OUR RESPONSE TO PRESS
Thank you for visiting this page. If you are here it is likely that you value the search for truth. You are aware that there is always more than one side to a story. As you are also probably aware, there have been a number of sensational and mainly false attacks in the press and in other places against the youth treatment business generally and Havenwood, as well as other programs, specifically. We have considered for some time whether or not to publicly respond to these attacks. In consultation with our Officers and Directors, outside professionals, and past and present parents, we have decided that the time has come to push back against the rather sensational and mostly false attacks directed towards us. We wish to champion the critical work we do to save young people and their families not only at Havenwood but at many other top-level programs.
We are often asked why we have chosen this work that is both difficult and seems to attract those who want to destroy what we do. We have chosen this work because we get to witness and even participate in miracles in the lives of young people and their families. There are few greater privileges in life than to see one of the young people we have worked with and cared for change their lives and move towards success and happiness. It must not be overlooked that undergirding these miracles is a tremendous amount of long, hard, and painful work by our young people, their families and many, many dedicated staff members at all levels. Staff care is an extremely high priority at Havenwood because of the difficulty of this work. There has never been a graduation from Havenwood where those same staff members are not shedding tears of joy because of the young person’s success and new life opportunities; while at the same time shedding tears of sadness because they have grown to love them and it is hard to have them move on. From their advantaged position of hindsight and to a large degree a deep misunderstanding of what we do, none of the attacking press or organizations take any of this into consideration and, as set forth below, they are not really interested in this information–leaving us to try and disseminate it and to try and counter sensational and often false attacks.
Critics, by definition, have been and remain an important part of the American landscape. If they are honest and are properly motivated they become participants in helping improve the services that we or any other type of business is able to provide. However, there is an emerging “industry”, led in part by Paris Hilton and the website Breaking Code Silence, as well as a number of agendized reporters, that is dedicated to destroying the critical youth treatment business at all costs. They have no alternative plan to help the tens of thousands of struggling youth and their families–only to destroy opportunities that these people may have to get help.
Thus, if you are seeking help for a “troubled” teen in your life it is inevitable that any online search will include negative information. These critics are able to say what they want and, for a number of reasons, including professionalism and privacy concerns, it is very difficult for us or any other program to counter the attacks other than continuing to do the great work of helping young people and their families.
In considering placing your child in any program, we encourage you to gather all the information available. But as you do, please also consider the critics’ motivations as you read what they have to say. You will likely note that the “professional” critics have certain common characteristics:
- They are committed to destroying what they call the “Troubled Youth Industry.”
- They will do or say anything, regardless of the facts, to accomplish their goal.
- Their “documentation” consists, at best, of anecdotes that are often taken out of context and treated as normative throughout the industry;
- Their funding sources appear to be organizations that are dedicated to destroying the critical, life-saving help we and others provide.
- They offer no viable alternative to the work we do or level of care we provide–meaning that if they are successful tens of thousands of desperate youth and families will have no alternative.
These “professional critics” have plenty of media ready to assist them. One Utah reporter, who has written articles critical of Havenwood and youth treatment in general, allegedly receives undisclosed grant money from an organization dedicated to the destruction of our industry. There can be no media fairness when reporters are agenda-driven.
Havenwood is not a day spa or summer camp. It is a serious, comprehensive, full-time therapeutic and educational institution that promises its best efforts to each student and family and asks each student and family for their best efforts in return. We work with young women and their parents with very difficult issues and at very difficult times. The work we do is far too complex and the circumstances of each client's history is too varied for what we do to be easy.
Havenwood regularly collects and analyzes significant data from all aspects of its operations to both identify issues and to improve its program. One such example is that every quarter we anonymously survey our parents and guardians and ask them the Gold Standard, Net Promoter Score (NPS) question –”how likely are you to refer a friend or relative to Havenwood for help?” We spend time at each parent seminar going over all this information–good and bad. In our latest survey we achieved an NPS of 94–we were stunned. To put this in context, anything over 70 is considered an “excellent” score. In 2021, Disney had an NPS of -7; Home Depot had a -5; Amazon had a 55; Netflix had a 29. The average NPS in the professional service/health care industry (most closely allied with us) was 40. We were thrilled with our score as it reflects the hard work of many, many professionals and dedicated individuals over many, many years. The critics are not interested in this information.
We also know something that the critics don’t - we know the miracles that can happen in a young person’s life, and that of her family, through the care and structure that we provide. Not only do the critics not know this, they don’t want to know it. We have consistently offered reporters, even the attacking reporters, the opportunity to come into our program and have free access to everyone; including our students and their families. The reporters have turned down each invitation. We have offered the same invitation in writing, on six occasions, to the Utah state senator who is responsible for the latest Paris Hilton driven legislation and he has completely ignored our invitations. The declination of our invitations by some and the lack of response from others has been rather astonishing. These individuals seem completely uninterested in discovering what is really taking place in programs such as ours, presumably because it will interfere with their agenda-driven narrative. Our doors are always open to such inspection and we will happily endure this criticism if it means we can help even one more troubled young person, and her family, to find their way.
ATTACKS ON HAVENWOOD
The following represents the major claims that have been made against Havenwood by the above referenced website and reporters:
These programs are bad actors – the state is always catching them breaking the rules or mistreating students. They require constant surveillance from regulators just to track and root out misconduct and the state is obviously negligent in its efforts. Just look at the examples we’ve detailed.
The state does not “catch” Havenwood or any other quality program in any violation or mishap. Naturally, the media fails to tell its audience that every incident, every infraction of the rules, every example of misbehavior by staff is SELF-REPORTED.
Havenwood is not under “surveillance” by regulators. We host visits from them for periodic inspections, of course, but every item in our state regulatory file we reported ourselves. Not only that, Havenwood officials are assiduous in the self-reporting process – we make sure to report immediately and fully whenever anything untoward occurs. We deal with human beings, both as staff and as students, with very difficult issues and in very difficult circumstances. Humans are fallible and make mistakes. When that happens, we alert state authorities in detail and use it to improve our processes and program.
Havenwood, like other high-end programs, has a large number of “critical incident” reports with the state, meaning that Havenwood is abusive and/or negligent and regulators aren’t doing their job.
Havenwood accepts some of the most difficult cases. Again, most of these young people come to us with severe, chronic challenges. We do the hard work of helping young people who might not otherwise get the help they need. Because of the population we serve and the challenges they bring, there will always be reportable incidents.
Additionally, as incidents occur we report to our state regulators immediately and completely. Critical incidents are indeed reported, by us! That is how reporters and others find out about incidents, we tell them. We comply with all applicable laws and regulations. It is ironic that our commitment to transparency and compliance is turned into a negative by the critics and the press.
Havenwood lobbied the legislature to make painful restraints legal, arguing that they are an appropriate discipline tool.
Havenwood does not use painful restraints, which would never be appropriate for discipline or punishment. A safe physical restraint is only appropriate when a young person is a danger to self or others.
As Utah SB127 was considered in the legislature, we appropriately weighed in with our own representative about our concerns for the safety of our students and staff. We told him that without access to non-injurious physical restraints there would be young people who would be rejected for treatment, remaining stranded in the Juvenile Justice system without help. This has proved to be true.
Havenwood is merely a re-branding of a closed program named Integrity House.
Havenwood and the closed Integrity House have no business or other relationship. Havenwood purchased its assets more than eight years ago and there is no overlap between the two in terms of personnel, finances, ownership, management, staff, operations, philosophy or methodology. No one involved in Integrity House prior to the sale is or has been involved in Havenwood. There was a lawsuit filed between the old owners of Integrity House and Havenwood and its ownership that has been settled and has no relevance to the care being provided by Havenwood.
The founder of Havenwood, attorney Blaine Hofeling, sees youth treatment as a mere money-making business and uses confidentiality to hide abuse.
Mr. Hofeling is deeply committed to providing the best, most professional care for young women in crisis, which the professional critics will never acknowledge. Havenwood operates as openly as possible within privacy restrictions.
An extremely biased reporter (see above) was determined to prove, among other things, that Havenwood and Integrity House were one and the same and requested a personal interview with Mr. Hofeling. As set forth above, Mr. Hofeling offered the reporter a chance to visit Havenwood herself and spend time interviewing our leadership, our employees, our young women and their parents. It was an open invitation without time limits, informational limits, or restrictions (other than HIPAA).
The reporter spurned the offer – her agenda was to publish a “hit piece” on Mr. Hofeling and Havenwood, so visiting the program and talking with staff and students would have undermined that agenda.
Mr. Hofeling and Havenwood maintain transparency, inviting reporters, regulators, legislators and others to visit the program at any time with or without advance notice for a firsthand view of our programs and facilities.
The condemnation of “professional” critics like Breaking Code Silence and bad reviews from a few individuals who have enrolled at Havenwood is adequate proof that Havenwood is neither legitimate nor effective.
Professional critics are a poor source of information about Havenwood. Their job is to destroy treatment centers like ours. They will never report on the vast body of work that has changed so many lives for the better. Our job is saving lives by working with deeply traumatized young women. Again, Havenwood is not a day spa or summer camp. The girls in our care are challenged every day in ways that may be new to them, and some may reject that path.
As to “bad” reviews, we are disappointed when we get them, but know that there will occasionally be a client who did not respond to her treatment. We are willing to endure the criticism if it means we can help one more young person find their way into happy and productive adulthood.
CLEANING UP THE INDUSTRY
We understand that there are problems in our industry, some of which have been accurately identified by the press. We actively work with our national associations, legislators, regulators and peers to weed out bad actors and improve the treatment process for all involved. We would never condone or tolerate intentional abuse or neglect by any employee or any peer organization and we support state lawmakers and regulators in their efforts to protect young people under care.
Sadly, the press and the “anti-residential treatment industry” are incentivized to sensationalize every negative occurrence or anecdotal report as if it were the whole story. Meanwhile, the critics ignore the countless victories of young people and their families who have found tremendous healing in our care.
So, if you are seeking help for a struggling teen, you will have to come to your own conclusions as to our credibility versus the credibility of today’s media.
WE ARE NOT PERFECT - NO PROGRAM IS
Criticism is inevitable, as is human fallibility. Havenwood has made mistakes and received legitimate criticism. We accept that. When something goes wrong, we own it, then we turn our energy to repairing any damage and making the changes that will help make sure it doesn’t happen again.
There are reports out there of two incidents we must meet head-on, admit our role, confirm that we self-reported to authorities, and detail the tangible steps we’ve taken to ensure there will be no repeat occurrence.
As usual, press accounts were wildly skewed to portray the incidents as recurring and worse than reality.
Early in 2022, Havenwood staff detected that a fellow employee might be behaving inappropriately with one of our teens. Using security video, administrators were quickly able to confirm staff members’ suspicions. Keep in mind that every staff member has to pass a criminal background check as well as our own investigation where we speak with references and examine past conduct to the best of our ability. Even so, although very rare, someone may slip through the protective barriers.
At the point we confirmed the misbehavior, we immediately terminated the employee, summoned law enforcement and reported the incident to our regulators. We cooperated with the authorities and strongly requested that this individual – who had passed his state background check - be charged criminally, which he was. We knew that requesting criminal penalties would likely result in negative press. We did it anyway so that he could never pass another background check and find his way into another program where he could put a youth at risk.
THE HORSE TROUGH/ZIP TIE INCIDENT
In the summer of 2018, a former contractor–an equine specialist–acted in an inappropriate and egregious manner outside of Havenwood’s policies, procedures and practices. On the day in question, during an equine session, one of the girls became highly dysregulated and struck and injured a staff member and physically threatened other clients. She was physically restrained, which was appropriate, but in addition, her hands were zip-tied and she was placed in a trough of water. Our internal investigation uncovered that this contractor had had girls sit in the trough on four other occasions. The contractor indicated that these other occasions did not involve situations where a girl needed to be restrained, but was perhaps misbehaving, and the girls voluntarily sat in the trough and that zip ties were not used on those occasions. This practice was not authorized by Havenwood and was in complete violation of Havenwood’s policies, procedures and practices.
Press accounts highlight the arrival of local police in response and leave out an important detail - Havenwood administration itself called the police knowing full well that there could be negative ramifications for Havenwood. We cooperated in every aspect of its investigation and immediately self-reported to state regulators. The contractor and other employees involved were immediately suspended and disciplined, pending a complete investigation by law enforcement and state regulators, which determined that no criminal charges were warranted.
No one at Havenwood has ever once defended this egregious lapse in judgment. We were embarrassed and angry at our contractor’s actions. We have used this incident to grow and improve. We worked with regulators on a corrective action plan and implemented proper safeguards. There has been no recurrence of such behavior, nor will there be.