Cindy Brookshire
September 5, 2002

The author of this article is Cindy Brookshire, whose daughter, Carrie Cross, was at New Dominion School (part of Three Springs Corporation) from January 14, 2001 until she successfully terminated from the program on July 9, 2002. Carrie is currently enrolled in a private school in Northern Virginia and lives at home with her family. As part of a healthy transition, she sees a therapist weekly.

I woke up on the day after I had left my 14-year-old daughter, Carrie, at an outdoor therapy program in the woods of Virginia. My mind was already racing.

First, I called my ex-boss. I’d quit my job on Friday. “Yes, you can have your job back!” he said, even before I asked him. “I was ready to do an intervention on you,” he added.

Then I went into her bedroom and turned on the light: Eminem posters, candle wax drippings on the computer desk, dust caked on her phone and TV, dirty clothes in piles, some of them borrowed t-shirts and jeans that reeked of cigarettes and cologne. I found a kitchen knife and bloody tissues in the wastebasket. A month ago I‘d never even heard of self- mutilation.

I packed some cold weather clothes for her in a duffle bag and drove to Wal-Mart to purchase a zero-degree sleeping bag. By the time I set off on my journey, I was jittery and distracted. My mind was on her, on the program.

I didn’t get far. A police officer pulled me over, going 56 in a 35 mile- per-hour zone. He cited me for speeding, and thankfully, didn’t charge me with reckless driving. It was my first ticket in more than 30 years of driving.

I stopped at a friend’s house, and she volunteered to drive me. Three hours later we arrived at the administrative office at the New Dominion boys’ school, far from where Carrie was at the girls’ school on the 550- acre site. I already knew I wouldn’t get to see her. I didn’t want to! I put her things in the back of a pickup truck, and went inside to finish filling out paperwork and meet with a family worker, the liaison between us and our daughter. Then we drove away.

I hadn’t even cried yet! I was too numb. Over the first few days, I called family, the church, the school, and her therapist: Everyone who needed to know. I also called her immediate circle of friends. The positive ones were glad she was finally getting help. The negative ones came in a huddled group one night, congregated around our kitchen table and begged my husband and I to bring her home. We listened as they told us of their own broken lives and frightening encounters with authority figures and hard-case teens in their own trips to “juvie” or “boot camp.“ Their faces were etched with the anger and fear. This was my daughter’s wounded “family,” the one she’d turned to when she couldn’t live peaceably with us. We told them she was in a caring place, and she was.

Every day I was calling once, twice, to talk with the family worker at the program, who would check the daily logs and tell me how Carrie was doing. She was on suicide watch. Then she was on “time out,” which the family worker explained is not isolation, but one-on-one with an adult on a work project out in the open. I was learning a whole new lingo of “working out feelings,“ “risking“ and “group meeting.” It was overwhelming!

I went to work. I came home. I ate supper. I went to bed. I went to work. I was grieving the loss of my daughter, and dealing with the aftershocks of the war zone our home had become. The unknown victim, her nine-year- old brother, came forward and began talking. It broke my heart, realizing how he'd been pushed aside, yet had witnessed so much. My husband and son and I did a lot of cuddling, hugging and long talks.

Finally, I was able to detach from my daughter. I took a few tentative steps forward. I read a book called “Wilderness Road“ by Campbell Loughmiller. The program my daughter was in, was based on one that he started more than 30 years ago in Texas. I called Social Services and signed up for a free “Project Parent” workshop at a local church. I found the website,, and began posting in the support forum there.

I had begun to heal, and take action.

Today, she’s home and we have a good relationship, one we took 18 months to build from scratch, through letters, conferences, home visits. The negative friends never wrote her and moved on long ago. Her positive friends ... and new friends ... are from Scouting, church, school. And us -- we are her family.

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