KIDS of El Paso was a long term adolescent treatment facility located at 6500 Boeing in El Paso, Texas from 1986 to 1989. KIDS of El Paso used confrontational peer guided grouptherapy to treat alleged substance abuse, eatingand behavioral related disorders. During the time KIDS of El Paso was in operation the program treated over 225 adolescents ranging from 12-23 years of age from the USA, Canada and Mexico.
Techniques reportedly used including physical restraint, sexual humiliation, seclusion and long term social deprivation became controversial when the community learned about such practices from teens who escaped the program. There were also allegations of false imprisonment, coercion, neglect and torturous physical abuse. KIDS was called a 'rehabilitation cult' that used clinically unethical and grossly unsupervised methods at forcing program compliance. The controversy eventually led to aninvestigation by the state licensing agency at the time, the Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.
State investigators found the facility responsible for over 55 violations. KIDS remained open with little change throughout various probationary periods, appealsand temporary injunctions. The fight to stay open was a battle waged in a very public arena that became a part of El Paso history. There was involvement of state government, State of Texas senators, private detectives, prominent attorneys, an heiress, the Mayor, Geraldo and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Auto theft rings,,multiple suicides, escapes, allegations of incest and brainwashing added to the controversy that surrounded the program. KIDS of El Paso closed after the program filed for bankruptcy in late 1989 as many assets were exhausted on legal costs and associated expenditures involved with defending the program.
A timeline chronicling the evolution and ultimate demise of the KIDS of El Paso program can be found here.
The KIDS experience began with the admission intake. There were five phases of treatment before the teen was eligible for graduation. Teens on the fifth phase of treatment had the option of joining KIDS staff as a peer staff trainee after completing an internalstaff training course.
The daily regimen included up to 16 hours of confrontational group therapy rap sessions each day. Between rap sessions the group sang songs. Teens wrote daily journals called moral inventories nightly before going to bed.
Whether one is for or against the program, it is undeniable the experience was like no other. There were many rules in place that dictated each behavior and also consequences that were swift and feared. Every action was analytically scrutinized and procedurally controlled from the number of pieces of toilet paper allowed when using the bathroom to duration and frequency of food and sleep. Teens were not allowed to be alone, not allowed to watch television nor listen to the radio, not allowed to read, not allowed to think to ones' self, not allowed to talk out of turn, not allowed to interact or talk to members of the opposite sex, not allowed to write, see family, make phone calls, diet was restricted and teens were not permitted to leave the building for school or work during the initial phases of the program. Treatment in KIDS lasted for years in most circumstances.
This website was established in 2001. An associated web forum has reconnected hundreds of ex-KIDS teens, now adults, from all KIDS Centers of America locations including KIDS of El Paso, KIDS of Bergen County/North Jersey, KIDS of Greater Salt Lake City in Utah and KIDS of Southern California. Many have had a lot to say about KIDS. No one seems to have forgotten about their time in the program and no has mentioned reflecting favorably on their experience in any KIDS facility. Unfortunately there are too many stories of destroyed families and broken lives many attribute specifically to their time in KIDS of El Paso.
There are media projects pending to tell more about the story of the KIDS of El Paso program by those who were directly involved and experienced the program subjectively.
This site is informational in nature and is not intended to be therapeutic. The high correlation between suicide and former program teens is unfortunate. If you were in KIDS of El Paso and have thought of suicide please seek immediate professional help or contact 1-800-SUICIDE.