Family Foundation School

A therapeutic boarding school embroiled in controversy and allegations of abuse.

The Family Foundation School, later known as Allynwood Academy, was a private, co-educational, therapeutic boarding school located in Hancock, New York. Operating from 1984 to 2014, it aimed to provide a college preparatory education alongside therapeutic support for troubled teens. However, its closure was marred by a significant decline in enrollment, which was attributed to a series of allegations related to physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.

Background and Operations

The school was established with the intent to assist adolescents struggling with behavioral and addiction issues through a structured program that integrated academic and therapeutic components. The faculty included educational professionals, counselors, and support staff, maintaining a low student-teacher ratio to facilitate personalized attention. Notably, about half of the faculty and staff members had undergone a twelve-step recovery process themselves.

Academic and Extracurricular Achievements

Despite its controversies, The Family Foundation School had notable academic and extracurricular successes. For instance, its soccer team won a championship in 2005, and its Math Team received an honorable mention in a national challenge for their analysis of economic policies. Alumni of the school have gone on to achieve professional success, including Wells Thompson, who became a midfielder for the Major League Soccer team Colorado Rapids.

Controversies and Legal Challenges

The school’s operations were not without controversy. It was one of several residential programs scrutinized during Congressional hearings in 2007 and 2008 concerning the treatment of special-needs adolescents. The hearings examined practices such as using students to discipline others, leading to the school modifying its crisis-management methods to align with New York State Department of Education and Cornell University’s Therapeutic Crisis Intervention standards.

An activist campaign led by the Community Alliance for the Ethical Treatment of Youth (CAFETY) highlighted abusive conditions at the school. Allegations from former students included being restrained with blankets and duct tape and being forced to eat under duress. These reports led to an unannounced state inspection in 2010, which, while not finding current instances of abuse or neglect, expressed concerns over the consistency of troubling experiences reported by alumni.

In 2021, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of Jeanne Metzger, a former student, alleging sexual abuse, assault, and rape by a counselor at the school when she was a minor. The lawsuit claimed that the school engaged in a campaign that groomed students for abuse, further alleging retaliation against Metzger when she reported the assaults to the police. This legal action highlighted the severe implications of the alleged institutional practices at The Family Foundation School.


The Family Foundation School’s legacy is complex, marked by academic achievements and extracurricular successes on one hand, and serious allegations of abuse and legal challenges on the other. Its closure in 2014 followed a decline in enrollment, which many attribute to the fallout from these allegations​​​​.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *