by Cindy Foster cross posted from her blog Baptist Taliban and Beyond
(Editor’s note: This was originally published on Baptist Taliban and Beyond on September 14, 2011 but the issue remains a crucial one in recovery as long as places like these and Hephzibah House remain open. The physical and emotional damage to children continues as long as these places exist.)
This is a non-comprehensive, somewhat rough but enlightening timeline of institutions influenced and patterned after the Lester Roloff ‘homes’ for wayward teens. This list was compiled for me by survivors of these homes, who are actively raising awareness about the abuses that has occurred in these homes often at the very hands of those entrusted with their care.
It was compiled and sent to me by Simone Jones, Heal 0nline.org Kansas Chapter Coordinator.
My purpose for posting this information is to show parents who so easily place their trust in a man or men simply because they stand behind a pulpit and claim to have special insights and abilities for correcting their children, that they should NOT categorically place their trust in these men or anyone else without thoroughly investigating whether their advice is healthy.
If these men are truly interested in ministering the love and grace of God towards young people who often have only experienced the opposite, they will utilize whatever resources they can to accomplish that end. That would require doing the work needed to understand the root cause of the bad behavior and seek to win their trust rather than punishing to fix them. Any real and lasting change will come from the inside out not vise versa.
It is time to use some imagination mixed with sound knowledge of each young person’s situation as well as considering the many, many extreme difficulties that young people face at this time to help them overcome their problematic behaviors.
We must also consider the fragility of their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual states in determining what is needed to minister to them for the long haul. After all, isn’t that what ministering is? If these facilities are going to present themselves as ‘ministries’ then they are going to have to stop treating children and young people like hardened criminals. Using ‘punishment’ as the primary and often only means to ‘discipline’ is not ministering.
Our young people are our diamonds in the rough. They are also our adults of tomorrow and they are worth whatever time and resources it takes to help them transition from the youthful thinking and behaving to mature thinking and behaving. To rely on forceful, often barbaric practices not fit for use on an animal to usher our most precious, eternal young souls into productive, healthy adult lives is an indictment against our motives, and it also causes irreparable damage.
1944 Roloff starts his radio ministry-Family altar program
1946 Roloff founded Park Avenue christian day school
1954 Roloff purchases the KWBU radio station
1956 City of Refuge opens-Lexington-
Men and boys
1957 Jubilee home for women opens-Texas
1958 Lighthouse ministry opens on the Gulf Coast waterway
1964 City of Refuge relocated near Rio Grande valley
1966 City of Refuge grew, older men moved to Culloden, Georgia.
The younger boys remained in Rio Grande valley.
1968 Rebekah home for girls, Corpus Christi Texas.
1968 Bethesda home for girls, Hattiesberg Mississippi
1969 People Baptist church was founded, all of the homes were
moved to the 600 acres that Roloff purchased, upon the
erection of the new buildings.
2011 Roloff Ministries are still in operation
1971-Roloff’s opposed the Texas Department of Public Welfare/Texas Department of Human Services. Roloff would not comply with orders to have Rebekah and Anchor homes licensed/ conforming to the department’s secular regulations to avoid closure. Roloff and his associates opposed the order, considering it a breach of church-state separation. The controversy resulted in charges of neglect and brutality.
1973- Roloff’s homes closed
1974- Roloff incarcerated for five days in the Nueces County Jail. Roloff was granted a temporary reprieve in May, when the Texas Supreme Court ruled in his favor.
1975- The Texas Child Care and Licensing Act (a legislative bill believed to have been aimed specifically at Roloff Enterprises) was passed, renewing Roloff’s confict with the state.
1976- The Texas Child Care and Licensing Act became law, stating that children under 18 must be placed in child-care facilities licensed by the DHS. Roloff and his supporters again refused to comply, and despite favorable reports on the facilities by Attorney General John Hill and state welfare inspectors, DHS served a restraining order in May.
1976-In June Roloff went to jail, again for 5 days, in an effort to keep the homes open. In October, the homes were shut down, with many residents taken by police to the Texas Youth Prison and other state juvenile facilities. Public support for Roloff Enterprises continued to grow, and the homes were open throughout most of 1977 and 1978.
1977- Roloff and his associates staged a rally in Dallas called “Save Our Nation,” attended by over 10,000 people, including 1,500 preachers, (one of them being the Rev. Mack Ford, a close associate,of whom Roloff was a mentor), and owner operator of New Bethany Home for Girls.Roloff did this acting on the advice of Hill and other attorneys
1978- Roloff took his case to the United States Supreme Court, which upheld the Texas law.
1979 -The state of Texas ordered Roloff to shut down the homes unless he submitted to a DHS license. Roloff sent the residents to the ministry’s homes in Georgia and Mississippi to avoid the state taking them to foster care/licensed group homes. He and his supporters staged a protest rally at People’s Baptist Church, along with many prominent evangelists and laypeople from across the U.S., the event being named the “Christian Alamo”.
1982- Roloff and female members of the “Honeybee Quartet” were killed when their plane crashed near Normangee, TX during a flight to a preaching and singing service. Wylie Cameron, an associate of Roloff’s since the 70’s, took over after Roloff’s his death.
Wylie &Faye Cameron-Roloff Homes/New Beginnings
1970 Wylie and Faye Cameron-Run the Rebekah home for
1982 Upon Roloffs death, the Camerons take over.
1985 The Camerons move the Rebekah home for girls, and
Anchor home for boys to Missouri.
1986- George Bush (gov. of Texas) invited Wiley Cameron to Texas to meet with his faith-based committee. Bush introduced his faith-based initiative. Cameron joined the board of directors of TACCCA (Texas Organization of Christian Child Care Agencies), and Roloff’s schools became accredited. The Rebekah home was moved back from Missouri toTexas. Soon Cameron’s schools were back in trouble for allegations of child abuse. Cameron was jailed for refusing to turn over records to investigators. His wife Faye was barred for life from working with kids in Texas. Half the detained girls were sent home to their parents. The other half packed up and moved back to Missouri, boarding in an improvised dormitory on the property of an unaffiliated, yet similar, home for troubled boys while looking for a new permanent location to resume operations.
2001- The Camerons purchased property in Pace, Florida, another state where they could operate without regulation or interference, under the umbrella of the Florida Association of Christian Child-Care Agencies (FACCCA.)
Bob & Betty Wills- Bethesda Home for girls
1967 Bethesda home for girls opens, Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Burt & Dorothy Barnwell operate it.
1970 Bob and Betty Wills take over running the girls home.
1982 At the Bethesda home for girls, pregnant girls were beaten, and ridiculed for having sex out of wedlock.
1982 lawsuit filed against the Wills for beating pregnant girl.
Former residents of a “Christian home” for troubled girls have asserted in a lawsuit here that they were beaten, denied adequate meals and “brainwashed.”
The charges were made in affidavits and testimony in Federal District Court today, in a suit seeking the release of all the residents of the Bethesda Home for Girls Inc. of Hattiesburg, Miss. The facility is affiliated with a network of “Christian homes” in which Lester Roloff, a Texas evangelist, plays a supporting role.
1985 Bethesda home for girls closes
1985 Bob and Betty Wills overlooked another abusive boarding school called Christian life boarding academy
1987 Christian life boarding academy closed for abuse
Bob & Betty Wills- Mountain Park Academy
1987 Bob & Betty Wills open Mountain Park. Wayne County,
Wills opened Mountain Park some time after he began buying the school’s 164-acre tract in Wayne County in August 1987. Until that year, he had operated the Christian Life Boarding Academy south of Hattiesburg, Miss.
1996 Death at Mountain park academy
2003 Bob and Betty Wills accused of giving children Thorazine
2004 Mountain Park academy closes
Mr. & Mrs Bill Mc Namera- New Beginnings girls academy
2011 New Beginnings Girls Academy is still in operation.
The Mc Nameras, both former residents of the Roloff homes for adults, took over the Rebekah home after graduating the Roloff program (Jubilee Home for women and the City of Refuge home for men). Wylie Cameron was still president, but the McNameras ran the Rebekah Home.
2001- Legislation allowing private, faith-based homes to operate without state regulation came up for renewal and was not renewed. Cameron closed the home rather than accept state regulation/oversight. And to avoid legal implications/association with the old Rebekah Home, the McNamaras and Camerons assumed independence from People’s Baptist Church, renaming the home “New Beginnings Girls Academy.” Wiley Cameron remained president, but had little to do with daily operations of the renamed home. McNamara and his wife remained as on-site directors. Eventually, Wiley Cameron resigned his position, giving the McNamaras full control.
2007- Abuse allegations began to surface at New Beginnings, prompting investigations. The home was moved from Pace, FL to LaRussell, MO to evade state interference and expand their enterprise. Shortly after moving, they also began admitting teenage boys.
Jack Patterson-Reclamation Ranch
1972 Jack Patterson Meets Roloff
1972 Patterson becomes employed by Roloff at the Lighthouse
Academy, Corpus Christi, Texas. He stays for three years
1975 Patterson opens Reclamation Ranch, Empire, Alabama. He
also opens Rachel Academy, in a neearby county
2011 Jack Patterson is still in operation at his new location
2008- a 17 yr. old boy reports being abused and tortured at Reclamation Ranch, prompting an investigation. Patterson, and his employee Michael Parkinson are both charged with aggravated child abuse. Soon after charges were filed, a plea for $40,000 to help with legal fees was posted on one of his websites. “Any of you who know Bro. Jack know that there is no way for him to allow any type of harm against anyone.”
2009- Patterson is convicted of “verbal harassment”, ordered to pay a $500 fine and to not re-open “Reclamation Ranch” in Blount Co.
2010- a fire guts a three-story dormitory on the property formerly named “Bethesda Home” (originally of Roloff Enterprises), before remodeling was completed, and the facility re-named “Reclamation Ranch”.
2011- Evidence points to “Dr.” Patterson moving to Michigan and re-opening “Reclamation Ranch”.
Mack Ford- New Bethany Homes for boys and girls
1972 Mack Ford meets Lester Roloff
1972 After being ‘ordained’ into the ministry by Roloff, Ford opens the New Bethany Home for Wayward Girls. Arcadia, LA.
1978 Mack Ford opens the New Bethany Home for Boys in Longstreet, La.
2011 Olen King is still operating Second Chance Ranch
1979- Ford is unable to avoid clashes with the Bienville Parish Sheriff’s Office. Legal documents regarding appeals, charges, etc. are filed (some federally) going back as far as 1979, perhaps earlier.
1981- L.D. (Larry Rapier) is arrested at the New Bethany Boys Home (Longstreet, LA, an extension of the girl’s home in Arcadia) for cruelty to children, then released on a $15K bond.
1982- the Longstreet home is closed down and the boy’s records destroyed to keep Child Protective Services from finding and interviewing them. The New Bethany Boys Home is thereafter moved to property purchased by Mack Ford in Walterboro, SC the appointed director being Olen (Olin) King another Ford and Roloff associate
1982 Mack Ford opens another boys home in Walterboro, S.C.
operated by Olen King
1984- The New Bethany Boys Home is raided by the Colleton Co. Sheriff’s Office due to allegations of abuse. Olen King, said to be a former employee of Lester Roloff (as well as a few other male employees) were arrested. “Attorneys for the Kings took an hour and 45 minutes explaining the use of handcuffs, rope and holding cell..”. David Arbitelle, former school principal (1981-1984) of New Bethany Home for Girls (Arcadia) and associate pastor of New Bethany Baptist Church “defended the school and said its sole purpose was rehabilitation”.
King later pleads “no contest” and was convicted of unlawful imprisonment, given a 2 yr. suspended sentence and 5 yrs. probation.
Olen King- Second Chance Ranch
1988 Olen King opens Second Chance Ranch in Danbury, N.C.
King Family Ministries
2011 Olen King is still in operation
Public record shows that Olen King’s’ boys home is still operating.Penny Ford, daughter of Mack and Thelma Ford, married Olen Kings son, and works at the Second Chance Ranch.
Herman Fountain-Bethel Boys Academy
1977 Herman Fountain works for Roloff in the Rebekah girls
home. Corpus Christi, Texas
1978 Herman Fountain opens Bethel Boys Academy, Lucedale,
2011 The Fountains are still in operation under a different name,
and now are associated with WWASPS
1988 The director of a fundamentalist children’s home and two assistants were indicted by a state grand jury today on charges of assaulting officers who raided the home June 13 and took custody of children said to have been abused and neglected
Children were removed from one of Herman Fountain’s homes.
Mr. Fountain, who has claimed to be a former heroin addict and practitioner of witchcraft, has said he had as many as 120 children living at his 28-acre compound outside Lucedale.
He contends that his right to freedom of religion exempts him from any state oversight. But last June, a George County Youth Court judge, looking into allegations of beatings and other abuse, ordered the state Department of Public Welfare to take custody of the Bethel residents.
Some state law officers have accused Mr. Fountain of ordering the children to flee the compound, an accusation he denies. It took officials several days to round up the children.
The minister is accused of punching law-enforcement officers after they stormed the locked church in search of the children. Several witnesses, including reporters, saw Mr. Fountain swing at offices.
State welfare officials raided Bethel Home for Children— the academy’s predecessor— and removed 72 abused and neglected children. A judge closed the home in 1990. Herman Fountain reopened it in 1994 as Bethel Boys’ Academy.
1999 bethel girls academy opens in Petal Mississippi
The director of the Bethel Girls Academy says he voluntarily shut down his school after allegations of abuse on Wednesday.
Herman Fountain Jr. says he’s released the school’s 50 residents into the custody of the Department of Human Services while the academy remains temporarily closed.
On Wednesday 11 girls ran away from the school, claiming they’d been abused.
Sources say all 50 girls spent last night in sleeping bags at the Forrest County DHS office. DHS will not confirm that a state investigation is underway, saying only that the department does respond to all complaints about state-inspected facilities.
Officials say when there are allegations of abuse, the state health department, DHS, the attorney general’s office, and local law enforcement are required to work together.
Sources say the 11 girls who ran away have gone back to their homes, while the remaining residents wait at the DHS office to be picked up by their parents.
Clarion Ledger – excerpt: A school for troubled teenagers was temporarily closed Thursday and its 44 students were released into state custody. “For right now we’re going to close the doors,” said Bethel Girls Academy director Herman Fountain Jr. “We are planning on opening back up, but we’ve got to get everything taken care of first.” The closure came a day after 11 students fled from the facility. Some girls said they had been physically and verbally abused by staff members, and one of the girls’ mothers said she plans to press charges against Fountain for assaulting a minor. “The contract was broken when he broke my daughter’s wrist,” said Miami resident Angela Roberts, whose daughter, Angenika McNeil, 16, was injured while at Bethel. “I want him prosecuted for what he did to my child. He hides behind the word ‘restrain,’ but that word means ‘abuse’ to him.”
Bethel Boys Academy in Mississippi, (most recently going by the name of Eagle Point Christian Academy,) has strings to WWASPS. A riot occurred there this month that left seven teenagers injured.
Hattiesburg American – excerpt: Six students remain in custody at Forrest County Juvenile Detention Center on charges of disorderly conduct after a riot Friday night at Eagle Point Christian Academy, formerly Bethel Boys Academy, in Lucedale. Seven other students, or cadets, at the home for troubled teenagers from across the country were taken to George County Hospital where six were treated for minor injuries and released to school officials. George County Sheriff Garry Welford said the students were breaking windows and tearing up beds, chairs and other items during the Friday night incident. Students told Welford that the riot was sparked by a rumor that state investigators might arrive at the school over the weekend. The school has a history of abuse allegations and state investigations dating to 1988 when 72 children were removed from the school by state welfare officials. At the time the school was called Bethel Home for Children. In 1990, a judge closed the school – then owned by Herman Fountain Sr. In 1994, Fountain reopened the school as Bethel Boys Academy. The institution’s name was changed from Bethel Boys Academy to Eagle Point Christian Academy in February.
Mississippi Press – excerpt: Christy Depasquale has her twin 17-year-old sons at home with her in Oklahoma after they spent more than a month at Eagle Point Christian Academy, formerly known as Bethel Boys Academy. Depasquale was concerned for the boys’ welfare after hearing of the riot that took place at Eagle Point last weekend. During the riot, windows were broken, bunks overturned and a barrack was trashed. Depasquale’s sons reportedly had “plenty of bruises and cuts and scrapes” when she picked them up. One of the boys reportedly has a bruise on his back where an Eagle Point staff member allegedly “grabbed him and slammed his fist in his back” because he was talking. The twins also told their mother that the kitchen of Eagle Point was infested with roaches and rats, and that if there was trouble during mealtime, the boys either couldn’t finish eating or were given 30 seconds to finish their meal. The boys also alleged that when the kids got into fights, the staff members would just ignore it and leave the room. One of Depasquale’s sons was in a fight, and the brothers said the instructors just stood by and watched. The boys also told their mother that mace was being used frequently at Eagle Point when anybody steps out of line. Depasquale said she felt Eagle Point was misrepresented to parents. She said they didn’t provide a 100 percent safe and secure environment, there’s a lack of supervision, and the education is not what it should be.
Bethel Boys Academy in Mississippi, (most recently going by the name of Eagle Point Christian Academy,) has strings to WWASPS. A riot occurred there this month that left seven teenagers injured.
Ron Williams-Hephzibah house
Ron Williams meets Roloff and feels he is called by God to
open a girls home.
1971 Hephzibah House was founded in Wynona Lake, Indiana
2011 Hephzipha House is still operating
Upon opening, Hephzibah House (HH) took in homeless/drug-addicted/alcoholic adult women. Williams had previously worked for the Health Department dealing with women having similar issues. The women lived at HH voluntarily.
Late 1970′s- HH began taking in young girls, with several of the adult women residents staying on as staff, onefor as long as 25 yrs.
Hephzibah house is still operating to this day, taken over a few years ago by Williams’ son Don. HH has faced many allegations of abuse by former residents, and is still one of the longest continuously running schools t was patterned after Lester Roloff’s Lighthouse (boys), and Rebekah (girls), taking girls as young as 12-17 1/2 , requiring a stay of 15 month. Some girls have stayed as long as 3 years or more.
Here is the link to the video of recent report on Anderson Cooper 360 titled “Ungodly Discipline”
Victory Christian Academy- Jay, Florida, Michael Palmer-director. Home now closed due to abuse and death of a girl who was a resident. Book written by Michelle Ulrich about her experience as a resident.
Here is some information I have been meaning to add about Camp Tracey, Glen St. Mary, Fl. for quite some time. I personally know some girls who were placed in this ‘home’. These girls have validated that they in fact observed grievous abuses during their stay there.
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Cindy Foster is “Mom” to eight gorgeous, talented, temperamental, noisy, opinionated, alike-but very different kids. She has been married to their daddy, Paul, for 34 years.
NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce