Pinehaven: This is my story

I was only 13. Just a child. Living all alone in a big world. My adoption is what I call a failed adoption, after 7 years and countless years in rebirthing and attachment therapy they gave up. My adoptive parents were good people but I believe took the advice of some bad people. I was forced into rebirthing therapy and aggressive attachment therapy in Evergreen, Colorado. A place called the Family Attachment Institute run by Lani Tolman, a self proclaimed expert in rebirthing and attachment issues faced by adoptive children, and families.

My family looked for options to send me to a boarding school. I’m not sure why honestly other than they didn’t want to deal with the challenges of managing a child who pretty much hated them after years of what I consider torture. I dreaded rebirthing therapy, I dreaded talking about my past. I dreaded the drive to Evergreen from Lakewood once a week, and sometimes twice a week. I still dread that town, and even going near it.

My parents searched out a place with the best intentions of providing me an alternative living situation, a safe place to go to “heal”, and to attempt to have a normal family life. I believe they had finally given up, they realized I would never be their son. I would never assimilate. So they sent me off to a place called Pinehaven.

What is Pinehaven ?

pinehavenPinehaven was supposed to be a safe place. It was started by Bob Larsson to help troubled youth* . Instead it was 5 years of hard labor, retribution, and abuse at the hands of right wing fundamentalist extremists. The focus not on rehabilitation and healing, but on social programming dead set on teaching all of us that The World around us was evil, and not to be trusted.

In hindsight, it was probably much like any group home. A variety of kids with a variety of problems. Each child is sent to a house with 11 other kids, and a set of house parents. But for those 5 years I lived in hell. I was always walking on eggshells. I was pushed down the stairs once, hit by a chore truck once, and in general was pushed around quite often. The thing that kept me pushing through was that I knew this too would pass. Deep inside my heart I knew there was another story.

One day when I was 16 I was in town with my housedad and I saw an Amish family driving a horse and buggy through town. For weeks I studied the Amish. I fell in love with the concept of non-resistance. I realized all the violence, physical and verbal that was afflicted on us was wrong.

I knew I could make it a few more years but it was hard to keep my head up at times. I would fall into depressions that would last AGES. I would be grounded for MONTHS. Unable to talk to anyone, unable to talk to my family, or find hope in this situation. Constantly being over harshly punished for things that are normal. I was constantly singled out, made to stand in the corner for hours.

Those last two years never felt like they ended. When I was 16 one of the boys in my house ran away and committed suicide because his time there was so hard, and he had come to Pinehaven with problems that Pinehaven staff never once tried to help address instead they sought to punish him for the side effects of his problems. Our house parents never told us he killed himself. If they had I would have ran away, I would have told authorities to this day all parties involved fail to see the truth. They do not wish to investigate his death, do not wish to hear the stories of the children who like my friend were abused, mistreated, and ignored.

The day I turned 18 I pondered walking right off the Ranch but I had nothing, I had no one. No one would listen. I asked my parents if they would take me home and they said Pinehaven was ‘best for me’. It took me a long time to forgive them for sending me there. Maybe this account will convince you otherwise. Pinehaven is not trained to help your child. Pinehaven is not a safe place for children. It’s a place that hurts, causes pain, and abuses children.

I’m not bitter. I have many friends from Pinehaven. The reason I share this is to ask you to not send your child to Pinehaven. He could end up like my friend Ricky. Killing himself inside of a camper trailer, and his body not being discovered for five months.

If you, a friend, or a loved one are thinking of sending your child to Pinehaven think twice.

5 thoughts on “Pinehaven: This is my story

  1. Brooke Hasselman

    i completely agree with you and feel so much better to know that are people out there that have suffered like me as well.. i was luckily only at pinehaven for 10 months but it was the worst and longest ten months of my life.. i wouldnt even send my own worst enemy to pinehaven.. i respect and hope that this is read by anyone and everyone thinking of sending their children there..

  2. Stacy Cunningham

    David’s story is very much like my own. I am proud of him for putting himself out like that. I was at the ranch the same time David was and not only was he in my class, but is a dear friend of mine. All of what he says about the ranch is true. I had a house mother who picked who she was going to be nice to and who she would treat like animals. I was consistantly forced to the ground and held there til they felt the need to let me up. Once I had to shovel manure and miss school for a whole week because I didnt want to sing at church that Sunday. I was grounded for 3months in a row because I pop-kissed a boy. After I left there it took me 9 long years of abuse and drug misuse to finally put what they did to me and many others behind me. The story David has shared with you is the truth, for I witnessed a lot of what happened to him. I was there when the little boy ran away and killed himself. I encourage any parent who is struggling with a troubled child, to look elsewhere for answers. I can guarantee you are doing your child more harm than good by sending them to Pinehaven Christian Children’s Ranch.

  3. Jennifer Ornduff

    hello. My name is Jennifer Ornduff. I was at the ranch at the same time Stacy and David were. I witnessed her being pinned to the floor for not wanting to wash dishes, then pinned between our house “dad” and the sink with her hands forced in the water till she couldnt fight any more. I did assist (shamefully) in the process but only because I was afraid not to. I myself was pulled down the stairs by my hair, forced to bathe infront of other girls, then threatnd with being smelled to see if I was clean enough by house dad. I was daily insulted, emotionally & verbaly & physically abused daily. David was a sweet boy when he came to the ranch. He is kind, has a big heart and only wants to stop this kind of pain from happening to other children and their families. He was picked up by pressure points on his neck, insulted, physically and emotinally abused every single day. We all were just desperate for acceptance and love, but it was never given. The only way to survive is by confiding in the few trusted friends you had there. It is no place for anyone, expecially for troubled kids. PLEASE DO NOT SEND YOUR KIDS HERE. YOU SEE SMILING FACES IN SHOWS THEY PUT ON FOR CHURCHES. We were told what would happen if we didnt. Only times we could be happy is if the houseparents were other wise occupied and away from us.

  4. Shaunda Lynn ZeVan

    I was one of the first children to be taken in by this group after they coerced my mother into leaving me there. It is 33 years later and the memories still haunt me. The interrogations they put me through for hours on end to get me to confess that I was evil for liking boys and having written about it in my diary was of the caliber they put prisoners of war through. I, like hundreds of others, ran away and was dragged back there after the local police picked me up and threw me in a jail cell. I was no juvenile delinquent, the worst things I ever did were skipping school for an hour to go get an ice cream cone and being flirtateous with boys, the cardinal sin in this establishment. I now know that in subsequent years, the kids would literally be subjected to torturous forms of punishment, both verbally and physically for smiling at a member of the opposite sex, or for talking to them at all. The real proof is in the pudding: members of this group who leave her are, without exception suffering on a variety of levels from PTSD. Some have become homeless, committed suicide, become promiscuous, abused drugs and alcohol, suffered severe depression and huge self esteem issues. The things proclaimed on their website are a joke. They accomplish virtually none of the goals they proclaim, and in fact, quite the contrary. Congratulations to David, a gentle soul who suffered things that he has only begun to touch on here and somehow, by the grace of God has found the strength and fortitude to do what no one else has been able to accomplish, to begin to gather together victims with the strength in numbers helping us to overcome our fear and shame. God Bless David Krug. Do not send your children here if you love them. In fact, call your legislators and demand a full investigation.

  5. unknown

    I was at the ranch for five years and no i don’t agree with a lot of stuff that was done yes i did see what happened to some kids Stacy being one of them. I was punished for being flirty with boys i was punished when i did not obey or do my chores but in reality all that was the same stuff that my parents got me in trouble for. there were instances that i was put in pressure points by a house dad but at the same time as much as i hated being there i’m glad that i was because of were i am in my life today god only knows were i would be at. No the Ranch was not perfect but they gave me hope that i did not have to live my live being a prostitute and a druggy that there was more to life.

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