Shepherds Hill Farm – “The Great Child Abuse Secret”

A couple of years ago I came across Shepherds Hill Farm online, when they were providing misinformation regarding anhedonia and advising that children refuse medical treatment and opt instead for crosswords and starvation. My little investigation into the activities on the farm were posted on various websites, and these have been seen by many teenagers who attended the SHF. Since I started posting about the farm, plenty of these kids have contacted me directly. The minority were kids sticking up for the SHF, quoting scripture at me and explaining that this miraculous place is where they were “touched by god”. But the majority were from kids who claimed to have been abused. I was able to obtain testimonials that differed somewhat from the testimonials displayed on the official website. Instead of describing Shepherds Hill Farm (or “Serving Hurting Families”) in my own words, I will quote a teenager who attended SHF:

“The SHF is a christian wilderness program, where we were indoctrinated and brainwashed with evangelical christian ideas.”

Sounds like a great place to visit. Over the last couple of years, I have been receiving various emails from kids who attended the farm, but there was a drop in their frequency during the later half of last year. But recently, I’ve been contacted by a few people again. Combined with the fact that I’m now blogging again, I thought I would share the previous episode and bring people up-to-date.
The SHF had stepped into the technological age by starting their own blog and an internet talk show (which never seemed to have non-Christian callers taking part). I see a lot of these camps, and hear a lot of horror stories, but the blogs are generally safe places to visit. Obviously these camps don’t usually like to mention any illegal activities in their own blogs. The websites and blogs usually make the places sound wonderful, and you would only know what really goes on if you attended. Usually the worst we see on their websites are examples of outright preaching to readers. If only that were the case at SHF.

Trace Embry, the director of Shepherds Hill Farm, posted a blog entry on the SHF website titled: “The Great Mental Health Secret”. Here is the entire entry:

“Let me know your feelings so far. Because of a little known condition known as anhedonia, kids, today, can’t go two minutes without engaging in some pleasurable activity without giving the appearance of being bored to death or depressed. Why are not more mental health care professionals aware of this condition? I’m guessing one of twenty mental health professionals have even heard of it, much less have a remedy. Anhedonia manifests symptoms similar to that of depression; yet, it’s not depression. Doctors are dispensing depression medication for it and exacerbating the problem! We at SHF get to see the problem reversed by virtue of what we do here. The answer is not medication, but engaging the child in some form of critical, constructive, and/or creative thinking activity—preferably using his head, hands, feet and back, but not necessarily. A crossword puzzle is better than nothing. Anhedonia is a destruction of the pleasure center of the brain from over stimulation. The bottom line is this: because kids are pleasuring themselves into imbecility, we must require our kids to engage in activities that require responsibilities and obligations rather than an endless flood of pleasurable and high energy excitement that comes with unlimited rights and privileges. I will be back another time to follow up and give many more insights and observations.”

Shocked, I quickly typed a comment in reply to this blog entry. I explained that anhedonia (the lack of joy during experiences that would usually cause joy) is a symptom of other conditions such as being depressed or being extremely tired… and that there is no evidence that I am aware of that anhedonia can be caused by watching TV or from too much pleasure. I told them I could find no medical journal, no clinical study, no evidence at all to support what they were claiming. I explained that anhedonia is classed as a symptom of depression by the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD) and every other reference I could find. I explained that when I can find no evidence that TV causes anhedonia, and I see these claims posted without citing references, it causes me to doubt the claims. My ultimate request of them was this:

“I’m definitely open to being proven wrong though, of course. So, I kindly ask the writer to cite the references. Where is the evidence that watching TV can cause anhedonia?”

I should have known better. “Your comment is awaiting moderation”. At first I thought I may never get a response, but eventually I saw some activity. My comment was not approved, but the same author wrote another blog entry in response to my comment (which nobody else had been able to read) and they twisted things around to suit their agenda, moving away from the claim that over-stimulation causes destruction of the pleasure-center of the brain. Here was the response (I’ve fixed their many typos to make it legible):

“In response to Peter, I can’t find anywhere where I specifically blamed TV, in and of itself, for the condition of anhedonia. However, TV can be one component of the multi-tasking that promotes the condition. As far as citing goes, if you read my May 10th entry, “Thrilled to Death”, you will find a book written with that very name by Dr. Archibald Hart. All I’m trying to do is take what I have discovered through experience and limited research to open the eyes of people who perhaps haven’t done so– particularly with parents of troubled teenagers. I understand that anything newly discovered is easily underscored. I would be glad to discuss this further with anyone who is interested in helping parents of struggling teens. Being involved, firsthand, in a Christian program for troubled teens has given all of us here some very good insights that affirm what the research indicates as true concerning the subject of anhedonia.”

Multi-tasking promotes anhedonia? Bad news for women? (I jest).

I responded again via their comment system. This time, I saved a copy so that others would know what they had censored if they chose to delete it:

“I’m not sure why you have to keep stressing that it is a Christian project when you say how experienced you are with troubled teens. Would secular or Muslim programs for troubled teens be less privy to information regarding anhedonia and other symptoms of mood disorders?

You have described anhedonia as a condition that has symptoms similar to depression, when anhedonia is a symptom of depression. Next, you go on to describe the symptoms of anhedonia and basically describe attention-deficit disorder instead.

You are right to say anhedonia isn’t depression… only because it is asymptom of depression. Technically it can also be a symptom of other things like schizophrenia and severe addiction to certain drugs. Anhedonia is not the “destruction of the pleasure center of the brain from over simulation”. Dopamine is a phenethylamine, which operates as a neurotransmitter in the brains of many of us animals. Reduced dopamine activity can result in anhedonia, which is exactly why some antipsychotics can cause a lack of pleasure. When we suffer from depression it affects our dopamine pathways, and we have direct evidence of this and basically that certain areas of the brain in a depressed individual have to work harder to process rewarding experiences. Paul Keedwell MD of the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College, an expert on mood disorders, has published studies in this area demonstrating exactly that. Keedwell, an expert in the field, who studies mood disorders such as anhedonia says:

“I believe that the presence of anhedonia defines depression. If one does not have anhedonia one is not depressed.”

And you say this:

“Anhedonia manifests symptoms similar to that of depression; yet, it’s not depression.”

Of course anhedonia isn’t depression… it is a feature of depression. So we have conflicting information here. Some of the information comes from a published and peer-reviewed expert, relying on physical evidence, who is able to show that your claim is demonstrably false.

The other information comes from yourself… a person who helps “troubled teenagers” find god and suggests that people in need of medication should reject their medication.

Being a scientist doesn’t mean he automatically trumps you. But the evidence against your position is something you have to deal with.

You also said, “kids, today, can’t go two minutes without engaging in some pleasurable activity without giving the appearance of being bored to death or depressed”, as if it’s something we see in kids in general these days. It is a symptom of depression and heavy use of certain drugs that can reduce dopamine levels. Most kids I know do not experience anhedonia, because they are not depressed and do not suffer from severe addiction to certain drugs. I can only assume that either you’ve innocently misunderstood what anhedonia is, or you have an agenda of stopping kids from being stimulated by the often “godless” media. And even if anhedonia was a disease, described the way you present it on your blog, why is media the first culprit? Why not the social environment?

I haven’t said anything in this comment that could be offensive to others, and I haven’t used any rude words or spammed products at you. I would appreciate the comment be made viewable by your readers, for one simple reason: it would be good for them to understand what anhedonia is. If you don’t allow this comment, and keep yours online, you are providing misinformation. Kinds regards.”

Describing their actions as “providing misinformation” is downplaying the situation. What they are doing is dangerous and potentially life threatening. Anhedonia can be experienced by people suffering from depression, severe addiction of certain drugs, or some mental disorders such as schizophrenia. Depression requires medication. Handling a severe addiction to the drugs in question requires medication. Schizophreniarequires medication. The medical advice from SHF? Do not use medication. Do a crossword instead. If you have reduced dopamine activity, crosswords will magically improve your dopamine levels and pathways, while medication will only make it worse. As they said:

“Doctors are dispensing depression medication for it and exacerbating the problem!”

When anhedonia is a symptom of depression, medication for depression does not exacerbate the problem. Quite the opposite.

I don’t care if this misinformation was presented innocently, or in order to convince more parents to keep their children away from “godless” TV. The important point is that SHF is advising parents to avoid taking medication for conditions that require medication. Children have died from incidents like this. I had given them a pseudo-ultimatum. Approve my comment with the correct information, or at least remove their blog entry presenting misinformation. If they do neither, they are consciously choosing to provide deliberate misinformation that could negatively affect the health of others. “Serving hurting families”? Maybe they should just be known as “HF”. A few hours later, both my comments were gone, and they had refused to delete or even edit their own misinformation. They still suggested that people in need of medication would be better off doing crosswords instead.

Is this actually child abuse though? Arguably not. It’s just an example of people being willingly ignorant and deliberately providing false and harmful information to the public. Even if this is child abuse, surely this was as bad as it got… But everything we’ve discussed was their own words, on their own blog. What actually happens on the farm itself is not made public. One teenager who had stayed at the Shepherds Hill Farm shared some of his experiences with me:

“The way he wants children to be raised is way more detrimental to a childs health I believe. I believe his “program” should be shut down. They did all kinds of things to students at this place that I think should be illegal.

For instance, there was a young boy at the program; he had problems in that he lied about nearly everything he said. He also wet his bed at night. Instead of getting professional medical advice, they automatically assumed the kid was doing it to be disobedient and cause problems. Their solution was to make this child strip to his underwear and bath in below zero water in front of everyone, then carry his mattress a mile up hill on his back to clean it. Followed by a lecture about sweet dear Jesus.

Another example is punishing children by making them eat something called “special meals”. I was placed on “special meals” for a month and a half where I ate nothing but either a can of beats for a meal or a can of beans for a meal, everyday for a month and a half. (keep in mind tuition is more then it costs to go to most major universities in the US.)

This seems extremely irresponsible and abusive to me. Not to mention teaching the children the world operates in a way in which it doesn’t, and slowing their mental development.”

Feel free to disagree, but that’s child abuse in my book, physically and mentally. And it seems to be a clever business too, considering they apparently charge more than real universities yet do little but preach Christianity and feed the kids magic beans.

The SHF has demonstrated that they aren’t transparent or open with their blog comments or callers on their radio show if they do not provide positive support of the SHF or Christianity in general. Anyone who visits their website sees little more than reality-contradicting claims and irrational agendas. You will find few criticisms, few second opinions. I couldn’t change how they operated their website or internet radio show, but I tried my best to communicate this message to others. I asked others to quote the story where they could to help spread the word and make it known that the SHF abuses children, deliberately provides dangerous misinformation, rejects professional medical advice and completely gets away with it. I thought that if it was discussed enough, perhaps some parents would get a chance to learn about what the SHF really is before they unknowingly submit their child to physical and mental abuse.

Interlude: Before I continue with the rest of this post, here are just a few short quotes from some of the kids who have contacted me recently:

“Thank you so much for helping me to get the word out about this. I honestly believe it needs to be closed down. Children are being abused and parents robbed and no-one knows or cares.”

“I was a resident at SHF for 3 torturous years. And then I finally found the courage to run away. I have been trying to get that horrible place shut down for many years. They made our parents sign a waiver for corporal discipline, now I hear you can not be accepted unless your guardians/parents do so. they left bruises on my behind and didn’t care. I threw up the special meals and they made me eat another in its place. They force fed “their version” of Christianity down my throat. SHF is a cult. It needs to be shut down. Their main philosophy was “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” Yeah, Beth and Trace Embry, let’s beat children into submission, that’s the “Christ-like” thing to do. Please help me and other former residents shut this place down.”

“I was a student there for two and a half years. Guess what? They would admit to brainwashing us when asked. “Of course we are brainwashing you! Brainwashing you in the blood of the lamb!” Gross!! Anyway, while I was there my parents repeatedly requested I be taken to a dermatologist because of acne. Was I? No. Instead I went years later after I left the program. I had scars and the doctor said if I had been given the medication I needed years before then none of this would have happened. Also one morning I woke up unable to move my neck. The “nurse” gave me no explanation or evidence and just old me it would be ok if I wore a brace. I could not move my neck properly for about a month. If someone regardless of age requests to see a real and professional doctor, then they should be allowed and helped to do so. Anything else is putting the child in harms way and is irresponsible. Parents paid thousands upon thousands of dollars for their children to read the Bible, eat beans, and be taught the world operates in ways it doesn’t.”

In response to my probing, the Shepherds Hill Farm posted another blog entry online. They further denied reality and completely ignored the accusations of child abuse. They retracted none of their original false claims, made more claims about medication causing more harm, and they never apologized for supplying the public with dangerous “medical advice”. I added a comment in response to that entry. I went back to the blog a few hours later to see if the comment was still there, only to find that they had deleted all comments. They even deactivated the comment feature. Comments are now enabled again, but all of the comments criticising the farm have been removed. And it gets worse. They even deleted the blog entry that I was responding to, most likely because it was complete nonsense. Fortunately, I decided to save the entire page immediately after submitting my comment, so I still had the blog entry and my comment. Admittedly it wasn’t a great comment. It was very rushed and scattered all over the place, but here it is anyway. I quoted most of the original blog entry part-by-part and you can see their quotes labeled below.

SHF – “I deal with troubled teens and teens at risk all the time.  Helping troubled teens is what I do.

This does not mean you understand anhedonia or dopamine pathways. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you are right and the experts are wrong.

SHF – “And God is certainly using Shepherd’s Hill Farm to bring healing to struggling teens dealing with behavior issues and other issues, including ADD, ADHD, depression, bipolar, and yes, anhedonia.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. You believe there is a god bringing healing to your farm in the form of “special meals” etc. But you do not know that this is “certainly” happening. Worse than useless, you are channeling action into prayer and faith. Some of these conditions require actual medicine, not stories and beans.

SHF – “Secondly, you said anhedonia is a symptom of depression—as if the two couldn’t be mutually exclusive.

You haven’t understood. Anhedonia is also caused by other things that can affect dopamine levels. Not only do I accept that, I even provided known examples. Watching TV and playing video games does not cause anhedonia. You can believe otherwise, but then you will be contradicting observable reality.

SHF – “Yes, anhedonia is a symptom of depression—just like bright red skin is a symptom of sunburn.  But to say that having anhedonia means you must be suffering from depression is like saying bright red skin is sunburn.  Further research might show that the sun wasn’t in the equation at all.  Bright red skin could come from being embarrassed, a niacin overdose, a fever, a tanning bed, a welder—you name it.

Yes, exactly like I said. The symptom of anhedonia could be caused by other conditions, such as schizophrenia for example. I’m glad you now class anhedonia as a symptom of known conditions, rather than a medical condition in itself. You’re making slow progress.

SHF – “Next, you said that I described anhedonia as “basically describing ADD”.  But, a cold can of juice can “basically” describe a sinus infection, or the flu.

Anhedonia and ADD are completely different. So yes, it’s like claiming the flu and a container for drinks are the same thing. I agree. I don’t understand how this position doesn’t embarrass you.

SHF – “You go on to say that anhedonia is a SYMPTOM of depression.  But, so are crying, sadness, and self-defeating thoughts. You don’t have to be depressed to experience any of the above.

Oh dear. Clinically depressed people cry, but so do non-clinically depressed people, therefore anhedonia isn’t a symptom of depression. These are general symptoms of the human body during general emotional “sadness”. Anhedonia is a physiological reaction to low dopamine levels or obstruction of dopamine pathways.  And can you please not say “you go on to say” as if it is my personal opinion that anhedonia is a symptom of depression and certain other medical conditions. It is the opinion of the world’s experts and anhedonia is classed as the symptom I describe it as by the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD). You are right that you don’t have to be depressed to experience anhedonia, but only because there are other conditions that affect your the dopamine pathways in the brain. And again, TV isn’t one of them.

SHF – “It appears that you are reducing the term to the biochemistry involved.

Is there a problem with me “reducing” the symptom to what is causing the symptom? Reducing symptoms to the biochemistry involved is something doctors do everyday. It saves lives. The opposite would be ignored the underlying problem, or inventing other external reasons for the symptoms. You appear to be doing both.

SHF – “You then go on to quote an “expert” in the field. Why haven’t you quoted the “expert” in the field I challenged you with from the beginning? His name is Dr. Archibald D. Hart, author of the book Thrilled to Death.

You’ve obviously done no research into the field. Paul Keedwell MD isn’t well known because he wrote a book. He is at the forefront of studying mood disorders, and he actually uses physical evidence to get to the truth (it’s called science). Because of people like him, we now know that anhedonia is caused by reduced dopamine activity. We also know what conditions cause it. We also know that TV does not cause reduced dopamine activity. Further, we know that crosswords do not increase dopamine activity, so your miracle cure of rejecting medication and playing board games fails. I understand you are very used to following one single book on a subject in order to understand everything. But in the same way that your Bible is often wrong, you have to admit the possibility that this book is also wrong if it claims anhedonia is a medical condition having nothing to do with dopamine levels. Every expert in the field and every published, peer-reviewed paper I can find on the subject contradicts what you are claiming.

SHF – “You quoted your guy, Paul Keedwell, as saying.  “I believe that the presence of anhedonia defines depression.  If one does not have anhedonia one is not depressed.”  Then why give it two different names? Isn’t that like saying if one does not own a mustang, he does not own a Ford.

Why give them two different names? Maybe because they are two different things? Depression is a medical condition, which does many things to us including reducing dopamine activity in the brain. Anhedonia is a physiological reaction to this reduced dopamine activity. We can’t call them the same thing, because they aren’t the same thing. Depression (A) causes reduced dopamine activity (B), which causes anhedonia (C). A leads to B which leads to C. A and C are not the same thing. Anhedonia always requires reduced dopamine activity, but it isn’t always caused by depression, as I keep telling you. I believe it is generally accepted by most reasonable people that naming a medical condition and one of its symptoms as the same thing would be completely pointless and downright stupid. That’s why.

SHF – “After this, you attempt to discredit me by pitting my experience with teenagers in real time with the lab work of a scientist.   I’ve taken the information from scientists and seen it work in real time.  How many of your “scientists” have taken what I have EMPIRICALLY observed by actually working with teenagers in practical situations and plugged it into their equations?   And this information is not only observed, but it is taken from the lips of the very teenagers we deal with.

Excuse me, but it is also taken from the very lips of cured children that Allah can cure cancer? So, I take it you’re going to convert to Islam now? Yes? Scientists observe what they do, record it, submit it to be reviewed by others so the tests can be repeated, and then they are published for anyone to pick away at and look for holes. It’s a great process. Saves lives. Results in medications like the ones you are suggesting we reject. Let’s not forget that there are other things that have come directly from the lips of the teenagers who attended your farm: the allegations of abuse that you keep ignoring.

SHF – “You are certainly correct when you say that being a scientist doesn’t mean he automatically trumps me.  A lot has to do with what you consider evidence.  Isn’t it a bit naïve to limit reality and evidence only to what one can empirically observe?  Empirically prove to me that you ever had a dream or an idea.”

We can empirically tell when someone is dreaming by monitoring brain activity. That’s how we know that dogs also dream, but lizards don’t. And this isn’t about limiting to what you can directly observe. This is about us already having observed that you are plain and simply wrong. Try and understand this, I’ll explain VERY simply.

FACT: Anhedona is caused by reduced dopamine activity. There are different ways this can happen though.

FACT: Depression is one of those medical conditions which has anhedonia as a symptom.

FACT: Schizophrenia and addiction to certain drugs also result in anhedonia, because they also affect dopamine activity.

FACT: You are suggesting that people with anhedonia (people with reduced dopamine activity) reject their medication that will make them better, and instead do things that will not help their dopamine activity at all.

Which part do you not understand?

As for some PhD you can’t remember at some show, it simply isn’t good enough. Firstly, the fact that he has some PhD tells me nothing. It could be a theological doctorate for all I know, a little like the degrees belonging to staff of SHF. And you say he talked about helping kids who are addicted to video games and the like, but didn’t specifically discuss anhedonia. Do you think I’m claiming that people can’t be addicted to TV etc? Sure we can. It doesn’t cause anhedonia though and this is a demonstrable fact.

You kindly request I read the suggested book. I kindly request you read any medical journals discussing anhedonia, the published material showing how anhedonia is caused, and take some time to learn who the experts actually are.

Anhedonia is caused by medical conditions that require medication. You’ve suggested that if a teenager has anhedonia, he/she shouldn’t take medication. This means you are suggesting that people who are clinically depressed, people who are schizophrenic and people addicted to certain heavy drugs should not use medication in their recovery, despite the fact that the medications are essential for a safe and healthy recovery. Medication is required to help with reduced dopamine activity. Crosswords do not help. You offer no apology or retraction for this misinformation.

Handling mood disorders and other medical problems, I would hope that you pay a subscription that allows you access to medical journals. If not, please try and do some research even on something like Google Scholar. You can potentially kill people here by suggesting teens don’t take their medication.

You also didn’t comment on the abuse that takes place at the farm itself. I am receiving many communications now from people who report physical and mental abuse at Shepherds Hill Farm. Even in your communications to me alone you have explained that people in need of medication don’t need medication, and that there is definitely a god and he is definitely healing people through beans and humiliation. I’m told you teach much worse at your farm, which is tragic. And I note that there has been no apology for providing misinformation regarding medical issues. You say that the way you interpret the evidence is that I’m wrong, and that medication isn’t required and crosswords etc will fix conditions causing anhedonia. Well, we are all entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts. Reality says you’re wrong. Your god has apparently created this reality in which certain medications heal certain medical conditions. If you are going to go against the evidence, facts, and reality, while siding with man-made religion, you’re choosing man over god. So please stop pretending you are doing gods will. Your supposed god’s reality indicates that reduced dopamine activity is to blame for anhedonia and that people with medical conditions resulting in this symptom require medication. You’re completely free to deny reality (your god’s own creation) but please realize that potentially inflicting pain on other individuals and deliberately providing misinformation that reduces health is simply immoral.

As for a god allowing millions to starve to death all over the world, yet take time to heal someone on your farm through beans, isn’t it odd that your god only heals things that could possibly heal naturally or with medication? No amputees growing their limbs back or anything. Just good old regular recoveries we see everyday. Do let me know if your God BeansTM cure something that can’t be cured minus a deity.

Conclusion: you are demonstrably wrong, you are openly admitting not having done adequate research, and are refusing to retract dangerous misinformation. You also provide no explanation for the accounts I am receiving from teens who claim to be abused at the farm.

Further reading: I would suggest looking up the Great Prayer Experiment and other studies showing the uselessness of channeling action into prayer.”

After this, they sent me a few communications about how I am “demonic”, then began to completely ignore me. Since then I’ve seen former residents continue to try and educate others about the farm, only to be described as emotionally disturbed drug-abusers by the SHF. Thanks to the internet, former residents are finding others who shared similar experiences at the farm. As I mentioned earlier, the frequency of communications regarding abuse have increased lately, with more former residents contacting me. Several have mentioned that the residents are also taught “science” at the farm… by watching Kent Hovind videos. My next plan of action is to get these kids together in one place (online, at least) where they can share their experiences with each other, and maybe think about efficient and peaceful ways to warn parents about the SHF. Fortunately the farm is now known for the accusations of abuse and any parents searching the internet for details of the farm will hopefully find many of the blogs and articles complaining. I leave you with PZ Myers:

“For all of this — the cans of beans, the non-existent medical care, the anti-education, the beatings — what do you think you should pay? Nothing? They should pay you? Wrong! You will cough up almost $60,000 a year for the privilege of tossing your child into the hands of a dumb redneck psychopath with a farm in the wilderness. It’s a Christian wilderness, though. That’s the added value you’re paying for, and I’m sure it’s worth every penny…if you’re one of those parents who can’t abide children with personalities or ideas of their own.”


About Peter Harrison

Evo lab rat, student (again), stand-up comedian, magic consultant, writer, skeptic, gamer. Reality is my religion. Follow @Harrison_Peter for English. Follow @kaigishin for 日本語.

Posted on February 20, 2010, in Religion and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 61 Comments.

  1. That place needs to be shut down. Isn’t there a way to start a proper police investigation or something?

    • I know some of the kids have attempted to get the authorities involved but had little success. One of my hopes is that if they get together on this, they can present a joint attempt that will be harder to ignore.

      • Well, this is an impressive story against Shepherd’s Hill Farm. Of course, however, allegations are just grandiloquence unless you have an actual self account for the matter at hand. A historian can write an article about the attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941 – But a veteran of Pearl Harbor could tell you how long the attack went on down to the second, what ship he was on, what defense methods he used, and who the man who was gunned down on his left was.

        I am an active student at Shepherd’s Hill Farm. For someone who blogs online, you’d say I have been there for 10 months. But I, who have the experience, say I have been at Shepherd’s Hill Farm for 264 days… If you must- 263 days, 21 hours, and 8 minutes. I’m not writing this to prove anything to Peter Harrison, because the chances of changing a bias against an ALLEGED abuse facility are like finding a needle in a stack of needles. I am simply going to say a few things in attempt to help the almost humorous randomness of these claims against Shepherd’s Hill Farm.

        First and foremost, I would like to question the validity of Harrison’s resources. Some kids, for example a graduate last year (2009), hated the place. He ran away twice. He was forced to wear a jumpsuit, put in shackles, and served special meals because of one thing. He did NOT want to cooperate. To avoid conspiracy, what I mean when I use the term “cooperate” is this: Obey authority, do not lie, do not cheat, to not steal, do not use profanity, do not rough house, on and on (basically, the use common sense) After he graduated, he got online and tore up Shepherd’s Hill Farm because he wouldn’t cooperate and wanted to do what he wanted to do, which in any boarding facility your parents legally sign you over to, you cannot do your own thing, Christian or not. — Following up my first statement in this paragraph, I believe most of Harrison’s resources are simply False.

        I also read somewhere that the staff are trained to wrestle kids to the ground and pray for them. This is one of the true things! But, however it is taken from context. Shepherd’s Hill Farm is a behavior facility for teenagers i.e the angry kids who come from torn homes. I don’t have much of an impressive figure but I am bigger than half of the staff members, and if they didn’t know CPI (nonviolent crisis intervention ) I might have an advantage if I were to initiate confrontation. There has been no student hurt. We do build the cabins we live in in the woods, and there have been disgruntled students swipe nails and use them as shanks. Instead of slugging them in the face and turning the shank on the student, a common misconception of the personality of the Shepherd’s Hill Farm staff, the staff members are trained to restrain the attacker to prevent anyone from getting hurt. When restrained, the staff asks the attacker if they may pray for him or her. If the answer is no, which it commonly is, they do not; also a common misconception (“…trained to wrestle kids to the ground and pray for them” paraphrase) No attacks have happened in over 10 months.

        There have been rumors of depravity of medicine, another humorous attempt to make a facility run by a man who gave up the good life to help kids in need look bad. Shepherd’s Hill Farm has close ties with the Toccoa Clinic, as well as a private nurse who see’s the students every Wednesday, making sure all the medicine is stocked for the individuals to whom they are administered to. Regular check-ups are required (funny thing they have never found signs of abuse) and if necessary, ER runs, dentistry runs, etc. are scheduled. Medicine is administered every day at morning and night.

        Now I conclude. I do strongly state: The black lettering in the entry “Shepherds Hill Farm – ‘The Great Child Abuse Secret'” is false and guilty of ignorance on the subject.

        For anyone who buys into the hoax that Trace Embry is an evil abusing tyrant, I invite you to stay one week at Shepherd’s Hill Farm. I will cook you the food myself and let you use my own bed.

        Now I’m going to continue the rest of my visit! Thank you for your time!

        P.S: Boot camps don’t give 10 day home visits… Kids would run away every time. So would I if I were going back to a boot camp.

        “and you would only know what really goes on if you attended.”

  2. I don’t think the kind of parents that send their kids to these places care that much about the abuse. Like the letter writer whose parents asked for her to be sent to a dermatologist. They asked but never did anything about it. Didn’t they wonder what other care they were refusing to give? Wasn’t that alone a warning sign?

    I mean I’m sure a depressed or schizophrenic or child with other serious problems is often too much for parents to handle without help, but these parents aren’t trying to help their kids, they are trying to sweep the problems away by sending their kid off.

    So without parents willing to press charges and demanding investigations, no wonder police don’t investigate. They talk to the parents and they say “oh my child is a complainer and lying just like always”. Especially when the kid IS a compulsive liar, many of us with drug addicted family members know what that is like, when you can’t believe anything they say how do you know when they are telling the truth?

  3. It’s truly amazing what can happen.

    Perhaps some news network catches this story and digs deeper.

  4. Could you do something about the color of blockquote text? It’s hard on the eyes! I couldn’t read most of this because the letters are too pale on a white background.

  5. It is apalling that such a thing is allowed to continue in this day and age. Sadly, this is not even the first time I have heard of something like this. A couple years back, a friend pointed me to a story about a mormon camp with a similar MO of abuse and brainwashing. How is there no public uproar over places like these!?

    @ Aquaria: I found that if you highlight the block quotes they are much easier to read

  6. Why aren’t the victims of this camp sueing their asses off? Surely this is illegal? it’s kidnapping, child abuse, it’s violating basic human rights and I would even make a case for torture.

    WHY isn’t anyone sueing these monsters for every penny they’re worth and a lengthy prison sentence?

    • It’s coming soon…sudden death round, and we have the wonderful United States Constitution, which has been fought for, died for, and justified by better men and women than any staff member of SHF – on our side. :)

    • Because the allegations are LIES spread by someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about.

  7. I’ve finally figured out why “Christians” are so opposed to abortion in this country. They need more children around so they can abuse them.

    Why isn’t the AG of that state investigating this place? Oh, right, he’s probably a “good Christian” as well. Sick fux.

  8. Oh yeah, and guess what else? Since they’re a “Christian” youth camp, that $60K per victim per year IS TAX FREE. Nice scam.

    This place reminds me of that movie “Holes”…..

  9. Welcome to the future of Christian education.

  10. I wonder about the other schools/camps listed on and its sister site It certainly doesn’t speak well of their vetting process (assuming they have one; their disclaimer was pretty comprehensive) that they’d list Shepherd’s Hill Farm so uncritically.

  11. I am one of the ex students from this hell hole. My testimony is on though the website seems to be down right now. I was a student there around 8 years ago, as well as the other ex students I keep in contact with. I have spoken to the others and they all agreed they would be in a class action law suit but we have little money and I assume the statue of limitations has passed. Though one student has reported them to the FBI for kidnapping. I feel the best thing we can do is educate people and parents about SHF so they dont send their kids there, and so other ex students can come forward.

    I have spoken to one student who was freed two years ago. She said things are the same as when I was there if not worse. She told me that after arriving there Trace told her that her recently deceased mother was in hell and that she would end up there as well if she didnt follow his rules. She was then punished for crying. She was also cruelly punished for defending a student who was being made fun of for being a homosexual. She does not want to pursue any action because based on things she said, I believe she is afraid of SHF and Trace.

    On a supposed former employee of the Stephen’s County Department of Family and Child Services (DFCS) commented to say that after vigorous inquires by its best investigators not one claim of abuse was substantiated, and that all stories have more then one side.

    I’m skeptical about the legitimacy of that comment however. I would assume if an investigation was done they would want to talk to those making the claims of abuse. However not one ex student and to my knowledge no ex staff was contacted by them or anyone else investigating the claims.

  12. Former “resident” here.

    I’m delighted to see that this scam is being accounted for what it actually is. Bravo!
    I enrolled in May of 2005 after being tricked into visiting my father, who lives in Savannah, which is about four and a half hours away. My father and my stepmom drugged my food at a restaurant and I awoke when my dad’s car hit a gravel road. My next sight was that of a homemade, dilapidated sign stating, “Shepherd’s Hill Farm Discipleship Camp”…I freaked the hell out naturally and began to dial an emergency number on my cell phone for help. As soon as my feet hit the ground, I took off towards the entrance, but was tackled by Mr. Embry himself, who weighs a hearty 240 lbs. or so and is about 6’3. My face hit the gravel violently and I began to bleed as he twisted my arms up behind me, my clothing in tatters. Again and again, “counselors” walked by, repeatedly telling me that this was a “good place” and that they “loved me” and so did “Jesus” and that I had better “calm down”. I promised to calm down and they led me into a trailer where an RN, Rebecca Bombet, was waiting to do the intake paperwork. I was informed of their procedures, especially the punishments for using “foul language”. Special meals, “swats”, and work detail. “Swats” are actually where you are bent over and spanked with a 3/4 inch wooden board with holes in it, which resembles a cricket bat. The word “LOVE” is scrawled hastily on it with black permanent marker. I digress. During intake, I learned that my parents had actually agreed to use my college trust fund to pay for this “learning experience” and that they most assuredly saved me from going directly to Hell…I can safely say that is why I am not in college today…but, whatever, I needed Jesus, right? Right?
    About two months later, I attempted to escape with two fellow students. We got to the next town before local law enforcement, undoubtedly one of SHF’s staunchest allies, found us walking down a country road towards South Carolina, which is about 10 miles away from the camp. EIGHT squad cars from Lavonia, GA, Stephens County Sheriff’s Office and all camp vehicles, including Mr. Embry’s personal mini-van, which was a gift from a parent…
    Mr. Embry, being an ex-cop from Schereville, Indiana, which is a suburb of Chicago, Illinois; was very much in his element when he apprehended us. He told us to drop to the ground and not to, and I quote, “fucking move”. We dropped down and were taken by the local police back to the camp, which under the waiver, we were runaways. Power of attorney is actually granted to the camp prior to admission to avoid any “incidents”. When we were hauled back, we were taken to the trailer, which from now on I will refer to as the office, which is what it served as. Me and the other two guys were told that we were in “mortal sin” and that we had turned our backs on the very people who were trying to help us. The staff got together in a huddle, so to speak, and sentencing was fast. Three weeks of orange jumpsuits (no regular clothes), two weeks of sandals (no socks or closed-toe shoes, even when we were digging with post-hole diggers and sawing trees….), and a week and a half of shackles. Only these were not your typical shackles…..they were chains with padlocks that were put firmly around our ankles and tied with a piece of twine so that we didn’t trip (we would pick up the third end between our legs). On top of that, we were given two weeks of “special meals”, which is not exactly healthy with all the work that is done. AND we had three days of shoveling horse manure when the temperatures were in the 100s with heat index…
    Needless to say, I got very ill and crawled up underneath a desk in the fetal position vomitting while we watched a sermon for two hours in the classroom. I was sick for about a week after that with a major infection, again, not even remotely addressing any medical attention other than Tylenol…
    I could go on for awhile, but I feel like I’d be spinning my wheels. They’ve backed me in a corner anytime I try to bring this to the attention of law enforcement, civil authorities, or local politicians. I am very familiar with the area, having actually lived there about two years later and working with a concert promotion company out of Athens. Everyone says the same thing: you can’t fix what’s broken.
    If you want to hear anything else or have any questions, please feel free to email me at or I appreciate any help in making sure others don’t have to deal with what I did. I finally managed to talk my way out on Christmas of ’06, but my schooling was completely shot….in Missouri, they don’t exactly take bible classes as required….so a whole bunch of electives….but anyway lol i digress again.

    Thanks again for putting this out there!!!!

    -K. Hicks
    Former S.H.F. Resident

    • K. Hicks….Am I to assume that your parents spent “your” college trust fund on Shepherd Hill Farm and that is the reason you’re not able to attend college? Sounds to me like you need a job, apply for grants and student loans. This is the way 1/2 of American teens do it nowadays. I don’t think my parents got that memo….

      • I do have a VERY well-paying job, actually, with promising potential. Unlike your assumptions that I am an uneducated and morally depraved drug addict, I am contrary to the hypocrisy-laced accusations against others like me. As are many others. I am a Network Operations Engineer for a major server-hosting company. I am working towards my certifications. However the lack of education is troubling, to say the least. In order to progress in the corporate world, one must have a numerous amount of qualifications. Because of politics, and, that bad word, “the recessive economy”, it is difficult to find someone to aid you on a state or federal level. Blah. I suspect you are one of the many staff members due to your abhorent rhetoric. People my age should be admonished by the older generation. Instead, they abuse and torment us and stymie our growth due to their labels and misconceptions. EVERY generation has had this problem, and it is this denial, that constantly attempts to defeat any modicum of a future for us. God bless you, sir or ma’am. >={

      • But I accept your criticism, if it is unbiased. My apologies for the rant.

    • Sarah Osborne

      I was there the same time as you. The counselors at the girls camp were encouraged to look down at you because of your “sins”. Discreetly, of course. Any communications between boys and girls were punishable. When you ran away the female students were loaded up in the van and driven to a nearby field to help search for you. I ended up being pulled from the program because after ten mounths they acknowledged that perhaps my parents were abusive at which point my parents sent me to a different program. (My home life was more abusive than the farm, which resulted in me being very grateful to be there. It wasn’t until I got away from both my family and the farm that I realized thati had been brainwashed to accept abusive treatment as holy and God ordained). I’m friends with an owner of a treatment program in Oregon who saw Beth and trace at a small programs convention last week. It makes me sick to know they are still in business. SHF uses religion to justify abuse. This is unacceptable and dangerouse.

  13. J. Abbott, Florida

    I’m definitely no expert on anhedonia, and I don’t personally know any of the people making these comments against Shepherd’s Hill Farm. But I do know Trace Embry, his family, and staff at Shepherd’s Hill Farm. Many people may say that parents who send their children to “a place like that” are not fulfilling their responsibilities” and many other things, but I will tell you they don’t know me and they’ve never walked in my shoes. There’s also nothing anyone can say to me that could may be feel worse than I did when I made the decision to send our children to a boarding school. No doubt, I felt like a worthless parent. So if you feel it necessary to down parents of boarding school kids, go ahead, I just hope you don’t have a child that experiences tragedy and has difficulty overcoming it. Yes, our children – of our three children – two were sent to boarding schools. Our son at age 17 was sent to a secular boarding school in Lousiana. Our son is now 21, and will tell you that the school saved his life. There were a lot of things he didn’t agree with at the school and things he hated, but it “saved his life”. He was a cocaine addict and is clean today. Our daughter was sent to Shepherd’s Hill Farm. You may wonder why we didn’t send her to the same place our son went. If you’re not a believer in Christ and/or do not have a desire for your child to really know God, then Shepherd’s Hill Farm may not be the place for your child. But if you love God and want that for those you love, Shepherd’s Hill Farm IS most definitely the place for your child. As a believer in Christ, I wanted her heart to be changed. We knew our son was okay, but he never had a heart change and that was a huge regret. So we searched a Christian school and found Shepherd’s Hill Farm. Our daughter hated me, largely because I didn’t just sit by and allow her to continue with the drugs. After she arrived at Shepherd’s Hill Farm, she begged us to come get her. However, after a few weeks there, her letters were saying “this place is a blessing to me” / “I’m beginning to appreciate this place” / “thank you for loving me enough to send me here” / “I really needed this and you loved me enough to send me here”. Shepherd’s Hill Farm literally saved her life here on earth, but she also came to Christ there, and she has realized that life without Him can’t compare to what she has now. She is completely different – same wonderful personality, but understands how much God loves her and that He created her for a purpose. Brainwashing and abuse – goodness, please. Sydney was never touched by anyone. She wasn’t brainwashed. After seven months of hearing about Christ, she desired a relationship with Him. I’ve never known any one, other than my family, to love her as the Embry family and Shepherd’s Hill Farm’s staff did. The teachers, counselors, Trace, Beth, and Allison. If you need evidence of Trace’s committment to children and, more importantly, to God, come visit Shepherd’s Hill Farm, meet Trace’s children, the staff, the teachers. Please don’t take the word of people only trying to bring harm to this ministry. Yes, they have special meals, and yes, they swat for extreme cases of bad behavior. That’s not Trace’s idea to swat, it’s God’s. Read the Scriptures – Proverbs is full of verses about discipline that hurts. If you want to argue with God about that, go ahead. I’ve chosen to take His word on it. My daughter got a handful of special meals, and she didn’t like them. But she gained 30 pounds at Shepherd’s Hill Farm. I don’t see that as starvation. I’ve never heard our daughter say anything against Shepherd’s Hill Farm. She has said that may have been one of the best years of her life – not as fun, but as a necessary one and one that allowed her to find Truth and perspective. She was loved there. Our daughter’s therapist once said to me she has never known a man that loved God more than Trace Embry. And I may be inclined to say the same. In reponse to those that choose to say how Shepherd’s Hill Farm has committed a crime. Please don’t be ignorant. If there was abuse and criminal acts committed to children, do you really believe in this day and age, it would be allowed to continue. Parents can’t even discipline their children without fear of having them taken away. Don’t be ridiculous. I highly recommend Shepherd’s Hill Farm to parents of troubled teens, and I thank them for all they’ve done for our family.

  14. Unfortunate just because your daughter appears to be “saved” and different after leaving there proves nothing. Others were abused and justice should be served. Perhaps your daughter started saying she loved it there because they brainwashed her into saying she did? You should look up Stockholm syndrome. The harsh reality is that most wilderness programs are rampant with child abuse. It is very hard to explain how much trama SHF has caused me. People claiming I only say it because I am an evil lier trying to discredit a christian program don’t make it much easier. But SHF will not fear me into silence. I am opposed to your tactics of coercion and indoctrination. SHF takes advantage of the weak and vulnerable who are seeking help. Convincing them if they do not place their child in the program immediatly the child will be dead or in jail. This is a tactic all of these wilderness camps use.
    There are plenty of programs that have been reported and even charged with child abuse (in some cases murder) and they continue operate. Many times they move to another state and change their name. How are these people still able to abuse kids? I do not know. Look at, watch the Capitol Hill briefings. The briefings include testimonys from, ex students of wilderness programs, parents of children who died in these programs, mental health experts, and Greg Kutz of the Forensics Audit Unit and Greg Kutz, Managing Director of Forensic Audits and Special Investigations for the US Government Accountability Office describes reports from two GAO investigations into the troubled industry for teens. Heres the link

    Beatings for extreme reasons? My first day there I was unable to run up a hill. I was yelled at in front of everyone and swatted because I was unable to do it. This is just one case. i know ex students who had bruises that lasted weeks for asking why they had to do some meaningless task. The bible tells you to beat kids so that makes it ok? It also tells you to murder witches, stone disobedient children, and endorses slavery(shf?). I will assume you are ok with these things as well.
    These parents pay tuitions that are the same as Ivy League schools. Yet the child is “treated” by special meals (I was on them for over a month and a half.) being told im a terrible human unable to be loved, my parents failed me, only if we work the program will we not die or go to jail or be a drug addict. These children with serious mental issues need real medical help from real doctors using real science that is backed up by peer reviewed medical journals. Your son or daughter may appear to be helped, but many more claim to be abused. Others are to afraid to say anything because they are afraid of Trace Embry and his cult. Every ex student I have spoken with claims it has taken them and their family years to overcome the problems and scars SHF letft them with.
    You and SHF claim we are evil, demonic people that are simply trying to destroy SHF. This makes absolutely zero sense and is completely insensitive. What is there for me to gain from telling others I was abused at SHF? It is not easy at all. The reason I tell people and try to get the information out there is not because I am evil or have some sinister plan. The reason is very simple. I wish to prevent other children from being abused at the hands of Trace Embry in the name of science, medicine, therapy, and even Jesus.

    In solidarity with all of the oppressed,
    SHF ex student'(s)

  15. anon….I’m sorry that your experience at Shepherd’s Hill Farm has left you with many scares. However, I will tell you that mine and my daughters experience is far different from yours. My daughter is currently enrolled at Shepherd’s Hill Farm. My daughter was in the drug culture and all that went along with it. I had searched for two years looking for something like Shepherd’s Hill Farm. Nobody had to tell me that I needed to put her in a wilderness camp immediately or she would end up in jail or dead. I KNEW IT! Shepherd’s Hill Farm has given me back a the wonderful, respectful, educated, clean and sober young women I knew my daughter to be. I know Trace, his wife, and the staff that work directly with my daughter. They are all God loving individuals that are committed to helping our troubled teens. My daughter is well taken care of and loved by the entire staff as well as the other residents. I have weekly conference calls with her via Skype and have unsupervised visits monthly. I have asked her about the care she’s receiving. At no time has my daughter ever mentioned abuse or any form of it. She has aquired two special meals in her year. That’s all it took for her to figure out she can not be disrespectful or lie. (That should not be tolerated anywhere, from anyone). She is excelling in her education, not to mention she just received her ACT score and did extremely well. Something that certainly would of not been done without the help of Shepherd’s Hill Farm teachers.
    My daughter often tells me Thank you. She has friends there and people who love and care for her. She is not judged by anyone and can be herself. I’ve made several friends (parents and ex-residents) over the year from Shepherd’s Hill Farm. None have ever mentioned any form of abuse you speak of; as we speak often to one another. Yes, the program is somewhat expensive, however I knew well enough when I enrolled her, she wasn’t going to an “Ivy League” school or a country club. (I did my research on Shepherd Hill Farm prior to my daughter going there.) I sent here there to save her life and as far as I’m concered, it was worth every penny. I don’t know what will happen when my daughter comes out of the program. I can only pray and leave that in God’s hands. There are no certains in life. I do know, however, that Shepherd’s Hill Farm has taught my daughter the tools she’ll need to live a clean and sober lifestyle, respectful of others, caring and copassionate. I can not say enough about Shepherd’s Hill Farm, other than BRAVO! By the way, I’m curious about the other ex-residents that are afraid to come forward about the abuse they claim happened at Shepherd’s Hill Farm. Why would they be afraid of “Trace and his cult” since they’ve already left the program? I’m sure at this stage of their lives, they’re somewhat older and know well enough that Trace can’t harm them now.

  16. In reply to K. Hicks blog…..Wow, I can’t believe your parents actually drugged you to go to Shepherd Hill Farm. They’ve must of been totally desperate to go such a degree. Would you of gone there on your own will? Hmmm, probably not, right? The minute you got there, you started running away and some guy tackeled you down! I can’t believe he just didn’t let you run and scream after you “Run Forest Run”. What was he thinking? He tackled you and were bleeding and he was twisting your arms….were your parents still there watching all this abuse happen? Wow, I can’t believe your parents would allow this to happen right in front of their eyes and they didn’t do anything about it! Then they tell you foul language will not be tolerated and would have consequences should you choose to show that type of disrespect! What monsters these people are at Shepherd Hill Farm not allowing the residents to swear. (My public school doesn’t allow it either.) What is this world coming to???) Only two months later, you run away. I guess they forgot to tell you that would be against their rules too. It took 8 squads to find you? Really? I guess Shepherd Hill Farm, put all their efforts and resources into finding you guys. I suppose they should of shrugged their shoulders and said “well, we lost another one!” These crazies then came up with a punishment of manual labor, and special meals for three whole days. Three whole days! I totally think they should of ….oh idk….give you a cozy a/c room, with TV, stereo and took you guys out for a nice dinner, perhaps take in a movie. It appears that your parent’s best efforts or Shepherd Hill’s Farm for that matter didn’t help you. Yeah, I know taking responsibility and holding yourselft accountable for your own actions blows. That’s not how my world works either. lol…Well, one will never know what could of awaited you on the other end had you completed your time with Shepherd Hill Farm. Sorry that you’ve digressed again.

    • Your farcical commentary is laughable, to say the least. Also, filled to the brim with your brooding opinions. Do you know me?

      If you did, then you would not be spewing ignorant sarcasm at me. I suppose if I had “completed” my time with Shepherd’s Hill Farm, I would be a SUCCESSFUL individual. Wrong.

      I make more money than most people my age can shake a stick at, without pseudo-Christianity owing to my success.

      You can’t call me a pagan, because I’m a highly loyal and active member of the Catholic church. Yeah, we’re Christians too….darn!

      I resent SHF and its cronies for fighting a fight that they will NOT win.

  17. Here is a link to a video of SHF. The above poster K Hicks is in the video.

    • Ha. Observant and astute!

      SHF and its goons hate to have the truth spread around. Fine, I’ll play along…

      I AM IN THE VIDEO! Under duress. Talking my way into more privileges and out of punishment….guilty!

      Your mother must not have taught you about copyright infringement. Your IP has been logged. Have a nice day.

      P.S. Maybe next time you shouldn’t post someone’s intellectual property on a blog?

  18. Life has not been kind to our family. We have experienced a lot of trauma- sadness, death. We are Christian. We had hoped life would be different… but we have endured the trials. Perhaps that is our calling…it isn’t fun. But it is reality. Shepherd’s Hill Farm has been a place of healing and discipleship for our hurting son. It is a place we left our troubled son because we had no where else to turn…it has been worth every- every every cent. We would have buried our child or seen him in prison. Please, hurting parents who do not know where to turn- this is a safe place, a Godly place- no, it isn’t fun for your child- it is taking things down to the bare bones. It is humbling yourself to the place where you need to be. I know what it is like to fall down on my knees and say to God, ” Help- we are at our end…Please God- it HURTS so MUCH.
    There is a place- yes, it may seem expensive. What price can we put on our child’s life? We are talking about bare bones here- when things are so hard, your child will either die, kill someone- or end up in prison. What? Not my child? Yes…it can happen. I have a child in Law School, Dental School, and Heaven…and my 4th child has experienced more trauma in his short lifetime than many ever do. Shepherd’s Hill Farm took him in and helped him make his way back. There is no abuse there. There is Godly direction. These disgruntled blog people rebelled ( I am a rebel so I know how this can work).
    I just want to say- Thank you, God . You directed me to the website- to the place in GA. where my son could go and take time off from the confusion the world offered , and returning to me, a matured- humbled young man. God is in your work! Thank you. Bless you all in this ministry that helped saved our child. Our family will always be so grateful and remember you.

  19. Survivor of institutional child abuse

    I have only two things to say in this matter, and it is directed to the parents who are looking to get help for their troubled teens. Please only put your child somewhere if you have documented medical evidence that they have a mental or addiction problem, and I mean documented by more than one source and those sources should have medical degrees and be secular, not just therapists belonging to or related to your church.
    Secondly, and most important, the biggest way to know if you are dealing with a legitimate organization is if you still have full rights to communicate with your child freely without interference, that is your letters and phone calls are not monitored, you can visit your child whenever you decide, and they do not hide the truth from you out of fear of punishment and retaliation. ANY place that requires you to sign away parental guardianship of your child IS NOT LEGITIMATE! End of story!
    If you go to Shepherd Hill’s own website and look at the requirements for your son or daughter to be enrolled in the program, they require you to sign over guardianship to them before admission – this should never take place and is the biggest sign that this organization is dangerous.
    I was enrolled in a place similar to this in my youth, I am 44 years old now and can tell you that places like this are a threat to you, your child, and your family unit. No matter what you see from people claiming success afterwards; there will be just as many, if not far more from my experience, that will tell you a completely opposite story. One that often includes completely broken families, destitute kids growing into aimless, mentally damaged adults, and even suicides.
    I say this because I care, and I am a parent of three.

    • Kelsey Francisco

      I am so sorry that you experienced abuse at an Institute like SHA, those who abuse children should be locked up. SHA, however, is no such place. They truly cared for the kids they took care of, many of whom come from torn and broken families, and did nothing but minister to and help them. They saved my life.

      • While most people who are abusive know they are bein abusive, that is not always the case. You can care about someone, think you are doing the right thing, and cause great harm.

  20. I actually was browsing for techniques for my own website and discovered your blog post,
    “Shepherds Hill Farm – �The Great Child
    Abuse Secret� � Reality Is My Religion”, would you
    mind in cases where I personally employ a number of your concepts?

    Thanks -Roland


    A message to the devil’s advocate that runs this web-site…get a real job!

  22. tired of people like you

    couldn’t even finish, this Peter is a joke, funny how we always want to blame Christianity but people like him have no problem with allowing or thinking it can’t be this messed up world or satan!!!! So quick to think Christians and there ways are crazy!!! Have you ever had a troubled teen, I think not or you would not even be giving comment to any of this. Looks like you have entirely too much time on your hands Peter

    • I’m a joke, says the person who commented without reading the entry. I don’t think Christians are crazy. I know plenty of very reasonable Christians who aren’t crazy. I think their beliefs are irrational and I don’t respect their religion, but I certainly respect them as people and their right to believe what they want. This entry isn’t an attack on Christianity, it’s a piece about a group that abuse children.

      If you wish to comment without actually understanding what you’re commenting on, go to YouTube. Don’t pollute my blog.

  23. How is it that an avowed atheist (antagonistic to all things Christian) who lives in Scotland and has never visited this teen program has anything worthwhile or impartial to say about this industry in America, or about this program in particular? All you are doing is trying to stir up emotion for the sake of generating web traffic for yourself. My boy was in such a program and it turned his life around, from drugs to wanting to become a counselor himself. He credits is very life to the program.

    I happen to know that this program is doing great work with teens who would otherwise be in severe trouble with the law (in jail), addicted to drugs, or worse. I’m sure you think that being in jail or dead is better than spending a few months in a program that helps teens think about and prepare for the future versus destroying it. The biggest fake and hypocrite here is you, for writing this defamation. You say “I see lot of these camps.” Where? What camps? From Scotland?

    Certainly you haven’t talked to the far majority of parents and teens who were greatly helped and so appreciative of the program. And by the way, have you verified that the comments you say you have received are from real past residents of this program, or other fakes like you? If you want to be “real” and deal with “reality”, then look at the whole picture. For every one kid who didn’t like the program, there are hundreds who did and were greatly helped by it.

  24. Kelsey Francisco

    This author and PL Meyers the author of the article Shepherd Hill is a He’ll Hole are woefully ignorant of what they speak of
    To those who write hateful speech about SHA: I would suggest you go visit and do some actual, real life research to verify your claims before writing of brainwashing and abuse. I am a SHA graduate. I am a happily married woman now, working my way through culinary school. Before I attended Shepherds hill, I was a pissed off, selfish, arrogant, rude and disobedient person. I hated my parents (who had never done anything against me but try to provide a loving and safe home) and most of all I hated myself and my life. I was hopeless and had no purpose. I was lazy, with no work ethic, and did not care about my fellow man. I was in an abusive relationship, I hurt myself, and I was addicted to drugs.
    I was at SHA for a year and never once did I experience, or see anyone experience abuse, be it mental or physical. I was not deprived of needed medication nor were any of the other srudents. We were given our prescribed meds 2 to 3 times a day and got check ups by a nurse once a week. While there I saw many girls slowly come off their heavy medications! There were those who were heavily medicated when they arrived at SHA and were very tired, apathetic, and disinterested, but slowly became more and more animated, enthusiastic, and overall more JOYFUL as they came off of medication!
    And as for the claims of brainwashing. Take a look around you. Walk down the halls of every average high school. What you see are mindless, indoctrinated, medicated, government fed kids with no personality but what TV tells them is “cool”, no work ethic, and no hope or life’s goal. Now, there are exceptions, as with everything, but this is the general circumstance. SHA took me, literally, out of my dark room, away from the filth and depravity of modern TV and video games, and showed me how REAL friendships and REAL fun and REAL LIFE looked! We slept outside, not in dirty, cold shacks, but cabins and bunks we were PROUD to have built with our own hands!! I learned what it was like to work HARD and it felt great! This is not brainwashing!
    We were not forced to attend the so called brainwashing sessions, aka chapel, but I learned so much there! We were studying under Steven Meyers, a very well known and intelligent scientist. It was at SHA that I developed a liking for marine biology and many of my classmates who had done poorly in school excelled in math and english!
    Special meals were a can of beans, slice of bread, glass of milk, and an apple to form a perfectly balanced meal and were doled out ONLY as punishments for things like lying, cheating, stealing, and the like. No one was EVER beaten or purposefully humiliated and degraded for their opinions, beliefs, or anything. Physically unruly students were, yes, physically restrained for the safety of the other students by TRAINED staff.
    I take with me from SHA a healed heart, restored family, lifetime friendships, a purpose in life, and the joy of living for my savior, which transcends any pain or sorrow of this life. Trace Embry is one of the kindest, most intelligent, and wise men I have known. The staff at SHA treated everyone with love and kindness. We sang together, goofed off together, learned together, worshiped together, and cried together. They gave up their days and nights to help us students find the truth.
    I hope everyone reading this, and the author, will take the time to not just assume what the author, or even what I am saying is true, and do research, talk to people, FIND OUT FOR YOURSELF WHAT IS TRUE, and don’t allow fearful, hateful, and angry people tell you what is true. The IS absolute truth in this world. Life is more than just here and now.
    I give thanks to the all mighty God for SHA.

  25. It is pretty ironic to me that you have layer out a case for all kinds of terrible abuse occurring, but have never called the sherifs department. I work in Emergency services and they are pretty serious about this kind of thing.

    Does that not in a way make you an accessory to the abuse? In other words you are sure its happening, but do not report it. Could it actually be you have no proof of abuse and are making up a bunch of lies because of your own personal Bia’s?

  26. I visited multiple sites but the audio quality for audio songs present at this web page is genuinely excellent.

  27. Bryson Hammond

    Apparently this place helps you, after leaving shapherds hill i was enrolled in a christian school in chattanooga tennesse I went there for two week then snuck out of the house bought a half o and smoked stayed gone for a week got drunk every night had sex with three different girls went to ry got out started smoking again went back got comitted to the state and was sent to the placement i am at now called the georgia center for youth and still plan to use drugs after i leave

  28. First of all I want to say fantastic blog! I had a quick question which I’d like to ask if you do not mind.

    I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear
    your head before writing. I’ve had trouble clearing my mind in getting
    my thoughts out. I truly do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to
    15 minutes are usually lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations
    or hints? Cheers!

  29. A fascinating discussion is definitely worth comment.
    I believe that you need to write more about this subject matter, it may
    not be a taboo subject but typically people do not talk about
    such subjects. To the next! Cheers!!

  30. Concerned parent

    This ministry is ran under spirits of deception and pride. Definite abuse.

  31. Concerned believer

    The staff at Shepherd’s are manipulative and deceptive without any discernment. Either they lived in my house or think they are God because they had it all figured out. They hugely impacted my family and one day will give an account.

  32. The problem with this conversation is that one side is putting religion over scientific research and the other is putting scientific research over the claims of religion. There isn’t really common ground between the two. Christianity idealizes believing the bible no matter how much evidence there is saying it’s wrong. Of course there are some combinations of beliefs so not every Christian disregards scientific research, but when presented with something don’t agree with they can simply say that the Bible says something else so they don’t believe it because the Bible is right. So if there are studies that say that punishing a child by spanking is ineffecive and potentially harmful the Christian respond by saying the Bible says to spank so the research is inaccurate or a lie of the devil. From a non-Christian perspective shepherds Hill Farm is abusive but from a Christian perspective they are carrying on the work of God. This fact alone makes it very difficult to have a productive conversation about the activities happening at Shepherds hill farm. Anyone that speaks out against Shepherds Hill Farm is speaking for team devil and anyone that speaks out for shepherds Hill Farm is team Jesus. How can you have a productive discussion?

    • Concerned believer


      Yes, Satan hates when truth is spoken, exposed and revealed.

      Perhaps, God’s protection for teens and temporal judgment is coming to Shepherd’s in the form of a highway. Great place to tag on spiritual abuse to emotional disturbed children.

      • Concerned believer

        Filing misconduct for malpractice and operating without proper creditals. Please reply if interested in making it a class action suit.

      • Concerned believer

        Whom ever the attorney is Shepherd’s is referring on their website. Please post your information as I would like to contact you directly.

        Thank you.

    • Concerned believer

      Swayed by money. Need to be audited!

      • Concerned believer

        “Mind control is also known as manipulation, thought reform, brainwashing, mental control, coercive persuasion, malignant use of group dynamics. Under the umbrella of persuasion and influence – how to change people’s beliefs and behaviors”.

      • Concerned believer

        For the staff of SHA, please learn that parenting involves understanding more than just rule setting or “being good”. What our children really need is to understand the grace given to them in Jesus. When we and they receive the gospel afresh and give grace in abundance, it will help us both know the dazzling love of Jesus and respond with heartfelt obedience

      • Kelsey Francisco

        Concerned believer, please, read my comment/testimony above. I graduated from SHA. I was there for 13 months. I am still very close friends with ALL of the staff! They treated us with such Christly love and sacrificed so much time showing us what it means to truly love God. PLEASE do not believe the lies spread by ignorant people on the internet. There was no abuse going on there. They taught us not to decieve, hurt, gossip, but to be honest, empathatic, and loving towards all our sisters in Christ. We were like sisters, we learnwd to love ans trust each other. You should go visit, talk to Trace and Beth Embry (the founders). You will see a couple truly in love with Jesus, with a desire to help the youth in our world who have become slaves to their own desires. I hope you will be wise enough to see that you can’t just assume something about people based on what you read on the Internet. I do not think that is very Christ-like.

  33. The_Night_Light

    ummm you guys don’t have any idea what your talking about! I went their and i was not beat or anything! nobody here allows Christianity and it was a great place. Listen I wouldn’t believe anything these people say. I was a Student, and I don’t agree with everything they taught, I was not brainwashed, I was not beat. They don’t paddle,or attack unless a child gets violent and then they will hold them until they calm down. This place changed my life.

  34. En un appuyant, certains Russes puisque des Ukrainiens s’plaisantent Pendant gonflée débattre âpre Dans lequel claque quant
    à DCA enclavée, affirmatif un être n’y apprécies médiocrité, certainement on désordre niche approximativement attelage conséquemment croiser puisqu insistance

  35. Secular humanist rant. This has no validity to a Christian. If you are not a Christian, then these places might not be your best choice. Move to California.

  36. Eight years ago, my son was suffering from a variety of symptoms, including steeling from family members and strangers at school, lying routinely to friends and family, repeated peeing-tom behavior with siblings and his mother, and a lack of empathy. The original problem leading to these symptoms was attachment disorder prompted by being taken with his 2 siblings from his natural parents at 3 years, being housed in foster care for 5 years, and finally being adopted at 8 years of age. Seven years of secular psychologists, the most highly recommended ones in the Atlanta area, had been unable to reverse the detachment and the growing list of other symptoms. I didn’t need someone at a wilderness camp to tell us his situation was hopeless. The two schools he had been kicked out of had convinced us of that. One year at Shepherds Hill Academy saved my son’s life. He did not come back a perfect young man – he was almost 18 when he returned home. He had more problems after Shepherds Hill. He made more bad decisions typical of young men his age, but he had developed sufficient judgement and discernment during his year at SHA, that the extreme behaviors that led us to SHA in the first place, were a thing of the past. Seven years later, his life is going in a positive direction, and Shepherds Hill had everything to do with the change in that direction. Eleven months after Shepherds Hill, he went in the Marine Infantry. He served 2 tours in Afghanistan. That was no cake walk for him or his buddies. He returned with PTSD due to specific incidents that occurred during deployment. And yet, I can say with confidence, that his life, today, is going in a positive direction. He is married with three children. In spite of odds to the contrary, his family situation is positive and encouraging. Having read the information on this blog critical of Shepherds Hill, I had the opportunity, this weekend, to ask my son if he could recall extreme or abusive behavior on the part of SHA counselors during his year there. He recalled that the SHA response was always measured by the reaction of the student, and was only escalated in response to the student’s extreme behavior. In fact, the SHA response was calm, reasonable, and fitting to the circumstances. My son, recalls his time at SHA as a positive and uplifting year in his life, and speaks fondly of the experience and the counselors who worked with him. It is unfortunate that you are unable to see the before and after that we parents of kids at SHA witnessed. As I have explained, the results weren’t perfect — they relied on a young person to continue to make good decisions as they had learned to make at SHA, at first under considerable supervision, then under relaxed supervision, then under self-supervision, and finally as a student leader, mentoring other young men. However, while the results may not have been perfect, they were nothing short of miraculous. I witnessed this not only of my son, but of other young people there at SHA — who had come there with a variety of diverse symptoms and extreme behaviors that even the professional psychologists and psychiatrists had offered little or no hope of curing. These same young people left SHA a year later with a completely new and restored outlook on life. What a contrast were these results to the lack of positive results, we parents had seen elsewhere. In our case, we compared SHA to seven years of secular counseling. I am one, among many thankful parents — most thankful that Trace Embry offered the services of SHA to my son at a time in his life when he was without hope and when we as his parents were desperately seeking anything that would save his life, when secular psychologists had completely failed him.

  37. I was a staff member at SHF for a year and a half and NOT ONCE witnessed anything like what was described here. We received extensive training including how to make sure students took their medication because many who were bipolar would try to spit their medication out when you were not looking. A symptom of those who suffer from bipolar disorder is to stop medication when they are feeling good. The nurse at SHF is certified to do do what she is doing as a counselor. That being said she accompanied students almost weekly to psychiatrist appointments where a licensed professional oversaw their medications and made their own unbiased judgments on what medications students should and should not be taking along with dosage. These orders were STRICTLY followed by the staff of SHF and extensive records were kept and signed off on by all staff detailing times when medications were taken. I am afraid that if this goes to court the Immature accusations and generalizations may lead in a different way than you expect. Perjury will more than likely be the outcome. And as to the abuse, parents and students are aware and sign off on the fact that corporal punishment is used in extreme cases. It is NEVER done in front of other students and always in the presence of another adult. To the writer, I would strongly caution you to check your sources and your biases when calling to action based on a few cases. I have worked for one other program for troubled teens that was what some may call “secular” and positive outcomes were few and far between. Even if you don’t believe the Bible, how can you not be open minded about a method of discipline that has been used for thousands of years and is still used effectively in many respected cultures even today?

  1. Pingback: 128. Shepherd’s Hill Farm | 1000 places You don't want to be as a teenager

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