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A Parent’s True Story

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Deception, Misrepresentation & Fraud

By Sue Scheff, FL
sue.scheff[at]gmail.com

After experiencing my good teen making some bad choices, I found myself surfing the internet until I was so confused and stressed that I couldn’t make a decision.

One group of specialty schools and behavior modification programs kept popping up wherever I clicked and I figured they must be good. Then I received their beautiful glossy literature with a video that could make any parent weep (I actually received four FedEx packets of the same material. This was before everything was online and available as a digital download). Once the initial sticker shock wore off, the cost was reasonable in comparison with other programs, or so I thought until I enrolled my child. The hidden costs added up like a grocery bill. I was totally misled by the sales rep and made a rash decision.

teens parentsMistake number one: being clueless as to whom you are speaking with when reaching out to these toll-free numbers. This is a common mistake for parents in a desperate situation. A swift sales rep is there waiting for you, meeting every question with the answer you want to hear and making promises that convince you they can help your child.

In the midst of my frantic search, I attempted using the so-called Independent Educational Consultant (EC) that immediately wanted a check for $350 just to talk to me. They claimed they could help me (without even knowing my daughter) for about another $3,000 or more. I now know the frightening truth that even Independent Educational Consultants (who are supposed to be professionals) have no state or government regulations. In other words, anyone can state they are an Educational Consultant.

My true nightmare was just beginning.

Impressed by the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs’ fancy words and glossy brochures, I enrolled my child with the understanding that they were qualified to help. I am ashamed to say that I never did a background check on these programs. I had called their parent references that they gave me (and later found out they were paid to talk to me, some actually receiving a free month’s tuition). I know many of you are thinking that I must have been nuts, and you are right. While in this stage of my life, I was in a total frenzy—I was at my wit’s end. I truthfully just wanted help for my child and thought for the money they were charging, the program must be good.

Long story short, my frenzy and desperation led to my biggest mistake. I was looking for therapy and internalization through the help of professionals, but what I inadvertently ended up with was more of a teen warehousing program. This was not what they had sold me.

Teens 1In retrospect, red flags went up shortly after I dropped my child off and I asked who the psychologist would be. Guess what? There was none, unless I wanted to pay extra! So who led the group therapy they raved about? There was no group therapy, there was a person, usually another student, who sat in a circle with them as they reflected. I could have hired their psychologist for another $100 per visit. But why? We could have done that at home. Their sales reps had told me that there was a licensed therapist “on staff and on site.” I should have pulled my child then, but I thought I was over-reacting since I was in such a state of confusion and frenzy. The staff was very good at convincing me to “trust the program” instead of addressing my concerns.

My child wrote me letters: some good, some bad. According to the program, the good ones were considered manipulation; the bad ones were considered proof that she needed to stay longer.

I couldn’t win and neither could my child.

During my child’s entire stay of almost six months, I was never allowed to speak with her. I was only able to speak with an employee once a week for about 15 minutes. In further research, these employees had no credentials and many were not educated beyond high school, including the president of the organization. I later found out it usually takes up to six months to speak with your child, and in most cases up to a year to see them. Although they sell you another story, the truth be known, most teens take two to three years to graduate (I understand a law was recently passed that mandates you can see your child after three months. I am not sure if the WWASP group of programs is abiding by this new regulation; however, it is in place).

After attending a parent support meeting and listening to some of the other families, I began to realize that it was all very strange. Some of these kids had been there for well over a year and the families were so deep into this program that it was both sickening and sad. The support group meetings were like a Stepford family reunion, with a leader making her financial profits. These poor kids just wanted to be loved and held by their parents, who couldn’t be there.

It took me months to realize that I had made a big mistake. In order to visit my child, it was mandatory to attend some very bizarre seminars; I wrote my withdrawal letter immediately after the second seminar.

teens 3I brought my child home suffering from depression and nightmares from her time in this WWASP program, and fear of being sent back had created suicidal thoughts. My child went immediately into real counseling where, after almost two years, an excellent psychologist helped us recover from this horrible, traumatic post-WWASP experience. When my child felt confident that I wouldn’t send her back, I heard some unspeakable stories. I have also heard similar stories from many other post-WWASP aka WWASPS students and families suffering from the same post traumatic symptoms. Many parents and professionals believe that this cult-like program is enough to destroy both families and children, as we have many testimonials which came forth in my jury trial with them. I am one of the few parents who have been able to take them all the way to a jury trial. Many have settled out of court with confidentiality agreements.

So who am I? I am a parent that refused to be silenced. In 2001, I posted my story of what we endured. How my child was abused, how I was duped, and how they (in my opinion) continue to dupe others. WWASPS decided to sue me to have my story removed from the internet. It went to a jury trial, and I won with truth as my defense. My story is published in Wit’s End! Advice and Resources for Saving Your Out-of-Control Teen (Health Communications, Inc) in more detail. I believe in sharing my knowledge of this (very political) industry with as many parents as possible, and I have continued to help families through my organization founded on our experiences, Parents’ Universal Resource Experts, Inc (P.U.R.E.™).

Our experiences occurred with Carolina Springs Academy, one of many of their programs that are part of the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs (WWASP aka WWASPS aka Premier Educational Systems). I feel all of their programs are simply boot camps that claim internalization, however lack it tremendously. Their real business is cash cropping children; marketing and using troubled teens is part of their strategy. They are, in my opinion, a children’s warehouse and an escape for parents from their desperate situation. Their deluxe marketing and pyramid* skills seem to be what they specialize in, and I am speaking from experience; I used to sell their program and market their schools to gain free tuition. Yes, whenever you referred a family, you would get a month free! What a concept, and I fell for it! Being involved in selling the program controls your mind by reinforcing the message of how great they are when in reality, you have not even spoken to your child. I had no idea how the program was working; I was just trained to sell like a good follower.

There are many followers of this program who have become indoctrinated to the program. There are also many, like myself, who are waking up daily to the reality of their child’s plight. Dateline, Primetime, 48 Hours, and Inside Edition have done segments on this organization that paint the same picture of negative experiences. Many newspapers and magazines (including People, Forbes, New York Times, LA Times, News Day, Miami Herald, Sun Sentinel, Guardian, Jamaican Observer, YM Magazine, Salon, Time Magazine, and Spin) have printed articles regarding the program and lawsuits pending against WWASP that the group is struggling to keep silent. With all this bad publicity, why take a chance with your child? Where there is smoke, is there usually fire? Again, is this something you risk with your child? Of course this is a choice a parent needs to make.

Many have asked why they are allowed to continue. The answer is simple: money and plenty of it. Money is usually the root of evil, and it seems obvious in this case. I truly believe that one day WWASP will be held accountable for their actions. The day will come that many truths will be exposed, and the sooner the better.

First Lawsuit WON Against WWASP:

Teen_trouble_schoolP.U.R.E. ™ is proud to have defeated WWASP as they attempted to silence P.U.R.E. ™ and myself.  Please note that we won in their state of Utah. I believe this is only the first of many wins.  Additionally, in June of 2006, P.U.R.E.™ went on to defeat WWASP in the Federal Supreme Court of Appeals.

I hope my experiences have saved other parents from making the same mistake I made in desperation. I am sharing my personal experiences to create awareness about the misrepresentation and fraud I endured. This story was not written out of malice against WWASP (World Wide Association of Specialty Programs), it was written for the principles and morals that they lacked. I think they call it “accountability;” I am accountable for what I have written as being the truth as I experienced it.

I firmly believe that true hopelessness is found by walking in the shoes of a parent of a troubled teen. I have been there and I have survived and learned from it. I believe that if you take a negative child, and put them in a negative environment, it builds resentment and anger. Literally, this is what I had done, but I had no idea until it was too late. Through this experience I have developed the opinion that fraud and misrepresentation, combined with a vulnerable parent, can lead to danger for a child.

If you are one of the many parents struggling with their teenagers—good kids making bad choices—you are not alone. If you are in need of teen help, residential therapy is an excellent resource.  In reality there are many more good programs than there are not so good; the key is to do your homework. I created a list of tips and questions to ask schools and programs before enrolling your child, as well as other valuable information. Be an educated parent and you will have safer and healthier teens. So ditch your denial and get proactive! Your child deserves a chance at a bright future.

* A footnote on their Marketing: When I was searching for options for my child, I was recruited by a Miami based parent that made it a mission (in many peoples’ opinions) to build this pyramid for WWASP. Although she claimed she had no financial gain from this, we have further learned that she collected large sums of money for her involvement with WWASP. Although she stated that she made her income from her Title Company, it was discovered that she was arrested in February 2002 on charges of illegally diverting nearly $6 million in trust money through a variety of schemes. Lynn Pretzfeld, of Miami Florida, was charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering and grand theft.

According to the Florida Department of Insurance, the now closed Title Examiners Inc. diverted money into personal accounts from escrow accounts. According to public record, on June 3, 2003, Lynn Pretzfeld is now a Convicted Felon and on 10 years probation as well as paying restitution. Case #F02003735B

** Please note that WWASP seems to make it a habit to change their name. When I was involved, it was WWASP. Shortly later it became WWASPS (with an “s”), and presently we understand they are opening under Premier Educational Systems. I assume when parents do Search Engine research, it eliminates any bad press that may be associated with previous names. This is just an opinion. If you have nothing to hide, why the constant name changes?

As of December 2015 it is believed that WWASPS or Premier Educational Systems LLC has affiliations with the following:

Academy of Ivy Ridge, NY (CLOSED)
Bell Academy, CA (CLOSED)
Camas Ranch, MT
Canyon View Park, MT
Carolina Springs Academy, SC (CLOSED)
Casa By the Sea, Mexico (CLOSED)
Cross Creek Programs, UT (Cross Creek Center for Boys and Cross Creek Manor for Girls)
Darrington Academy, GA (CLOSED)
Discovery – Mexico
Dundee Ranch Academy – Costa Rica (CLOSED)
El Dorado, Costa Rica – 90 Day Boot Camp
Gulf Coast Academy, MS (CLOSED)
Help My Teen, UT (Adolescent Services Adolescent Placement) Promotes and markets these programs.
Horizon Academy, UT
Jade Robinson – Director of WWASPS programs (Floats to different ones)
Jane Hawley – Lifelines Family Services
Kathy Allred – Lifelines Sales Representative
Ken Kay – President of WWASPS
Lifelines Family Services, UT (Promotes and markets these programs) Jane Hawley
Lisa Irvin – Helpmyteen and Teens in Crisis (Will use Lisa Irvine at times too)
Magnolia Christian School, SC – (CLOSED)
Majestic Ranch, UT
Mark Peterson – Teen Help Sales Representative
MENTOR School, Costa Rica (CLOSED)
Midwest Academy, IA – 2/13/16 News Alert on Midwest Academy (CLOSED-Alleged torture and abuse)

##News Alerts: Midwest Academy Founder Confirmed WWASPS 4/16/16 (This is important since many of their sales representatives, as well as the program itself, allegedly will tell parents they weren’t WWASPS – as do other of their affiliated programs do.

Parent Teen Guide – Promotes and markets these programs
Pillars of Hope, Costa Rica
Pine View Christian Academy, (Borders FL, AL, MS)
Reality Trek, UT
##Red River Academy, LA (Borders TX) ALERT NAME CHANGE: US Youth Services, Lecompte, LA
River View, La Verkin UT
Royal Gorge Academy, CO (CLOSED)
Seneca Boarding School for Troubled Teens, SC and Costa Rica
Seneca Ranch Second Chance Youth Ranch, SC and Costa Rica
Sherri Schwartzman – Lifelines Sales Representative
Sky View Academy, NV (closed)
Spring Creek Lodge, MT (CLOSED)
Sunset Bay Academy, CA
Sunset Bay Academy, Oceanside, CA
Teen Help, UT (Promotes and markets these programs)
Teens In Crisis – Lisa Irvin – Teen Help Sales Rep
Three Points Center, LaVerkin, UT (formerly Cross Creek Manor and Cross Creek Center)
Tranquility Bay, Jamaica (CLOSED)
Utah River View, La Verkin, UT
White River Academy, UT
Wood Creek Academy, MT – (formerly Spring Creek Lodge). This program claims their not affiliated with WWASPS, however Midwest Academy said that for years too. Call and ask Montana Department of Licensing, contact Department of Children and Family Services, Department of Social Services. Do your due diligence until you feel convinced they are not connected.
Youth Foundation, LaVerkin UT

In addition to defeating WWASPS in a jury trial in Utah, P.U.R.E.™ and founder Sue Scheff won an unprecedented $11.3 million jury verdict for Internet defamation. Despite being vindicated at a jury trial for damages in September 2006, many of the attacks on Sue Scheff and P.U.R.E.™ continue out of malice and spite. It seems when you can’t defeat someone legally, many are taking their revenge online. WWASPS continues to consider Scheff a disgruntled parent, and she is the first one to agree. However she has also decided to move forward from it by helping others avoid making the same mistake.

If you are currently speaking with a sales representative regarding any of their programs and mention you read Sue Scheff’s story here, they will swiftly continue to disparage her good name.  It only validates they haven’t changed their ways.

Learn from my mistakes, gain from my knowledge….. – Sue Scheff

Latest news article on WWASPS (2/7/16)

NY Post 2/12/16: Latest WWASPS programs closes with alleged abused and torture of students

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    For every parent that is struggling with their teenager - 18 comes very fast. A must read via Grown and Flown ...

    THIS IS ADOLESCENCE: 18 18 is a year overflowing with contradictions. Eighteen wants to be a child forever and yet he cannot wait to grow up. He loves his house and cannot wait to leave it. Eighteen is our teen living in our home and in the same momentous year, an adult residing in another state. On the eve of his 18th birthday it seems almost as if nothing has changed and then one morning in August everything is different. 18 is a year of contradictions, of being our child at home and an adult living in another state. 18 is the year I have dreaded since the day he was born. It is the year that I will begin to know him a little less, the year when more of his life happens away from our family than within it. But 18 is also the year I am most grateful for, that as his childhood ends it has been filled with joy and he has thrived wrapped in our love and that of his brothers. Eighteen cannot believe he is 18. When I tell him that he must register for the selective service and to vote, that I can no longer deal with his doctor, the health insurance company or his college housing office, he is taken aback. Eighteen wants to be an adult, but not if it means a lot of paperwork. Eighteen wants to spend every spare minute with his friends. He dreads the day when one by one they will leave for college and he tells me how much he will miss them, how much their closeness has meant to him and that he hopes they will stay that way forever. While I am indebted to these wonderful boys who have taught my son so much about friendship, I ignore the tightness in my throat and do not say that I feel the same way about him. Eighteen needs to show me he is a grown up, even at the times when I know that he is not. When he is unhappy with me he reminds me that soon he will be gone and then I will not be able to tell him what to do. Eighteen tells me this both because he wants me to acknowledge his independence and because he wants to hurt me that little bit, because in getting ready to go, some small part of him is hurting too. When Eighteen defies me, I can see that my arsenal for controlling him is severely depleted. Eighteen is brimming with confidence. His confidence comes from the physical strength and stamina of youth, from being surrounded by those who have known and loved him most or all of his life and from the fact that we may all be at our most beautiful the summer of our 18th birthdays. Eighteen loves senior year in high school and life at the top of the social food chain. He loves knowing most of the teachers and coaches in his high school and the way they have begun to treat him and the other seniors like young adults. While I delight in seeing him so at ease in his world, I also know that there is nobody less secure than a college freshman. Eighteen thinks the drinking age is 18. I am the bearer of bad news. Eighteen thinks he should not have a curfew. I bear more bad news. Eighteen’s personal hygiene is impeccable. He has never needed to be reminded to shower or brush his teeth. He rarely leaves a mess in the house and usually cleans any garbage from my car when he borrows it. Yet, Eighteen still leaves every article of dirty clothing on his bedroom floor. He has been told 4,287 that there is a laundry hamper in his room. Fearing that he has forgotten, I remind him again. He wonders why I do this, and so do I. Surely there is a point where I should give up, but how will I know when that is? In the summer before he leaves, Eighteen wants to push his father and me away and hold onto us at the same time. I am told that as the reality of their leaving begins to confront some kids, they “soil the nest,” at times giving parents some of their very worst behavior. I try to remember that this is temporary and that if I have learned anything about parenting it is that a markedly changed adolescent will be returned to me come the winter holidays. Eighteen lies on the floor petting his dog. I am in the next room, but I can hear him telling her that he will miss her. He does not remember life before this dog and is old enough to fully understand that this means that in the coming years he will experience the loss of her. He feels love and he feels fear. He has heard that kids get “the call” at school about their dogs and he does not want that call. I can tell Eighteen what to do and what not to do, until he leaves for college. But that would be foolish. We are on a trial run for adulthood, so I let him make most of the decisions and step in only when I cannot help myself. I try not to treat him like the child he no longer is, he tries not to act like the obnoxious teenager he no longer is. Most of the time we are successful, sometimes we fail. Eighteen leaves little gashes on my heart, like stinging paper cuts, as time winds down and we no longer have months or years but rather weeks and days. I miss him before he is even gone and I grieve once he has left. Eighteen drifts slowly away the summer after graduation and then one morning I load up the car and he is really gone, and I can do nothing more than help him on his way. www.facebook.com/grownandflown/

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