Trails Carolina is a wilderness therapy program for troubled youth, located in the remote mountains of North Carolina. In recent years, several disturbing stories have emerged from former participants and their families, alleging instances of abuse and mistreatment at Trails Carolina. These stories range from emotional abuse and neglect to allegations of physical maltreatment during the program.
Trails Carolina has denied all allegations of abuse, but the mounting evidence has raised serious questions about the program’s practices and safety. In 2022, North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services launched an investigation into Trails Carolina, which is ongoing.
Allegations of Abuse
The allegations of abuse at Trails Carolina are varied and disturbing. Some former participants have alleged that they were subjected to emotional abuse, including verbal harassment, humiliation, and threats of violence. Others have alleged that they were physically abused, including being punched, kicked, and thrown to the ground.
Some former participants have also alleged that they were neglected at Trails Carolina, including being deprived of food and water, and being forced to sleep outside in cold weather. Others have alleged that they were subjected to medical neglect, including being denied necessary medical care.
Evidence of Abuse
There is a growing body of evidence to support the allegations of abuse at Trails Carolina. This evidence includes:
- Testimony from former participants and their families: Many former participants and their families have come forward to share their stories of abuse at Trails Carolina. These testimonies are consistent with each other and provide a detailed account of the abuse that occurred at the program.
- Medical records: Some former participants have provided medical records that document injuries they sustained at Trails Carolina. These medical records corroborate the allegations of physical abuse.
- State records: North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services has cited Trails Carolina for multiple violations of state regulations, including violations related to the safety and well-being of participants.
The Impact of Abuse
The allegations of abuse at Trails Carolina have had a devastating impact on the former participants and their families. Many former participants have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems as a result of their experiences at Trails Carolina. Some former participants have also had difficulty adjusting to life outside of the program and have struggled to maintain relationships and find employment.
The allegations of abuse at Trails Carolina have also had a negative impact on the wilderness therapy community as a whole. Wilderness therapy programs are designed to help troubled youth develop coping skills and resilience. However, the allegations of abuse at Trails Carolina have raised concerns about the safety and quality of wilderness therapy programs.
What Needs to be Done?
In order to unravel the truth behind the Trails Carolina horror stories, a thorough and independent investigation is needed. This investigation should involve interviewing former participants and their families, reviewing medical records and other state records, and visiting the Trails Carolina facility.
The investigation should also examine Trails Carolina’s policies and procedures to determine whether they are adequate to protect the safety and well-being of participants. If any deficiencies are found, Trails Carolina should be required to implement corrective actions.
In addition to a thorough investigation, it is also important to take steps to prevent abuse from happening at wilderness therapy programs in the future. This could include developing stricter regulations for wilderness therapy programs, increasing oversight of these programs, and providing more training to staff on how to identify and prevent abuse.
The allegations of abuse at Trails Carolina are deeply concerning. It is important to thoroughly investigate these allegations and to take steps to prevent abuse from happening at wilderness therapy programs in the future. Only then can we begin to unravel the truth behind the Trails Carolina horror stories and ensure the safety and well-being of all wilderness therapy participants.
In addition to the above, here are some specific recommendations for addressing the allegations of abuse at Trails Carolina and preventing abuse from happening at other wilderness therapy programs:
- Require rigorous licensing and accreditation for all wilderness therapy programs: This would help to ensure that all programs meet certain safety standards and that staff are adequately trained.
- Increase oversight of wilderness therapy programs: This could be done through regular inspections and by requiring programs to submit reports on participant incidents to state or federal agencies.
- Provide more training to wilderness therapy staff: Staff should be trained on how to identify and prevent abuse, as well as how to respond to allegations of abuse.
- Empower participants to report abuse: Participants should be made aware of their rights and should feel comfortable reporting abuse to staff or to external authorities.
- Create a culture of accountability: Wilderness therapy programs should create a culture of accountability where staff are held responsible for their actions and where participants are treated with respect and dignity.