30.1.11

A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE

New Beginnings Girls Academy is an Independent Fundamental Baptist group home for "troubled" teenagers. It operates under the facade of being a tough-love, strict, character-building, value-instilling but ultimately caring environment. The reality, according to its survivors, is a much different story.

New Beginnings was originally founded in Pace, Florida in 2001 after the last closure of the infamous Rebekah Home for Girls. The Rebekah Home itself was originally established in Corpus Christi, Texas in the late sixties, as part of the ministries of People's Baptist Church and the late Lester Roloff. Throughout their history, Roloff's homes have been investigated multiple times for allegations of child abuse. Old and new Rebekah survivor accounts and support groups exist all over the Internet.

Throughout the seventies and eighties, they faced many legal battles over the issue of state accreditation and oversight, which Roloff and his successors fought to avoid, claiming that they had all the licensing they needed from God himself. [ see http://www.nospank.net/colloff.htm ] The state continued to push for regulation, in effort to ensure the safety of minors enrolled in Roloff's programs.

Finally, in 1985, three years after Roloff's accidental death, the state triumphed and closed The Rebekah Home for the administrators' refusal to submit to state licensing requirements and supervision.

It seemed that the battle was over. But then, in 1997, former governor George W. Bush proposed legislation that, once passed, allowed for private, faith-based child-care institutions in Texas to operate without any state licensing or supervision. Thereafter, said programs were only required to come under the authority of faith-based (peer-accrediting) agencies for any oversight.

The Rebekah Home reopened in 1999 under the administration of Roloff's main successors, Wiley and Fay Cameron, under the accreditation and oversight of the Texas Association of Christian Child-Care Agencies (TACCCA.) TACCCA was the only registered accreditation organization of this kind in the state of Texas, and Wiley Cameron himself was part of their six-person board of directors. The same year the Home reopened, the horror stories and abuse allegations resurfaced.

Not long after, as a result of further heated legal battles and investigation finding evidence of blatant physical abuse, medical negligence, and neglectful supervision, Fay Cameron was indefinitely banned from working with children within the state of Texas. There is no evidence that TACCCA issued so much as a warning to the Home after these findings. In fact, they were reaccredited the following year. Soon after, Bill and Jennifer McNamara took over operations at the Home. Wiley Cameron remained president but allowed the McNamaras, themselves fairly recent graduates of Roloff's homes for troubled adults (The City of Refuge Home for older men and The Jubilee Home for ladies,) to operate The Rebekah Home.

In 2001, the legislation that had allowed private, faith-based homes to operate without state regulation came up for review and renewal and was not renewed. Wiley Cameron closed the Home voluntarily, rather than accept state regulation and oversight. Notwithstanding, they had a backup plan.

That summer, they sent half the detained girls home to their parents and packed up the other half and headed for Missouri, where private, faith-based homes can still (to date) operate without state supervision and licensing. They kept the girls in an improvised dormitory on the property of an unaffiliated, yet similar, home for troubled teenage boys while they looked for a new location to set up and resume operations. In November 2001, they purchased property in Pace, Florida and relocated the girls once more to a state where they could operate without state regulation or interference and came under the umbrella of yet another peer accreditation organization, Florida Association of Christian Child-Care Agencies (FACCCA.)

Soon after, in effort to avoid legal implications and obvious association with the old Rebekah Home, the McNamaras and Camerons assumed independence from Roloff's People's Baptist Church, removed Roloff's name from all their signage and literature, and renamed the home "New Beginnings Girls Academy." Wiley Cameron, although living in a different state and having little to do with daily operations, remained the official president of the renamed Home on paper, and Bill McNamara and his wife retained their station as the on-site directors. Eventually, Wiley Cameron resigned his position, and the McNamaras gained full control.

Despite negligible changes to the old operations, it didn't take long for the abuse allegations to surface again. Then came the investigations. In 2007, they relocated again to evade state interference and expand their enterprise. They moved, just as before, with many of the same girls from the Florida location, to a new location in La Russell, Missouri and set up shop again.

Their property in Pace, FL was turned over to Steve Blankenship who established his own unlicensed program, eventually renaming it "Marvelous Grace Girls Academy."

Shortly after the McNamaras moved operations to Missouri, they also began admitting teenage boys. The McNamara family continues to operate the program today, currently under the name "New Beginnings Ministries."

Please see our "Important Links" tab for further reading on this documented history.


IMPORTANT UPDATE: After the release of two major articles detailing their abusive practices in 2011, New Beginnings seems to have opted to remove "Girls Academy" from their name, website, and literature. According to their newsletter, they continue to operate programs both for "troubled" boys and for "troubled" girls. They now operate solely under the name "New Beginnings Ministries" and have even gone so far as to discontinue their original website at www.newbeginningsgirlsacademy.com and launch a whole new site: www.nbministriesmo.com