DECLARATION UNDER PENALTY OF PERJURY
PURSUANT TO 28 USCA 1746
I, Sandra Connelly, declare and state as follows:
1. Kids Helping Kids
4. In 1986 I placed my son in Kids Helping Kids in
We were “good” program parents. We believed everything we were told to do was in the best interest of our son, even when the rules were questionable to us. Looking back, I feel we were both taken advantage of and lied to on a daily basis. I had no idea of the abuse going on with our child, then only 14 years old. One of the rules the parents were expected to obey was “No talking behind backs”, which meant we were not allowed to talk to the other parents or anyone about anything going on in the program. If we didn’t obey the rules, we were not going to get the results the program promised.
My son eventually graduated from KHK and worked on staff for a few months. He refused to be abusive with the kids during rap sessions and was terminated and isolated from his KHK support group. We had not developed the good relationship the program had promised and he was very troubled for many years, as was our whole family.
But, I was such a good ‘follower’, that, after my son graduated from the program, I worked there as Public Relations Director (you see, the parents, like the kids, were always told that, if a kid did well it was due to the program….if he did poorly, it was his fault). I promoted KHK to churches, schools, doctors, psychologists, and parents. Even in this position, I was never allowed access to the rooms where the rap sessions took place….involving humiliation tactics, manipulation into admitting wrongs that were untrue, or downright abuse, both verbal and physical.
In trying to develop a rapport with program parents, since part of my job was to recruit them to do speaking engagements, I went to lunch with a few of the mothers. I was promptly put in my place and told this was not allowed. When I questioned it, I was humiliated by being reminded I didn’t have a degree and that it was not a good idea to fraternize with the mothers. I needed the job, so I accepted it. Now I realize I was shamed into not questioning. I had seen some things in the program that Staff did not want to be conveyed to the parents. I did see many attempted escapes and heard of a couple of suicide attempts; but, by this time, I was a good follower, and believed everything I was told…..that this was ‘normal’. Shortly after that I was told my position was no longer being funded and that I would be let go, which I was.
In 1992, we admitted our daughter into Kids Helping Kids: in
My daughter had a history of migraine headaches and was never allowed any medical care…nor was I told of her many episodes of excruciatingly painful migraines without benefit of proper medication, although I did see first hand a few times when she had them all day before coming home at night. She didn’t complain, but I could see she was in pain. I was a “foster” parent, one of the “in-town” homes for the “out-of-town” girls.
One of the girls in my home had suffered a miscarriage while she was in the program and was denied medical care. I had to argue profusely with a staff member to be allowed to take her to the hospital while in my care in my home. Later, I found out that a boy with asthma had been put in solitary confinement for days without proper medical supervision and possibly not even the required medication. The kids were afraid he might die; they said he looked terrible when he got out.
You may say “Why did you have your daughter admitted if this program was so bad?” What I want people to understand is how I was totally convinced by KHK staff and other parents (who were brought in to “testify” to us about the credibility and efficacy of this program) that I would be a terrible parent if I didn’t make this treatment available for my child. It was quite a financial burden and required a lot of commitment from our entire family. When the rules appeared strange and we questioned them, we were always given an explanation that played upon our fears and love for our children. Also, I now understand that the bigger the investment and commitment, the harder it is to change your mind about something (two things the staff used to control parents).
The “No talking behind backs” rule (for both parents and kids) ensured that our children did not reveal the abuse going on behind closed doors. For the first 3-6 months we weren’t allowed to see our son or daughter, except during a Friday night meeting where they stood at the front of a room before the audience of parents; or sometimes, during a supervised 15-minute visit, where they were only allowed to admit their drug usage to us. We were told to ignore them if they whined or had an outburst…because they all did that at first and they were just trying to manipulate us.
Once a child had conformed, “in-towners” (whose parents could drive to the program every day) could come home at night, but had enough “homework” to keep them busy, so as to discourage much talk with parents; and they were promptly delivered to the program early the next morning. When they came home was a staff decision, supposedly based on when the child was ready to be helped. I now believe that the requirement to come home was determined more by whether they were brainwashed enough to (1) Keep their abuses secret and (2) Believe in “program ways”.
When they finally came home, they did seem better, but I never felt we had our son or daughter back. I was thankful they were alive, not doing drugs, and not out of control; but something wasn’t right. There is an awareness you notice in a person who decides to make a positive change that just wasn’t there. During the rest of the program, if I questioned why my child and I still couldn’t talk and work on a relationship, I was ignored or told I was too impatient, which I believed at the time. Now I feel the staff was more interested in how well our kids were conforming and how well they were helping Staff to coerce the new enrollees to conform.
It was not until years later that my son told me of all the atrocities he experienced at KHK. When he was in the program, the staff told them that the parents knew what they were doing to them and that we approved. We had no idea of what was happening in the back room of the building. Whenever I approached the subject, he became very angry and this hurt our relationship for years. He has had to work through all his issues concerning this abuse without much support. In doing research, he has finally gained an understanding of not only what happened to him and others in the program, but also how we, the parents, were manipulated. He finally came to realize he didn’t have to be ashamed anymore. Shame is one of the most potent and damaging tactics used by KHK in exploiting vulnerable families.
While in the program, my son tried to escape 3 times and was almost suffocated on the third attempt. He had carved skin from his arm and hand. He tried to commit suicide. He eventually had a nervous breakdown, which led to his full compliance. In “open meeting” he listed a lot more drugs than he had ever really taken and admitted to committing imaginary crimes.
He was forced to make a false sexual confession. I later found out that confessions of sexually deviant behavior were expected by the program in order to progress (one could never “graduate” and leave this prison unless they completed the requirements of the program). The kids were badgered constantly by Staff and the kids in the group until they “admitted” to these behaviors. These terrible false confessions reinforced the notion that our child was truly in need of treatment offered specifically by KHK. This technique, I have discovered, is one used by cults and any group using manipulation and mind control tactics.
The children were deprived of sleep and food, belittled, badgered and made to feel helpless and hopeless unless they conformed. The tactics used on these children were not trusted psychological methods; they were physical and psychological torture. There have been books written about the results of such treatment and it has been called “Soul Murder”. Both my son and daughter have serious trust issues now, and my son is not sure he will ever be able to have a long-term relationship. He is now 37 and it has only been in the last few years that he and I have had a good relationship. My daughter and I do not have a good relationship. She is 31 now and has been traumatized so much, she may never recover.
Research has revealed that these types of programs are all over the
I know our children have suffered far more than we did, but, since I've found out what really went on in there, it's very hard to deal with the guilt...that I put my child in such a place. Of course, I know we were duped and they used our love and fear for our child's welfare against us.....but that is little consolation when I see the devastation in, not only my son and daughter, but other "program kids".
I saw a lot of things that were not OK with me, but was very convinced that I had to endure all my misgivings or I was being a bad parent. There were "tactics" used on the parents, making us feel we were so "dysfunctional" that we couldn't know what was best for our children....we were basically told it was our fault they were in trouble. Even though they said the kids were responsible, they interpreted any parent’s resistance as a sign that we couldn't follow rules; we were told our children had learned that from us (resistance of authority). And we had to do exactly as they said, or we were guilty of not setting a good example and hindering our kids’ progress.
Also, if a parent showed any resistance to the program, he or she was ostracized by the other parents, something the program certainly didn’t discourage. I heard discussions by the Staff that the kids ‘wouldn’t have a chance’ at recovery if they went back into those parents’ homes. “Those” parents were looked at as ‘problems’ for their children.
I am still angry, extremely sad, and feel very victimized by the very people that I went to for help. By the way, what they did is the very definition of fraud, gaining someone's trust and then violating that trust to make some sort of gain. It is all a big money-making scam. I wish someday they could be fully prosecuted, although I doubt that the originators and promoters of these programs ever will. At the very least, I would like to see them all shut down.
I give Pathway Family Center Truth permission to use this statement. I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.