one child made the allegations. Police and DCF still are investigating, however.
Victory Children's Home President Alan Weierman did not return several phone calls placed Monday and Tuesday.
The Lake Worth mother said while she notices improvements in her son - he's more obedient, polite and smarter - after hearing from him how the program has changed in the last few months, she is glad he is home and wouldn't want to send him back.
"I just don't feel comfortable," she said. "I don't know if I'm putting him in danger."
DCF was on the verge of revoking Victory's state license in 2000, but the home surrendered its license without a fight about a year ago. DCF no longer places children at the home.
Then DCF said in its 2000 complaint that Victory officials abandoned a 17-year-old at another children's shelter run by the Children's Home Society without advance arrangement. Another alleged violation involved allowing an 11-year-old with a history of sexual offenses to share a bedroom with another child.
On the Victory Children's Home Web site, it says the home is a member of the Florida Coalition for Children. However the group said Tuesday Victory is no longer eligible because it is not licensed by the state.
This 2002 incident seems very similar to the current incident, doesn't it? The kids who did not substantiate the allegations were afraid back then, as they are right now, to speak out against the Colonel and his employees. It is simple - most of these kids know that they are going back and if they say something against the program, no matter how truthful, they will pay the price back in school. So they clam up in fear.