Admitting Mistakes as a Parent – and Moving on from the Past
By Sue Scheff
Several years ago my beautiful teenage daughter and I endured a very stressful and painful time. My daughter, like many teens today, was going through a difficult time and I began searching for outside help. In my desperation I stumbled on several misleading websites that changed our lives in so many ways. Our story has been long posted at "A Parent's True Story."
Since then it has been nothing short of an emotional ride of mental abuse and legal battles. For the past five years I have been involved in litigation, once as a defendant when I was sued by the people who harmed my daughter and defrauded me, and once as a plaintiff in an Internet Defamation and Invasion of Privacy lawsuit.
When I posted my story (above website) I was immediately under attack by the very people that I believed harmed my daughter and defrauded me, the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASP aka WWASPS). They sued me in an attempt to silence me and eliminate my website from the internet. After 2+ years of litigation and approximately $1 million in legal fees (which I was fortunate to have my insurance cover most of it) I defeated WWASPS in a jury trial in their home state of Utah. They appealed and I went on to defeat them again in the Supreme Court of Appeals in June 2006.
The campaign to destroy and discredit me on the Internet exploded. At one point it was so out of control that I had to take legal action to protect the privacy of my family and children. Carey Bock, a woman who I believe was retained by WWASPS, continued posting excerpts from confidential and sealed depositions about my family. Though I had nothing to hide, it was a matter of our privacy which I am sure most people can relate to.
It was discovered WWASPS paid Bock $12,500.00 for her computer hard-drive in an attempt to incriminate me – which it did not do. Because of her insistence and continued crusade to destroy me and my family I filed a lawsuit against her for Internet Defamation and Invasion of Privacy. After two years of litigation, on September 20, 2006, I won again when the jury awarded me $11.3 million - $5 million of this was in the form of punitive damages which is meant to punish the defendant for her actions. Further, the jury wanted to send a strong message to people: Freedom of Speech does not give a person the right to destroy, discredit, defame, and ruin others with false statements.
Though I experienced these two amazing legal victories – where the truth prevailed – there has unfortunately been an up-rise in continued Internet attacks by people who want to silence me and by people who believe programs for children and teens should not exist. Many of these people were institutionalized in the 70’s and 80’s and were harmed in the programs they attended. They have every right to feel hostility towards programs, considering what they went through. However, not all programs are bad and there are good programs for teens in crisis.
Desperate parents need to know there are safe options and that it is critical they do their research so they do not fall into the same trap I did. I have also been criticized by parents who, too, placed their children into abusive programs. Many parents have a difficult time admitting that we, as parents, made mistakes when we placed our children into bad and abusive programs. Some have come away with the belief that all programs must be bad and shame on me for thinking differently! As a parent I did make a mistake. I am not condoning my daughter’s behavior prior to placement. She was out of control and needed help but I made the mistake of not listening to my gut feelings and not doing better research. I believe parents need help in making such a major decision which is why I have spent the past seven years providing resources and assistance to parents.
Yes, as a parent I made a drastic mistake - one that cost my daughter years of emotional distress. Quite honestly she still suffers today with back flashes of what happened to her at the program she was in (Carolina Springs Academy). My daughter will still lash out at me in times of anger due to the abuse she endured, because for some time I did not believe her, and because I admitted openly that I did not do the research I should have done. This is why my organization, Parent’s Universal Resource Experts (P.U.R.E.) is so important to me. It is a way in which I can help educate parents on how to research programs for their teens. The best parent is an informed parent.
My website HelpYourTeens.com brings awareness to parents when they begin their search for schools or programs and feel that anxiousness to make a rash decision. Many parents are learning from my experiences and are able to investigate potential programs with a better understanding of the teen help industry.
With this awareness parents are becoming wise and are not falling for the slick marketing tactics, fancy websites, tearful DVD’s, and glossy brochures provided to them. One of the marketing strategies of WWASPS is to have parents “sell” the program to other parents in exchange for free tuition. Initially I believed in the program and was one of their supporters. That quickly stopped when I learned what they had done to my daughter. All of this has made WWASPS and those who work for them extremely uncomfortable. Lisa Irvin is a Teen Help Sales Representative who sells WWASPS programs and who may be affected by my story being made available to parents on the Internet. I was recently informed by a former WWASPS employee that she is posting old e-mails from me when I was involved in the WWASPS system. This is a blatant act of attempting to discredit me again; however, I am going to address this head on.
While I was under the enchantment of WWASPS I was completely (in my opinion) brainwashed as one of their followers. Those of you who were once involved with WWASPS will understand this. I would venture to say I was one of their top referral parents. I actually sent out Newsletters in an attempt to help other parents. I truly believed in what they told me and what they sold me. I wanted to help other parents who were having trouble with their teens. I remember how relieved I felt when I believed my daughter was getting the help she needed (it wasn’t until much later that I learned the truth) and I wanted to share this information with as many people as possible.
When I first became involved with WWASPS Randall Hinton was my Sales Representative. Over the months he helped me with my parent referrals. Some time after I discovered what happened to my daughter Hinton left WWASPS/Teen Help. He kept in touch with me every so often via e-mail. Eventually he ended up in Puerto Rico where he agreed to interview for Zadig Productions and expose what went on at Teen Help and WWASPS facilities. Shortly after his interview, Hinton went back to work for WWASPS (Robert Lichfield). I never had contact with him again. Today, Hinton is charged with various felony charges in Colorado pertaining to children.
In a continued effort to destroy P.U.R.E. and me, old e-mails between Hinton and me are being posted on the Internet. My association with him was many years ago and has no relevance to what is going on today. Admittedly I did associate with Hinton, Lisa Irvin, and other Teen Help employees. However, that in no way means I condone what they did or what they do.
I was a victim who made bad choices in the interest of my child. I have learned from these experiences and though I wish my daughter and I did not have to go through this, I know PURE has helped thousands of families over the years because of our experiences. My book, which will be published shortly, "Wit's End!" is about learning from my mistakes and gaining from my knowledge.
It is sad that people like Lisa Irvin and others feel a need to find and post old information at my expense. It is sad that anyone would stoop to this level. If a person feels they are honest and make an honest living then why do they feel the need to attempt to destroy others?
People have e-mailed or called me asking about these e-mails that are showing up on Internet forums, and I have answered them what I have stated here. I wrote this statement so people can understand that evil generates more evil. I am not haunted by my mistakes. Instead I look at my mistakes as stepping stones and not stumbling blocks. I am not bitter from my experiences but rather I am better for them!
I am moving on from the past and looking forward to a tremendous future helping to educate parents from my personal experiences. P.U.R.E. is based on reality, not textbook and definitely not from perfection. Learn from my mistakes; make a smart decision for your family.
If you have read any statements on the Internet or forums about me or P.U.R.E. that you have questions about, please feel free to contact me directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me 954-349-7260 EST. Although the rumors and gossip may never end, rest assured the truth always prevails as both my legal trials have proven.