Carolina Springs Academy – A Mother’s Story

A Mother’s Story

By Cindi Kirkpatrick, GA
June 7, 2006

I began having difficulties with my teenage daughter. Several months after the problems began my daughter, Taylor, decided to leave school without permission – which, of course, was a bad idea. I received a telephone call from Taylor’s school informing me of what happened.

Just when I thought things could not possibly get any worse, I was informed by school officials that she had been expelled. I could not believe this was happening to us. With no schools available so late into the final semester, and with her acting out and misbehaving, I did not know what to do.

I found myself doing what many parents would do – looking for answers on the Internet.

As I did a few random searches using key words and phrases like “teen problems at home” and “help with my teen”, I received a number of pop-up ads touting phrases like “Help My Teen” and “Teen Solutions”, each one claiming to offer the same things.

They claimed to specialize in helping the troubled teen. They claimed to have specialty and therapeutic boarding schools boasting to promote education first and foremost, self-esteem, and respect for authority … you name it, they had it. And, it all sounded great … just what the doctor ordered.

Oh, and the biggest thing was that you did not have to be worried about taking your teenager to them because they had a professional transport group that would pick her up for a nominal fee of $1,500.

As I look back now, I still cannot believe that not only did I send my only child away, but I let two strangers come into our home in the wee hours of the morning to take my daughter away.

After eight days of hell slowly went by, I knew something was very wrong. So I trusted my mother’s intuition, and I went to the school, Carolina Springs Academy (CSA) to get her.

On my way to the school another CSA student’s mother called me on my cell phone. After I shared all the horrible thoughts I had and information from the articles I had read, she pleaded for me to pick her daughter as well. I gladly agreed.

When I arrived, I could not believe my eyes – the building, the grounds – nothing that I could see even came close to looking like the beautiful pictures they have on their Web site. As I got out my car, it seemed I had just entered a thick fog.

Even as I stepped onto the porch, things appeared to be strange, right on down to the man raking … who by the way, would not even look my way. The office was not very clean and had a musky smell. When I told the office employee I was there to pick up my daughter, she became – well let’s say – not so nice. When I went on to tell her I was also picking up another child, she became downright rude.

When Tara Hall, the so-called Family Representative, finally arrived at the office she was also unhappy with my arrival and decision. She asked me, “Why? What had changed my mind?” When I shared with her some of the articles I had found and printed out, she got angry and said, “Well, you can’t believe everything you read, especially on the Internet.”

I said to her, “you’re absolutely right.” As luck would have it, I had articles regarding allegations of child abuse and neglect at Carolina Springs Academy which I showed her. With that she got on her walkie-talkie and ordered someone to bring the girls right away.

Of course when Taylor saw me she almost jumped out of the car before it even stopped. I can’t begin to tell you how emotional that reunion was, and still is. My heart hurt as I saw how dirty she was – her hair, her clothes, her overall appearance was dirty. She even smelled dirty. My heart hurt for her.

As I hurried the girls to my car, I felt as if everyone was watching. The three of us agreed they all seemed to have that far-away, foggy look in their eyes. The girls and I were crying so hard you would think we would not have noticed them. But we did.

The drive home was unforgettable. We all felt so very grateful – for the sun, the trees, and the wind that kissed our cheeks as we got out of the car. The two girls told me so many horrible stories … some I still can’t get out of my head, not to mention my heart. I’ve told my daughter a hundred times how sorry I am for sending her there.

I have nightmares – I can’t sleep at night – I am still having a very difficult time forgiving myself for the entire CSA experience. In fact, for as long as I live I do not believe I will ever be able to forgive myself for allowing two complete strangers to enter my daughter’s bedroom in the middle of the night, waking her from a deep sleep, forcing her to get dressed as they watched, forcing her into their car, and taking her away from her home and her family.

What was I thinking?

God help me, because I don’t know. I have nightmares about those two strangers picking up my daughter and never bringing her back. All the while, I’m running and searching for Taylor, and I can smell that horrible smell. And then it gets so bad that I can’t breathe or even move. That’s when I realize I’m no longer asleep.

Scared and confused, I get up to go watch my daughter sleep. I lay there beside her and I take deep breaths just so I can smell her. Then she notices I’m there, and says, “Mama it’s OK, I’m home, I’m safe, and in some way or other it was meant for us to cross paths with that so-called school. God sent us there so we could help others.”

Her words are comforting and at some point we both drift back to sleep. It has been almost a month since we’ve been home. At times it seems she never left. But then night comes, and once again I remember that horrible smell and the two strangers who took my daughter in the middle of the night. This is when I find myself praying to God to give me another chance. This is when I pray that no one will have to go through what I do every time sleep comes.

Please take a moment to read Taylor’s story and visit our website at


20 Responses to “Carolina Springs Academy – A Mother’s Story”

  1. Elizabeth Edwards Says:

    Hey, my name is Beth. I was at CSA for almost two years. I still have nightmares!!!! I have been out since 2008. I am on meds for sleeping yet still dream that I am getting sent back. It was horrible. My parents are not sorry. We can not even talk about it with out me becoming angry. angry that they could send me to this place with out checking it out, seeing how horrible it was. I think about it daily still.


    • Rob P Says:

      i was also at CSA for several months before i finally got out. i still have anxiety attacks and use to have terrible nightmares about the two men that handcuffed me while i was sleeping and threw me in the back of a car without telling me where i was going. i am sure the abuse i faced could have got me a law suite but when i got out all i wanted to do was forget.


  2. John Raimondo Says:

    I was at CSA for 13 months, before being sent to HI which was a boot camp in Mexico. While I was at CSA, I formed many good relationships with a lot of different staff members, however their program is not the answer to why we stray. The world in which we live and grew up is corrupt and twisted. The answer lies in the true knowledge of God. Love.


  3. John Smith Says:

    I was a CSA for 8 months it was the worst time in my life from the abuse to the good etc. I miss a lot of the guys from the program and while I was there we had a fire one kid tried to burn the building dynasty down. There were many. Fights it was pure hell but never the less I made it out after my mother realized what a horrible decision sending me there was. Since then I’ve graduated college and I’m doing great in my life. The program did absolutely nothing for me. I’m glad those who made it out made it out ok!


  4. Stacy Lee Says:

    I was at C.S.A. back in 07′ for about 7 months and it was the worst place I’ve ever been. I would take 10 more deployments before I’d ever wanna go back there.


  5. Denise layton Says:

    Sad but I NEVER experienced this while my daughter was there. She reads these reviews and has backtracked because of them. Shame on your lies.


  6. Corey Hardisty Says:

    Hi I was sent there for a month when I was 15 years old in 2006 and ran away with a friend there after seeing such horrible things done to other people and being apart of it as well. I still have nightmares to this day and I’m 24 years old. obviously I’m on the Internet looking for survivor stories because it’s still with me. Thanks for being real for your daughter. My mom is still not wrong for sending me there. She’s still not sorry. I had two men come in my room and take me away when I was supposed to start 10th grade at a new high school that day. I just wanted to say thanks.


  7. Shiloh Jones Says:

    To the woman who said “she” never had any bad experiences with CSA, you might have been just fine not knowing what your daughter went through. Its not the reviews that make your daughter upset, it was the experience, the people, the seminars (other than focus), the psychos that should have been in a mental hospital instead of a behavioral modification school, the actual school work she had to learn by herself, the being ripped from her home and placed somewhere that none of the adults (with the exception of a few) care about her being sick or how she feels…
    i mean, i could go on and on. She’s obviously going out of her way to look for someone who can understand how she feels because im here to tell you, NO ONE understands what its like until you’ve lived it and felt it. Im 28 with a family of my own and still think back to when i was there 11 years agom its not something that goes away. Fortunately, with time, I’ve learned to forgive them and only take away good memories and laugh at the bad. And I met girls there that have ended up being family for me.

    Open your eyes up and auit being so selfish.


  8. sheena cunningham Says:

    I was there for a year of my life back in 2004. I will never forget it as it was one of the worst experiences of my life. It did change me for fear of having to go back to that hellhole. I’m 26 and a mother. I don’t care how bad my kid gets I will tough it out and work it out instead of sending her to a place like that.


    • Annabelle Foster Says:

      I was there in 2004 as well, i have nightmares about the blind fold thing they did and the tape on our shoulders all the time, I still to this day have no idea what was happening. Certain smells take me back, almost a haunting experience. I’m glad you made it out and have a family now!


  9. Edwin420firstoneouttapillarsofhopefawk Says:

    C.s.a was no good I was there for over a year


  10. Maria Says:

    First background:
    I was at CSA for over a year (2001-2002), went to Costa Rica to help set up that program before it was dissolved, graduated, and while I was not keen on being there the first couple of months because I thought everyone else was stupid and all I wanted to do was what “all the other teenagers were doing”-what’s the harm in that? The problem is, I was beginning down a road that would most likely end in me losing my faith in life and reason. Now I may not have ended up a convicted criminal, but it allowed me the space from my family, friends, and crazy teenage life for me to make my own self-reflective view of life and what it really meant for me. I think the disclaimer for me is that I was not on any hard-core drugs, I skipped school occasionally, snuck out of my house 2-3 times, and my family is really strong religiously as well as very supportive of my well-being.

    I am currently a Pediatric Cardiac Critical Care Nurse enrolled in pharmacy school. I am also happily married with 2 children of my own.

    Unfortunately there will always be stories of so-called “abuse” when children/teens do not want to comply with rules and regulations. The problem is they are always looking for someone else to blame so they can have things “their” way. Now, I’m not saying there might be an occasional mis-hap that someone might claim is “abuse,” but if the children/teens comply with modest and reasonable rules no one gets hurt and it can be a good environment to really step back and take a look at your life. I will say that I experienced in my home what people these days would consider “abuse,” although I don’t, but NEVER from CSA.

    If you consider your disheveled child, without make-up, ability to shave, and the latest Prada bag at side “abuse,” then this program is not for YOU! Unfortunately my perspective is that most Americans see first world poverty as abuse… CSA is exceptional compared to what more than half the world call home! Visit the slums of Brazil or even the wealthiest Central American country, Costa Rica, and you would understand.

    The staff can be brash, but who learns anything from someone that holds your hand and tells you “everything is ok” and “you are always right?”

    Although I was bitter towards my parents the first 3 months or so, once I realized my religious perspective on life, was able to speak with other well-minded adults, and had other view points on life I have been more than grateful for the influence of CSA and the life lessons I have learned that continue to help me through life.

    With that being said, I don’t think this program is for everyone, but for parents that don’t know what else to do it is a good, SAFE place to send your child. No, I don’t recommend some complete stranger kidnapping your child just because you, as a parent, don’t want to deal with that! Because of the things I have learned, I have focused my attention and efforts on raising my children with a solid religious background and in a home in which there is no fighting (especially in front of kids) and my children feel that they can always talk to me about any issue they may be having. I also want them to bring their friends to our house rather than over somewhere I’ve never been. Now, I’m not naive, kids will be kids and they have their own choices to make. All I can do is give them a solid foundation, be there for every crossroad in their lives, and stay strong as a family! Whatever happens after that, I may or may not be able to influence.

    If you as a parent can modify living conditions to get them away from their current friends, find a strong religious center with good examples and potential friends, even relocating altogether and starting over, give it a try! Your child’s life is worth it!! If you don’t have the means to do this, CSA is a safe option! Give it 4 months! If things don’t start to change look for other options. I think I would have choked my parents hugging them so tightly if they picked me up after a week, but chances are my life path would not have changed and I would NOT be where I am today with so many blessings!!

    Sorry for the novel! I hope my insight was at all helpful and feel free to contact me! Have a great day!


    • Dustin davis Says:

      How dare you say we are lying. Clearly you jabe no idea what you are talking about. I was at VS A for a year. It was the worst year of my life. Having everything stripped of me when I got there including shoelaces. Then to get in trouble for being overweight from the staff. I would have to sit in a like Tony she’s with other boys my age and we would have to write for hours on end for days. This was just to get time off of our punishment hours. Besides that the abuse some of the younger kids and myself for from the older kids is something that shouldn’t be talked about. Also if you acted out while you were already in trouble you would have to stand in an even smaller shed with no a.c. and you’d have to hold both arms straight up in the air staring at wall. There was no one single staff member there that should be incharge of even one kid. I remember having to sleep with the lights on as punishment, for entire weeks at a time. If you woke up and made noise you’d get more hours in the writing shed. The girls were not allowed to even look at us let alone talk to us or us talk to them. Unless you had been there for a couple years you couldn’t do much of anything until becoming a level 3 or 4. Once I found this out I became very depressed, because there was 3 or 4 kids at my time there.l, that had been there for 3 or more years. One kid was 18 when I was 12 this was scary. They make you feel as if you’ll be able to talk to and see your parents. But they make.your parents write a note saying that they can’t talk you only write I think a letter a week. Finally a kid found out he was going to be sent home and go to a military boarding school called riverside academy. I wrote my mom immediately pleading with her to send me there instead and how upset and depressed I was. I did this over a few letters in a very gauge way, all of the mail we write home was read by staff. Numerous times letters where taken and torn up even one out on fire. So please tell me how this is a good place. I am 27 now and still think about this place and how terrible it was. If you lived your kid you would have found a better way


  11. Jon Kiser Says:

    As a parent of an out-of-control jailed teen, who threatened us and had zero respect, I had no qualms about sending him to CSA. I talked to other parents first, and no one had a perfect experience. However, if the kids “worked the program,” they would not have any trouble. Our soon decided to opt out of seminars and cuss out the staff, so he had issues and claimed abuse. I went there to visit him and I interviewed the staff, attended class/choir/counseling sessions with him and I felt that he was in the right place. Many parents (and their kids) do NOT understand what tough love is and how hard it is to stand your ground. It was not a perfect solution, but he was clean and sober for the year that he was there, and although he resents having been sent there, he learned to respect and love us again. You cannot put a price on that. I am sorry for those that had problems, but usually posts like this contain the negative comments and not the positive ones. It has been 16 years and our son is married, has a good job and loves us dearly. We almost lost him, and CSA was the solution at the time. Namaste.


  12. Molly Says:

    Lol you all were just a bunch of pussies. You went to CSA because you were A troubled teen. And you expected to be treated like a king or a queen. You needed structure and that’s about it and Toughlove. I was there for 10 days and I ran away and I let the horses out. I was then transferred to golf Coast Academy where I spent the next year and Mr. Richard was charged with sexual harassment and abuse of the children. There is where I became a squad leader and I let my girls to safety. I burn down the dorms I trashed his house I ran away with all my girls and then we were locked in the church for three days no food no water no basic necessities. I would have to take the role of the leader and punish my girls and he would encourage me to physically assault them. He molested all the boys all the girls. So before you tell me how terrible CSA is think about all the kids that were sent to tranquility Bay in Jamaica don’t be such pussies


    • Bill Boyles Says:

      I’m sorry you had a bad experience. For the record, the facilities I went to, Paradise Cove and Casa by the Sea, we’re even worse. However, what I’ve learned over the years is that it isn’t a contest. We ought to support each other, not treat each other down. It was all shitty. Arguing about who had it the worst is pointless and unhelpful.


  13. Stephanie Says:

    I went to CSA from 2002-2003. I don’t even know what the hell half these comments are talking about. Maybe things changed after I left, but it was NOT that bad!!! Yea, some of it sucked. But it was by no means abusive. Or unbearable. A lot of the lessons I learned didnt make sense then, but they do now! Not to mention I am still in contact with almost all of the girls I went with and have formed a lifelong bond with them! I know a lot of shitty things happened down the road, like the animals dying, but I also think a lot of people are being super melodramatic!


    • Bill Boyles Says:

      It seems to me to be the height of hubris to declare flatly that because you were not personally abused, no one else could have possibly have been abused either, especially when you admit that “shitty things happened”. In fact, years ago, a close friend of mine confided to me in tears that she was raped by a staff member at CSA. Maybe since you weren’t raped yourself, that doesn’t count either? Apparently, humility and logic wereb’t included in all those valuable life lessons CSA supposedly taught you.


    • Jessica Says:

      I was there 2002-2003 as well. I agree with you. Theres a whole lot that makes sense now. Never would I agree with some of the things that we had to do or deal with. But I was out of control back then. And I definitely agree that a lot of things make sense now when they didn’t back then.


    • robert Says:

      i too was at CSA in 2003 and boy i don’t know where you were steph but you must not have remembered anything that was going on or maybe it just happened in the boys dorm..?not very likely. not only did staff miss treat kids, kids mistreating kids! i saw kids arms pulled out of socket and faces smashed into walls/ground. teachers turning heads and letting this go on. because i was upset for writing a correction and an upper level(a kid) just abusing power to get someone else in trouble……… and like a few people have said they still have dreams of returning… right there with you for the longest time after i got out i was still having nightmares about being sent back and very intense dreams of me as a 24 or 25 year out being sent back and not being able to leave. now i don’t really think about it much but a friend called me asking about my exp and i just thought id leave this here….. i would never send my kid to a what ever kind of bullshit this is!!


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