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Laura Silsby’s pipedreams of a future in the child containment industry

I wanted to highlight a comment I just received to this post as it brings out some of broader themes I’ve been trying to find time to write to.

The Wall Street Journal article Teresa references below concerning Laura’s Silsby’s apparent previous attempt at building a complex in Kuna, Idaho for runaway youth via Idaho contractor Eric Evans has been a side saga all its own. In the wake of the article Eric Evans, the contractor the WSJ spoke to about the proposed complex back tracked and began a series of  denials almost immediately after the article hit.

Fortunately, another blogger followed up on Evan’s denial with the Wall Street Journal getting this response:

Robert Christie, Dow Jones & Co. Spokesman, speaking on behalf of the Wall Street Journal, confirmed to me “we stand by our story” referring to Eric Evans denial today in the Idaho Statesman of comments he made in a February 3 WSJ article.

Evans denial is not surprising considering how by early February, a number of people connected to Laura Silsby previously were distancing themselves just as quickly as possible.

The Evans side saga is but one of many such back peddles, but if true, Silsby’s earlier vision for an Idaho based facility would certainly be in keeping with broader trends in “runaway youth”, “orphan,” “maternity camp” and “troubled teens” containment, all growing segments of the christian child detainment industry.

Much as I was going to write about how Silsby fits well into the broader trend, my commenter, Teresa has done so with the clarity of her own first-hand experience:

Teresa Says:
March 2nd, 2010 at 6:34 am e

If I may, I would like to share a comment I posted last night on this blog (that is still awaiting moderation….)

I find your article insightful without a doubt. However, if you would allow me to bring up one point that I find the press and other writers are totally overlooking (or maybe purposely ignoring), it would be most appreciated. I see that your entire piece centers around this question: “Why did Silsby try to illegally smuggle Haitian children across the border?” The two answers you relayed were these: “out of duty to help the Haitian families”, and “to alleviate her feelings of helplessness”. I will agree with you on the latter as well, but not for the same reason as you.

Since the story of Silsby’s and her companions arrests, I have followed this drama closely. The reason behind this is because approximately 29 years ago, I was a resident of a fundamental girl’s home in Louisiana called New Bethany. The director of this place (who also ran a boy’s facility under the same name) would tour all over the United States with select “residents”, prompting them to sing like angels and give testimony to the congregations of the numerous churches they would visit. Then this man would solicit church members for a “love offering” in order to finance his operation. He would declare that his “homes” were supported only by donations submitted by church members or private organizations who had been blessed by the singing and testimony of “his” girls(made to feel the obligation). Little did these church members know that the parents of these same children were invoiced monthly for the schooling and boarding of their children. The director of this home would claim from whatever church pulpit he might be standing behind at the time that his “girl’s refuge” was a christian, love-filled place where girls were given the opportunity to have a good education, horse-back riding, swimming, and all number of recreational activities. Please, if you would, remember this part, as it is important.

A rough calculation had been done recently by another former resident who found that possibly THOUSANDS of children had resided under this man’s “care”. While we girls lived in a roach-infested dormitory, being fed starch-laden (and who knows what else) food, and made to bathe in and drink water so sulphur-filled that it smelled of rotten eggs, the director and his family lived on the same property in a newly-built, two-story brick house with a separate water supply.

To get to my point, when the Wall Street Journal article came out a few weeks ago about Silsby’s failed “pre-Haiti” plans in Kuna, ID with the following description: “Ms. Silsby had equally grand ambitions closer to home, according to a local builder. The Idaho plan called for a “multi-million-dollar complex” for runaway children on a 40-acre lot in Kuna, Idaho…… Ms. Silsby told him it would have an indoor swimming pool, tennis courts and dormitories for the children….”, the familiarity in this description jumped right out at me.

Considering all of Silsby’s failed “business ventures” in Idaho (one I’m sure being her “children’s home”) before her jaunt to Haiti, I most certainly can see how she might feel helpless, and even desperate in finding a way to validate herself from a combination of a “christian/BUSINESS” standpoint.

I won’t go into all the OTHER things that happened over the space of three decades at New Bethany. I have included the URL for the website for that. You can also glean a plethora of additional information by simply googling the name.

Lasly, I would like to add that there are MANY homes operating as mirror images of New Bethany in the United States as we speak. As a matter of fact, TODAY 3/1/10, if you google “Reclamation Ranch” you will find that the director of THIS place was scheduled to be in court in Blount Co. AL facing some pretty serious charges. He is also blatantly asking for “donations” to his legal defense fund.

My primary question about this whole debacle is: Considering that Kuna, ID appears to be a hotbed of fundamentalism, containing churches that support places just like the ones I described above, could it be possible that Laura Silsby knew of them? Or maybe even knew someone who formerly/presently operate(d)/(s) or was employed at such a place, and filled her in on how much money she could make if she opened one? I think if this question could be answered, then quite a few more answers regarding her true intentions would come to the forefront. Thanks for letting me post here.

I am all too familiar with such facilities. Frequently advertised in the back of christian and even secular magazines, promising a religiously based “solution” to “troubled youth” programs such as these, and their pregnancy industry cousins, the maternity camps dot the landscape. Some have roots going back more than a century, others have been formed far more recently. Kids are warehoused and left to endure all manners of “discipline” while the founders often live in relative luxury.

Sadly, with the popular trend in christians focusing upon “orphancare” both as a long term means for potential movement growth and in the more immediate time frame the as a funding stream for various child related programs, often via State and Federal “faith based” grants, facilities such as these are if anything becoming all the more common, not less so.

Thanks Teresa, for speaking out about your experiences and hopefully helping readers gain further insight into the industry to which the New Lifers hoped to become a part.

Return to the Table of Contents of my Haiti series.

5 Responses to “Laura Silsby’s pipedreams of a future in the child containment industry”

  1. Teresa Says:

    Thank you so much for addressing this. It is much appreciated by me and many others. If I could add, akopsa at “lettuce spray” ( did an EXCELLENT job covering the upcoming trial of the director of Reclamation Ranch. She also gives some excellent insight as to the history of places like Reclamation and New Bethany.

    In addition, Bruce at “Restless Wanderings” covered what I agree to be the mindset of the directors of these type places.

    Thank you for helping us out! Peace to you………

  2. Kity Says:

    Unfortunately, Teresa is spot on. I don’t believe Ms. Silsby is innocent here. She could be, but her tactics show otherwise. She lied about who was being rescued. That’s a big deal. She said she was going to take little beggars off the streets and help overburdened ruined orphanages. There are plenty of children begging and from collapsed orphanages who need help. Yet she deceived relatives who already were caring for these children into letting her take them to “safety”. So what were her intentions? Haitians can live much more cheaply than Americans, you know.
    Rather than spend money on the families of these kids, keeping the family intact, they opted to use these children as a meal ticket. Obviously they would live off the goodness of the hearts of the people back home, depending on them for everything for these kids (and of course, for themselves).
    This type of activity goes on every day, as you mentioned, right here in our own country. We have churches supporting actively nefarious organizations and using their tax-exempt status to entice more into paying the bills.

  3. BelindaK Says:

    Teresa – Thank you so much for bringing out this important information. I have read all of the links you have provided. I am heartbroken at the things being done to children. I had no idea. The abuse going on in these homes is so awful, but what makes it completely horrifying is that it is being done in God’s name. All I can say is that if there is a God, they will pay one-hundred fold in the end. I have read endless stories lately about all the evil things done in the name of religion. It has completely turned me away. I do not trust any church or anyone who says they are doing Christian things. There is always an ulterior motive. My mind just recoils at the mention of religion. I am so sorry that you and many others have suffered so very much. There seems to be no end to it.

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