In January 2011, Jeannie Marie rescued her daughter from New Beginnings, making an unannounced visit to take her daughter home. This is her account.*
My daughter was recently brought home from New Beginnings Girls Academy in La Russell, Missouri. The ordeal was a very traumatizing experience that has definitely changed the life of my little girl forever. The punishment used on these little girls is cruel and unusual, and extremely abusive. The state laws of Missouri are very vague for protecting these girls from abuse, since the parents have signed many papers, notarized and sent back. Making the parent feel that they have no rights left to have any part in their child's decision making or daily life.
We asked the director, Bill McNamara, if he would be able to help our daughter recover from a serious trauma that was tormenting her daily. He assured us that she would receive counseling, encouragement, and discipleship and that with their help she would get "academically back on track..." The only thing our daughter did receive was severe and cruel abusive treatment. I am a mother with a heart for truth and justice, and when I saw my daughter on the day I went to pick her up, I knew that there was a story she would not be able to speak of for a long time.
I want to warn all parents and inform mothers that no matter how much anguish your child is struggling with, you are still the final answer... you cannot give up your child to a house of abuse, so that you can sleep better at night, knowing they are "safe" somewhere. It is a false peace. And the truth is that behind closed doors and shut-off campus, your daughters are being severely abused. Not for acts of rebellion, but for merely looking at someone, or speaking to another girl, or expressing an opinion that is not what New Beginnings programmed them to say. This establishment is one of great intimidation and threats of continual abuse daily.
My daughter was on a punishment called "Redshirt" when I arrived to pick her up. She had no idea that I was coming and was in shock when she saw me for the first time. She stood there trembling, shaking, and started crying uncontrollably... saying over and over again, "Mom is that you?... O my God, Mom is that you? ...Are you really here? ...Mom, O my God, Mom... I can't believe its you!" She was weak and trembling, pale white, and her shoes and skirt were filthy. She was in a large red T-shirt, thin black summer skirt, freezing cold. Missouri had just had a snow storm and the weather was 26 degrees. She was being punished for the 3rd week in a row "on the wall," which means standing there at the wall for 8-10 hours a day. Before that, she had been on the wall for 4 weeks straight of continual standing with hands behind back, facing the wall. No talking, no bathroom break when desperately needed, but had to wait for someone to take you, and that could range up to 5-6 hrs. She was sickly, with blood in her urine, and blood in her stools. She now has a horrible gag reflex from all of the forced feedings with the 5 minute rule. When you are on Redshirt punishment you have only 5 minutes to eat everything they heap onto your plate.
What were her offenses? What did she do to warrant this punishment? She had looked at another girl, spoken to someone without being informed that there is a no talking rule, she left her socks on the laundry pick up table by mistake, and she had stepped out of line-up once to get her Bible. While on punishment at the wall she needed to go to the bathroom, while on her cycle, and was refused.
[She informed me that] During one church tour the girls wrote notes for help and hid them in the hymnal books and prayed that the church people would find the notes and send them to their families. They were discovered, and as a result each girl was put in solitary confinement twice: standing in a sealed off room 4-6 hrs at a time, standing on the wall, or writing sentences.
My daughter was suffering with a Urinary Tract Infection, and I informed them that she needed to go to a doctor and receive antibiotics for her infection. They said that they would take care of it right away, but she never saw a doctor.
Food is used as a continual punishment. The girls are forced to eat large amounts in 5 minutes time of unhealthy foods that also cause problems with these girls that are already struggling with chemistry imbalances. This place covers the bases for legal rights to do as they have done for years: abuse these little girls with the parents signing off, and the child left behind, feeling the betrayal, abandonment, and the effects of being thrown away to people that don't like them, and who now have total power and control to inform them that their own family "does not even want them" and they are "fortunate" that the New Beginnings Program has taken them because "no one else would."
The Bible is used continually to emotionally abuse these girls, reminding them that they are unworthy to be at New Beginnings, but that the staff is so merciful to allow them to stay, and punish them until they understand their place in the world. They are to be "out of the world," away from family, and away from all sin. "Sin is in the world," your family is in the world, "if you go home you are going back into the world." You must not want to go back to your family, because your family is in the world and the world is sin... the cycle continues.
There is no "mending broken relationships" or "loving, caring atmosphere" as they advertise. They want these girls' relationships with their families all severed so that they can mentally manipulate the life of your child beyond their 18th year and make them workers for New Beginnings. That is where the benefit for New Beginnings comes in. Girls then become the babysitters, to give out punishments to any offenses the new prison guard sees fit. The prisoner becomes the guard.
The program is built entirely on fear, intimidation, punishment, and abuse. None of the things God intended... these are His lost sheep being abused by a leader who is out of control with his anger. During a phone call to him, Bill McNamara lost control of his temper started yelling at me on the phone and hung up on me during a conversation about my daughter. Afterward, my daughter received continual punishment until the day I picked her up. A leader with no self control, yelling at these girls the "rules of God," when Jesus said "my sheep hear my voice and follow me." We all know that you cannot yell at sheep; you will terrify them! You must speak gently, softly, reading the Bible to calm them--not terrorize them, beating them with the rod and staff--but gently guiding them to continual safety.
Mothers!: Do not become so discouraged and helpless that you decide to turn and walk away from thinking you can help your child. This place is not God's design, and it is not the answer. This is a wolf in sheep's clothing, and our daughters are the sheep that are being devoured by this obese, angry, hot tempered, lustful beast of a "religious" man. I have been involved with the church for many years of my life, and have slowly come to see the difference in men's character: those who do honor God in their lives, and those who use God to their own glory. I can say with all honesty and no malice that this program is not one that honors God in any way. It is a performance: quoting scriptures, and yelling at the girls when no one is looking. Can good fruit come from a corrupt tree? Can we get fresh water from a putrid stream? We cannot have good and bad flowing from the same pulpit and expect our sheep to become mature, responsible, safe adults.
I have years of work ahead of me to undo the harm that was continually forced upon my daughter in only two months. But there are girls that have been left there for good. Years of this abuse will not turn them out to society; The plan is to keep them there to get promoted to become a security guard, then to get hired on to help run this place while the McNamaras are on one of their many vacations.
The day I went to pick up my daughter, they were on a cruise with their daughter and son-in-law who also help run this family business. It's self-governed, self-regulated, and self-documented. This is a dangerous place with a wonderful "Bible" cover. I was deceived with the wonderful presentation they give in the churches. Our church supports this school, and we watched their presentation and were taken by the plea for help for the girls. Our hearts ached for them; they would only look at the ground.
We got there early and saw the girls sitting in the pews before their presentation started... they would only look down at the Bible on their lap. When I spoke to them they were shy, timid, and fearful to say anything. I did not understand, but now I completely do. The deception is thick and heavy. I was completely taken off guard when they quoted so much scripture and were joyfully singing their songs. I did not know the truth of the hearts of the girls: they were pleading for help in silence. My daughter was too.
My daughter was coerced to tell me on the phone in front of the staff that she could not come home, and told me that she needed to stay there to continue "growing with God" (on the wall) and stay for another "6-7 months." This was shocking to me. We agreed that she would stay for 30 days to get time away to make decisions of the direction she wanted to go with God in her life. I found out after bringing her home that she was so severely punished, her only thought was the cost of leaving there. She was told she could never go home again, and that she had nowhere else to go. She was told that she had to "pay her parents back for her stay there," "and how was she going to afford that?" She thought she would have to stay and get hired on to begin paying back her debt. She was almost 18 years old. By then she could be a security-guard-babysitter-type person called a "Helper" or "Junior Staff" who follows the younger girls and give demerits for punishment. She would earn her freedom by staying and working for the New Beginnings Girls Academy...
Do not believe what you hear. Your heart will tell you that there is something wrong, and it is true! I plead with other parents: follow your gut instinct and believe no one, but see for yourself. It is never as it looks. It is a deception. I only wish someone had been able to tell me what I'm saying now.
*Story posted with expressed permission from Jeannie herself.