Children Sent Away: Trapped and Tortured?

January 22, 2013

Dr. Phil’s guests say the residential treatment centers they encountered as troubled teens did more harm than good. Marianne says she was abused at a therapeutic boarding school — and that her mom, Tami, did nothing to stop it. The two come face to face for the first time in five years. Can they call a truce and work on rebuilding their relationship? And, Nick and Theresa say they felt trapped and tortured at the residential treatment program where their mom, Leslie, sent them. Can these siblings find forgiveness? 







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MarianneTamiNickTheresaLeslie

Marianne and Tami

Marianne says when she learned that she was going to a therapeutic boarding school in Mexico as a troubled teen, she was excited at first. But when she got to the facility, she says she realized it wasn’t what she had expected, and her “nightmare” began. “The staff really saw us as American, over-privileged teenagers with no respect for anything or anyone,” she explains. “We had to ask permission to stand up and sit down. We had to ask permission to talk, to look left and look right.” She continues, "If we were sick, we were forced to throw up all over ourselves, or they wouldn't even acknowledge that we were sick. We weren't allowed to just go to the bathroom as we needed. There were a lot of times that I can remember girls peeing in their pants."

Tami admits that she did not speak to Marianne for seven months while Marianne was away, but she says when they finally talked, her daughter was "in a good place."

Marianne says that during the two times her mother visited her at the facility in 19 months, she put on a front for her, because the students were scared to talk openly with their parents about their true feelings. “Without a doubt, everything I was acknowledging to my mom was very fake,” she admits. But, she says she feels like her mom should’ve been able to see in her eyes that she, deep down, was not happy and that something was wrong. “I think my mom has failed me in every way that a mother should be there for a child,” she says.

Tami says she feels like the program saved her daughter’s life. “If I had to do it all over again, most definitely, I would have followed the same course,” she says.

Marianne and Tami come face to face for the first time in five years. And, Dr. Phil lists some of the abuse Marianne claims she endured. Is she the only former attendee making such allegations?

Marianne describes the day when she says Mexican Federal Police, or Federales, stormed the therapeutic boarding school. And, Dr. Phil points out something that bothers him about Tami’s behavior.     

Will Tami take any ownership in her daughter’s painful experience?

Dr. Phil offers Marianne help in moving forward. And, Tami meets her 10-month-old grandson, Connor, for the first time.

Nick and Theresa

Nick admits that he started experimenting with alcohol and marijuana when he was 13. “I would leave the house in the middle of the night, come home drunk,” he says. “By the time I was 14, I was completely out of control.”

Nick’s mom, Leslie, says she decided to send her son to a teen treatment program, in an effort to turn his life around. “I just didn’t know what else to do,” she says.

Nick says his mom tricked him into believing they were going shopping for new clothes but instead took him to the facility. “We drove to a warehouse in the middle of nowhere, and I immediately realized that there wasn’t an outlet store,” he recalls. He says he was taken into a windowless room, where he claims a group of men made him admit to using certain drugs that he never used. “The screaming went on for eight hours,” he says. When he stood up to leave, Nick says the men jumped on him and each held down a limb so that he couldn’t move. “I felt trapped because, I was trapped.”

“I wasn’t sure if I was doing the right thing,” Leslie admits, adding that she witnessed her son being restrained by staff members. “This moment was the worst day of my life.”

Nick says he felt betrayed, hurt and abandoned by his mother’s choice. “That was the beginning of my two-and-a-half years of hell,” he says.

Leslie admits that she witnessed children lying on the floor while staff members sat on their arms and legs. When she expressed her concerns, she says they yelled at her, browbeat her and threatened to take Nick out of the program. “That was terrifying to me,” she says. She says the staff also convinced her that her daughter, Theresa, had problems and needed to be admitted to the program. So, she admits, she followed their suggestion. “The staff really got into my head.”

“I went to this facility with my mother thinking that I was going to get my brother out,” Theresa recalls. “It became quickly clear that I wasn’t leaving.” She says she begged her mom not to leave her there. “I was devastated.” She says from day one, she was trying to figure out a way to “escape.”

Nick says he was brainwashed into thinking that he would die if he ever left the facility. He says Theresa “escaped” after spending about a year at the program and that he was left to believe that she was in danger. “For a year and a half, I believed that she was on the streets doing crack, because the staff told me this,” he says. “They never told me that my sister was living with my grandmother.” He says he too was finally able to “escape” after spending two-and-a-half years at the facility.

“If my kids hadn’t escaped, there is no telling how long I would’ve kept them there,” Leslie admits. “I feel very strongly that the program brainwashed me.”

Nick and Theresa say they resent their mother for her choices. “She blindly trusted a program that she knew very little about,” Theresa says.

“She is to be blamed for what happened,” Nick adds.

Leslie explains how she says she was brainwashed into putting Theresa into the program. “I felt like the worst monster in the world.” Plus, the family shares an emotional moment. 

Leslie apologizes to Nick for a night that she says she regrets tremendously. Will he forgive her?