Tough Love and Free Speech

How a ‘child advocate’ gamed the media Republished From Reason Magazine with Permission of the author. Original here. Maia’s Huffington Post comment on this article here. Maia Szalavitz | August 24, 2007 Sue Scheff has some serious chutzpah. Portrayed by ABC News, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and Forbes as a beleaguered mom running a small business to help parents find treatment for troubled teens, Scheff’s been telling reporters about a service called Reputation Defender, which she says allowed her to triumph over a bunch of rage-filled Internet cranks. Scheff says these vengeance-seeking wackos nearly destroyed her, an innocent businesswoman, with a series of libelous comments posted on online discussion boards. They had called her a “fraud” and “con artist,” she says, and claimed that she was referring teens to tough love programs that then abused them.

What none of this media coverage mentions is that a few years back, Scheff was sued for the same types of comments now directed at her—highlighting the abuses of a “tough love” rehab center (in this case, one of Scheff’s rivals). At the time, she framed the suit against her as an attempt to squelch her free speech.

Continue reading Tough Love and Free Speech

Isabelle Zehnder – Advocate or Sue’s Marketing? – Part II

(continued from previous entry) Soon after Sandy realized what Izzy was up to, “V” started to figure things out as well. According to “V”, It is during this time that Isabelle advises “V” to stop reading or posting on Fornits. “V” then started to catch on to what was going on, and forwarded me her correspondence with Isabelle. Soon after, Isabelle Zehnder, apparently started to realize that referring parents to Fornits was not the best idea in the world. One would suspect, based on her next move, that she sensed the upcoming disaster.

I couldn’t have been more surprised when i answered my cell phone to hear “this is Isabelle Zehnder.” My first words to her were along the lines of “may I record this call? I normally wouldn’t ask, but Washington is a two party state.” She refused, so I decided to play dumb and take notes. Her first subject of conversation was Patti Atwoods. She proceeded to lie about various details that I could verify as fact. Her basic explanation was that she was “set up”; that she was threatened into referring to sue (or else the kid would end up in Cross Creek Manor).

Although I could easily have proven her various claims to be false on the phone, I was more interested at the time with seeing how much she would say. I pretended to be interested in her explanation and offered to give up the identity of Patti Atwoods if she could prove to me that she was, in fact, duped. Among other things, what most interested me were her often self-contradicting claims about her “work” as an “advocate”. During her “explanation” of the Patti Atwoods debacle, Isabelle Zehnder claimed that she had “investigated” a private school in Texas “like [she] always do[es].”

Notice she claims competance when it suits her. In contrast, when I questioned her about the unlicenced, WWASP associated transport service, she responded with “Well… I had no idea”. I questioned Isabelle as to whether she investigated the facilities Sue Scheff referred to. She responded that she only investigated facilities in which there had been allegations of abuse, apparently unlike “[she] always do[es]”.

Isabelle then claimed that she had never checked Sunrise Adolescent Transport and was “shocked” to discover their affiliations. She claimed to have received a good report on the transport service from a WWASP parent whose child she had recently removed from program (and who had been placed in another program). Regarding that parent, and the “one time” she had referred a child to Sue, she stated:

“You’ll never find a kid out there that I referred to a program except the one I told you about [referring to her story about “V” she told me over the phone] and there was no choice – it was give the mother Sue’s number or he would have stayed in TB. I had to make what I believed was the best decision for the child. In the end it has turned out to be just that and he’s doing much better now. I wanted him home and fought to get him home. I lost. Most times I win.” [emphasis added]

Note that she states the “one time” came from Tranquility Bay (later on, she told me of another “one time”, this time from Carolina Springs). Note that she also claims that the parent, “V”, basically threatened her into contacting Sue (the same “explanation” she gave for referring Patti Atwoods to Sue). Upon forwarding the above mentioned email from Izzy to “V”, about the only thing that turned out to be accurate was that Isabelle did contact her, requesting the phone number for Sunrise Adolescent Transport. Apart from that, “V” was greatly angered by Isabelle’s perception of events and (among other things) denied that Isabelle had any significant involvement in the removal of her child from Tranquility Bay, stating:

“If she’s, now, trying to say she was key in moving him, and trying to get him home, she can blow me.”

Isabelle Zehnder then claimed that the transport company was only supposed to be used to remove the child from Tranqility bay, and not to transport to a new program. I found that more than a little absurd considering her final email to Patti seemed to contradict those clams (ie. Isabelle referred Patti Atwoods to PURE, for the purpose of finding a placement for the child after Tranquility Bay. One can only assume that a transport company would be required for this move).

When I began to question her association with Sue Scheff, PURE, and whether or not she had any knowledge of her Sue Scheff’s activities, she claimed that she was completely ignorant. Isabelle claimed to never have fully read the WWASP vs PURE transcripts, just the first 400 pages. She acted shocked as I read to her page after page of Sue Scheff’s own admission under oath that she took referral fees from programs. She claimed that nobody had taken the time to calmly explain the situation to her.

Multiple, very reliable sources, contradict this statement, stating that they took the time to explain Sue Scheff’s misdeeds when they first found out about the association between PURE and Isabelle Zehnder. She defended Whitmore Academy at length, despite the lengthy, documented history of that facility. Even after reading to her key passages of the WWASP vs. PURE transcripts, with all the the evidence I presented, she continued to defend Sue Scheff, stating:

“If it weren’t for her, every single kid I saved would still be sitting where they were” [emphasis added]

It was only until I suggested that Sue Scheff is currently referring to WWASP associated programs (article on that subject coming soon) that Isabelle’s tune started to change. I hypothesize that she saw the possibility of that particular revelation as something that Sue Scheff (and as a result, herself) could never recover from. Later that night, after the phone conversation, I sent Isabelle an email detailing some of my notes regarding the WWASP vs PURE transcripts. The next day, she sent me an email stating:

“Out of respect for you as a survivor, because after all that’s who I’m here to support, I have taken down the Whitmore blog and the blog where I said PURE and CAICA are working together. I have also removed the link to PURE on my links page of CAICA.” [emphasis added]

Several days later, I talked with Isabelle on the phone again. This time I was much more direct. I stated that if she wanted to save herself she would have to start handing over some solid intel regarding Sue Scheff and the schools she refers to. After hesitating, she gave me the name of Harbor Oaks. She claimed to have helped remove a girl from Carolina Springs, and helped place that girl in Harbor Oaks. This time, however, Isabelle claimed to have done her “investigation” (like she “always” does) This thorough investigation consisted of a telephone call to Harbor Oaks in which she spoke with two girls.

She reported that they sounded very happy to be placed in Harbor Oaks and that she could actually hear the laughter of children in the background. She claimed the phone call was completely unmonitored (how could she tell over the phone) even though the Harbor Oaks contract (obtained by by a source who wishes to remain anonymous) explicitly states that all phone calls and mail will be monitored. When I raised objections, and spoke of my own personal experiences regarding elaborate program deceptions, she changed the subject, telling me that the “kids (plural) needed help”.

Isabelle Zehnder – Advocate or Sue’s Marketing? – Part I

Although with the recent publicity and rumors surrounding Sue Scheff have apparantly provoked Isabelle Zehnder of CAICA to distance herself, the relationship between the two in the past has been well documented, including in the words of Zehnder and Scheff themselves. Like Sue Scheff, on the surface, Isabelle Zenhder appears to be a legitimate advocate. Her website includes comprehensive information about the dangers of programs.

What most people don’t realize is most of that comprehensive information is copied verbatim from other sources without their permission. This, by itself, wouldn’t be much of a concern. What does concern many, however, is that Isabelle Zehnder refers kids to programs through Sue Scheff. Continue reading Isabelle Zehnder – Advocate or Sue’s Marketing? – Part I

Sue Scheff Lies About Being Sued

On August 14th, On one of her many cross-linked spam blogs, Sue Scheff wrote the following, denying that there is a lawsuit against her and Focal Point Academy:

“I have read claims, Blogs, and horrific postings about my organization and myself being served a lawsuit – this is not true. Neither myself nor the other defendants listed on what they are posting have received any such lawsuit. If there is a lawsuit, we certainly don’t know about it and you would think the defendants should have it?

This is a further campaign to discredit me which has recently escalated since I will be on 20/20 i-Caught this evening” [hyperlinks added]

Continue reading Sue Scheff Lies About Being Sued

How delusional are the programmies?

And who are they, anyway? By Ginger McNulty Most of the content on this site has to do with Sue Scheff as an individual. I’d like to provide some background information about the industry in which she has become such a notable player and, in so doing, try to convey to our readers why the general public should concern themselves with any of these crack pots. In a word, we all should be very concerned because these particular crack pots hold serious influence in politics and, evidently, our media. Continue reading How delusional are the programmies?

Yet Another Attempt to Take Down This Site (and Fornits)

Once again, Sue Scheff has done it by complaining about and this site. Read all about it here Note: This site may be down for a day or so while we change hosting services (again). To those who would accuse me of defamation, see the PDF attached to this post. PDF

What Sue Scheff Uses Reputation Defender to Censor

Sue Scheff often refers to herself as an “advocate”, claiming that she just wants to help children. Sue Scheff uses the slogan “parents helping parents”, publicly stating that the purpose of her organization is simply to avoid the dangers of abusive programs. Critics, however, question her commitment to the welfare of children, her honesty, and the ethics with which she conducts her business. Continue reading What Sue Scheff Uses Reputation Defender to Censor

Green vs. Focal Point Academy and Sue Scheff

Regarding Focal Point Lawsuit: Read the full complaint here. Recently, A lawsuit was filed By the Green family in Broward County Florida against both Sue Scheff and Focal Point Academy. It is alleged that Sue Scheff fradulently misrepresented her relationship with Focal Point Academy on many matters. for example:

“20. In April, 2006, Scheff also represented that she was not a licensed educational therapist, and therefore was not paid for her work, and that she was only making referrals based on the interests of the children. 2I. Scheff in no way disclosed that she was being paid for referring R.G. and others to Defendant Focal Point on a per-child basis. Contrary to Scheff’s misrepresentations, Defendant Horlacher later disclosed that Focal Point Academy pays Scheff money for each student she refers to the school.”

Continue reading Green vs. Focal Point Academy and Sue Scheff

Internet Warfare

Who is Ginger Warbis of Written by: Paula Reeves August 11, 2007 © 2007 All Rights Reserved The “Internet Wolverine” Ginger Warbis responds to threats by Sue Scheff, her company PURE (Parents Universal Resource Experts), and others in the private “teen help” business: “Hit me with your best shot, cowards! At the end of the day, I can take it. You can’t.” Continue reading Internet Warfare