Sergey Blaschishen died in the care of Sage Walk Wilderness School in northern Lake County.
Sergey Blaschishen died in the care of Sage Walk Wilderness School in northern Lake County on Friday.
The Redmond-based behavioral correctional program was featured in the ABC reality television series Brat Camp.
His family says the boy dropped out of Park Rose High School as a freshman but wanted to go to the boot camp before returning to finish high school.
His mother says he was active and healthy and she cannot understand what could have happened.
Autopsy results are expected soon.
Web Exclusive: interview with Maia Szalavitz
QUESTION: IS THIS A SCENARIO THAT PLAYS OUT QUITE OFTEN?
Yes, unfortunately. We don't hear about these things happening in summer camps. And the reason we don't hear about this is partially because when you are in a camp of so-called normal kids., the staff believes the child when the child says "Hey, I can't do this" or "Hey, i'm hurting" or "Hey something's wrong I don't feel right." But in these brat camps the staffs say "Oh you're faking, you're manipulating, you're lying, keep going" and they don't believe complaints. And in the heat, this has been repeatedly deadly. There have been dozens of these deaths now.
QUESTION: HOW REGULATED ARE THESE CAMPS?
Not at all. There is no federal regulation on them at all. Oregon has what are supposed to be good state regulations, but the state regulations don't seem to have been well enforced at all. I wrote recently for Time Magazine about another troubled teen program in Oregon where I had at least half a dozen people, possibly more telling me about these seminars taking place. There were girls literally made to do lap dances. It just seems like there is very little oversight at all.
QUESTION: AS FOR THESE HIKES GO, ARE THERE GUIDELINES FOR CAMP LEADERS TO FOLLOW?
There are supposd to be, but again there seems to be high turnover and this attitude that any complaint from a child should not be believed. There was really horrifying case where a child died in Utah over the course of several weeks. he had an ulcer that could have been easily treated with over the counter medication and by the time he died he had lost about 30 pounds and was unable to control his urine or bowel movements and the staff continued to maintain he was faking.
QUESTION: WHAT TYPE OF MEDICAL PERSONNEL CAN BE FOUND AT THESE CAMPS? WHAT IS THE LEVEL OF TRAINING AND EXPERIENCE THEY HAVE, SHOULD HAVE OR, ON AVERAGE, DO HAVE?
In this camp, at least according to management, they were EMT trained. A lot of the camps, especially in the states were there are no regulations, have hired people off the street. You don't even have to have a high school diploma to work in some of these places.
QUESTION: WHAT WOULD BE YOUR ADVICE FOR ANY PARENT CONSIDERING A CAMP LIKE THIS FOR THEIR CHILDREN?
We have no evidence that the work. The only evidence supporting them is anecdotal. And given that they carry quite an extreme risk, but if your child complains and they are not believed something like this could happen, I would recommend using evidence-based treatment in the community instead.
QUESTION: AS FOR PARENTS WITH KIDS ALREADY IN THESE CAMPS, IS THERE ANYTHING THEY CAN DO TO MAKE SURE WHAT IS GOING AT THESE CAMPS IS ACCEPTABLE?
The problem is the lack of regulation and the lack of oversight. These places are less regulated than nail salons. I simply wouldn't take the risk of placing a child in a place like that.
QUESTION: IS THE IDEA OF SENDING PROBLEM KIDS OFF TO "BRAT CAMPS" A HOLDOVER FROM THE "MILITARY SCHOOL APPROACH "OF THE PAST?
In America, in general, we do have a love affair with tough love. We do think that the way to fix it is to kick someone into shape. And unfortuantely, it does not work well with psychological problems.
QUESTION: ARE THESE CAMPS COUNTERPRODUCTIVE?
I have certainly talked to probably a hundred teenagers or former teenagers who have been through some absolutely harrowing experiences, some of whom came home with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I guess you can imagine what it's like for other kids who see somebody die in front of them.
A lot of these programs are based on an idea of: let's break this child down... We will humiliate them we will attack them, we will emotionally degrade them and then build them back up again. The problem is no one is very good at building people back up and these kids come out often with a greater desire to use drugs and escape than when they went in.
QUESTION: HOW LUCRATIVE IS THIS TYPE OF BUSINESS?
It is incredibly lucrative, because you do not have to pay staff very much, because they often don't have to have particular qualifications. I think Sage Walk may have higher qualified staff than other ones, but often the people who work with the kids don't even need to have a high school degree, and you don't need a facility because you are out in the wilderness. You can really not feed the kids very much because you can have them eat lizards as they literally do with some of these programs in Utah. So what are you expenses? Marketing.
QUESTION: ARE THERE GUIDELINES TO CHECK A CHILD FOR PREEXISTING CONDITIONS PRIOR TO CAMP?
In Oregon, they have some specific regulations on that, but there are no federal guidelines that. The thing is, you could be in great shape. But if someone puts you in the heat and denies you water and the ability to stop exercising you are going to be in trouble.
It would be great for people to have physicals, but would be better is for the programs to actually have admission standards. Right now the admission standard is a wallet biopsy of the parent, i.e., can you pay for it? It is not how seriously troubled is your child? These programs can include anyone from somebody who is completely out of control and shooting drugs to someone who tells their parents to jump in a lake.
QUESTION: BASED ON YOUR RESEARCH, DESCRIBE THE AVERAGE EMPLOYEE AT THESE CAMPS.
Some of them are very well-intentioned. A lot of them enjoy working with kids and they want to be there. They don't have to have a degree in any particular subject. You know they just have to say I like kids, and so they may not know the things they need to know to work with these kinds of kids. The programs also tend to train the people themselves, and so they train that if kids try to get out of something they are just lying and manipulating and see the kids in a really negative light and be quite tough on them. On the other hand there are many people who work in these places who are predators and abuse the kids in many ways. I am not saying that is the case in this particular program but that has been the case in the past.
QUESTION: STATISTICALLY, HOW MANY DEATHS OCCUR AT THESE CAMPS EACH YEAR?
The problem here is no one keeps track. Because there is no regulation, there is no tracking. We don't even know how many kids are in these places. There are certainly are in terms of publicized deaths, there seems to be three or four every year, and dozens over the last 10 to 15 years.
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