‘My experience in Utah did me good’

  • Homely feel: Moonridge Academy in Utah (Photograph from website)

    Homely feel: Moonridge Academy in Utah (Photograph from website)

A young woman who spent more than a year in a Utah residential institution said the experience was a good influence on her life.

The 27-year-old revealed that she enjoyed theatre and rafting trips as part of her time at Moonridge Academy in Utah when she was a teenager.

But she said no litigation guardian was appointed to speak for her before she was sent away and she claimed no officials from Bermuda’s childcare services visited during her time in the US.

The woman said: “Reading the articles now, that’s what makes me irritated ... children now having legal guardians or representation. I didn’t.”

She explained that she went to live with a relative as a child after a breakdown in her parents’ living arrangements.

Her behaviour sparked cause for concern when she was about 12.

The woman said at some point, although she cannot remember all the details, she was taken into the care of the Department of Child and Family Services.

The youngster had a therapist, and an educational consultant was asked to consider treatment centres for her.

She said Moonridge Academy’s “homely” feel meant it was chosen out of three alternatives and she travelled there when she was about 14.

The woman added: “It was an all-girls treatment centre, I was the only black person there when I went.

“It was OK because after a couple of months another brown-skinned girl came so we were able to talk and connect.

“No racist stuff happened to me out there.

“I still stay in contact with some of the girls that were there.”

Moonridge Academy’s website said it “provides a specialised unique learning and healing environment” for girls aged between 11 and 15.

The woman explained she shared a “well-kept” room with four other girls.

Residents performed chores and attended school on weekdays until noon, followed by private therapy sessions.

They attended Moonridge’s sister school Kolob Canyon at weekends. The school’s website said it was set in a 23-acre horse ranch that provided a “perfect outdoor classroom”.

The woman said: “It was beneficial because I think if I would have stayed [in Bermuda], I would have ended up with a child super early.”

She added: “It had some good times. I went white-water rafting twice, I got to see Shakespeare plays, I went to see a Titanic exhibition in Las Vegas.”

The girl was at Moonridge for about a year and a half and said she believed she returned to Bermuda for visits up to three times.

But she said did not remember ever getting visits or phone calls from staff at the Department of Child and Family Services.

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