Trails Carolina is a wilderness therapy program for troubled adolescents, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. The program claims to help young people develop resilience, self-esteem, and better coping skills through outdoor activities, group therapy, and an immersive natural environment.
However, in recent years, Trails Carolina has faced serious allegations of abuse, neglect, and mistreatment of its participants. In 2021, the Asheville Citizen-Times published an investigative report that brought these allegations to the forefront. The report highlighted multiple incidents of physical restraints, verbal abuse, and emotional manipulation. Former participants, parents, and staff members came forward to share their experiences, painting a disturbing picture of what was happening within the program.
The Asheville Citizen-Times investigation prompted further investigations by other state agencies, including the Oregon Department of Human Services. These investigations found that Trails Carolina had failed to meet the minimum standards for the care and treatment of adolescents, raising further concerns about the safety and well-being of participants.
This article will delve into the Trails Carolina investigation in more detail, examining the allegations of abuse and neglect, the findings of the investigations, and the implications for the wilderness therapy industry.
Allegations of Abuse and Neglect
The allegations against Trails Carolina are numerous and disturbing. Former participants have described being physically restrained, verbally abused, and emotionally manipulated by staff members. They have also reported being forced to engage in strenuous physical activities without adequate rest or hydration, and being deprived of food and water.
In some cases, former participants have alleged that they were sexually abused by staff members. One former participant, identified only as “Jane Doe,” told the Asheville Citizen-Times that she was raped by a staff member while she was enrolled in the program.
Trails Carolina has denied all of the allegations against it, claiming that its program is safe and effective. However, the investigations conducted by the Asheville Citizen-Times and other state agencies have found evidence to support many of the allegations.
Findings of the Investigations
The Asheville Citizen-Times investigation found that Trails Carolina had a history of violating state regulations and failing to provide adequate care and treatment to its participants. The investigation also found that the program had a high rate of recidivism, with many participants returning to the program after being discharged.
The Oregon Department of Human Services investigation found that Trails Carolina had failed to meet the minimum standards for the care and treatment of adolescents. The investigation also found that the program had a history of placing participants in dangerous situations and failing to adequately supervise them.
In addition to the investigations by the Asheville Citizen-Times and the Oregon Department of Human Services, other state agencies have also investigated Trails Carolina. In 2022, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services conducted an investigation into the program and found that it had violated several state regulations.
Implications for the Wilderness Therapy Industry
The Trails Carolina investigation has raised serious concerns about the safety and well-being of participants in wilderness therapy programs. The investigation has also highlighted the need for greater transparency and accountability within the wilderness therapy industry.
In response to the Trails Carolina investigation, some states have taken steps to regulate the wilderness therapy industry more closely. For example, in 2022, Oregon passed a law that requires wilderness therapy programs to be licensed and regulated by the state.
However, more needs to be done to ensure the safety and well-being of participants in wilderness therapy programs. Families should carefully research any program before enrolling their loved ones, and they should be aware of the potential risks and benefits.
The Trails Carolina investigation has uncovered a disturbing pattern of abuse and neglect at a wilderness therapy program for troubled adolescents. The investigation has also raised serious concerns about the safety and well-being of participants in wilderness therapy programs across the country.
It is important to note that not all wilderness therapy programs are abusive. However, the Trails Carolina investigation highlights the need for greater transparency and accountability within the industry. Families should carefully research any program before enrolling their loved ones, and they should be aware of the potential risks and benefits.
In light of the findings of the Trails Carolina investigation, the following recommendations are made:
- States should enact legislation to license and regulate wilderness therapy programs.
- Wilderness therapy programs should be required to disclose their policies and procedures to families before they enroll their loved ones.
- Wilderness therapy programs should be subject to regular inspections by state agencies.
- Families should carefully research any wilderness therapy program before enrolling their loved ones. Families should be aware of the potential risks and benefits of wilderness therapy, and they should ask questions about the program’s policies and procedures.