Before we look at what happened to land Carol Ann Cole in a troubled teen home we need to first look at the troubled teen home industry, particularly as it exists in connection to fundamentalist Christian churches. So many churches have made either the education of children in their private schools or the supposedly treatment of difficult teens into a side ministry or business of their churches. They tend to put enormous pressure on church members to support these facilities, or provide free services, while also taking advantage of those they manage to convince to attend.
During much of the past there really weren’t very many options but these troubled teen homes connected to churches for families struggling with a teenager having a rough transition into adulthood. Sure, there had always been a state run juvenile hall in most states and foster homes, but neither place was somewhere that a teen child who was considered rebellious, or suffered from depression or substance abuse issues fit in. Most of the time the kids that ended up in juvey were convicted of petty crimes and foster care for those children without parents or taken out of abusive homes. Hence the churches stepping in with these troubled teen homes.
The churches running these places may have started with the best of intentions for those first teens they took in, but since they weren’t under any state or federal oversight, exempt from any licensing or having to meet safety qualifications, many devolved into hell holes that tortured the hapless teens stuck there. Incarcerated in unsafe facilities with no way to contact the outside world to report their abuse many kids died or just wished they were dead. There was no treatment, no classes on anything but the Bible. Most facilities deprived students of reasonable medical or dental care. Many of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist homes would go so far as to pry off the children’s braces with pliers as soon as they arrived just so the home didn’t have to pay for the ongoing orthodontic adjustments and dental care you must do if you have braces. Medical care was handled by untrained staff without training in either first care or CPR. Bandages and aspirin being the most sophisticated medicine they doled out.
This was all taking place while the homes charged the children’s parents steep fees for living expenses and ‘treatment’, treatment that never happened as most of these places considered psychology or psychiatric treatment to be unnecessary at best, or sinful and worldly. Beatings and worse were routine. Many of these places eventually turned into places where children were trafficked between the homes and others for sexual purposes.
Outrageous, I hear you say. Yes, it is, but there are overwhelming numbers of life stories from the survivors of these homes telling of being sexually abused by staff, or of being sold to others for sex by the pastor and others in the homes. Some have said that they now believe that the homes were primarily used as a tool to insure a fresh supply of victims for sexual purposes. They were even traded between homes, moved from place to place and suffering untold sexual abuse at each new home. It is rumored that the Roloff Homes in Texas traded girls with New Bethany in Louisiana.
This is what happens when churches and organizations are held to no standards, there is no larger organization spearheading keeping the homes safe, no oversight. Individual pastors run the places any way they see fit, no matter how much it damages the children. Once they started to be able to access mone from the state and federal programs there was even less incentive for the owners of the homes to release the children.
This is the world that poor Carol Ann Cole found herself in when she was only 17. What’s not clear is if there was a precipitating event that lead to her leaving her mother’s custody or if Sue Cole fell for the intense pressure put upon her by those advocating putting Carol Ann into a religious troubled teen home by representatives of a home. It’s hard to say. Sue may have felt this was her only option.
What is known is that the relationship fractured and Carol Ann Cole ended up in the hands of a local troubled teen home.
In those days there just wasn’t much in the way of information on handling problems with teens in the home, no psychologists that specialized in family conflict resolution. Parents did whatever they deemed best when the relationships between they and their children turned rocky. Sometimes that meant giving custody of the child to a relative, or these homes. There weren’t many options, and the ones that did exist weren’t good.
Parents made decisions to send their children away to these places without knowing much about what actually went on there. Many of them genuinely thought they were doing the right thing for their child. Administrators, preachers and the churches involved lied to the parents, promising them a brand new attitude would be inculcated into their children, that the problems and conflicts would be fixed, if they would only trust the homes.
Sadly, many parents learned years later what actually occurred in these places at the hands of those they trusted. Many went into denial over what happened, some have faced up to the abuse, apologized to their now adult children and healing the broken bonds between parent and child have started to happen. But for many it’s too late. Some parents are still stuck in a traumatized state of mind where it’s just easier to keep pretending that nothing bad happened while their children were in these places. Denial.
Next week we’ll trace the trail of homes Carol Ann was at when she contacted friends and relatives.
I’m aware that many folks have tried to post in the comments but that Disqus is not allowing them in. We’re reported the problem and it’s been looked out now. Hope to have it resolved soon.
In the meantime if you wish to contact anyone at NLQ about what happened to Carol Ann Cole, or with your own story please drop me an email at suzanne(DOT)calulu(AT)gmail(DOT)com.
Suzanne Titkemeyer is the admin at No Longer Quivering. She’s been out of the Quiverfull Evangelical world for nine years now and lives in the beautiful Piedmont section of Virginia with her retired husband and assorted creatures. She blogs at Every Breaking Wave and True Love Doesn’t Rape
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