Boys Ranch was aware of the dangerous condition on their premises. Stuart and Andy’s outcries are corroborated by similar reports spanning decades. Within the past two years, dozens of former Boys Ranch residents have made outcries of physical and sexual abuse they endured while in Boys Ranch[’s] care.

Photo credit: Billy Hathorn. Photo has been modified.

Two weeks after the Associated Press/Dallas published a scathing new look at egregious abuses that continued for decades at Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch in North Texas, the institution is being sued on behalf of 2 former child residents who say they were sexually abused while living there in the 2000s.

An Austin-based law firm is suing Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch on behalf of two boys who allege they were repeatedly sexually abused while living at the institution. Boys Ranch, as it is often called, is a faith-based, privately funded residential institution outside Amarillo.

The plaintiffs (named as pseudonyms in the legal brief) are victim Stuart Roberts and Tom White, father of victim Andy White. The lawsuit alleges that both boys were “exposed to sexually aggressive behavior” by older residents and that Boys Ranch knew that the boys were vulnerable to danger and failed to keep them safe.

Boys Ranch, which has been in operation since 1939, takes in children whose parents or guardians cannot or do not want to care for them. The legal filing can be viewed here. Read about the lawsuit in this May 29 article by the Associated Press.

Andy’s parents enrolled him at Boys Ranch in 2015 when he was 9 years old. Within days, he was “exposed to sexually aggressive behavior by an older resident with whom Boys Ranch placed him,” according to the legal filing. Stuart arrived at Boys Ranch in 2010 at the age of 11. Two years later, within days of being placed in one dorm, he was similarly victimized.

The lawsuit states that Boys Ranch exposed Stuart and Andy to, and did not protect them from, sexual abuse while in Boys Ranch’s care, despite the fact that the institution promised a “safe, therapeutic” residential environment for children. What’s more, the court filing states that Boys Ranch was aware of the “dangerous condition on their premises. Stuart and Andy’s outcries are corroborated by similar reports spanning decades. Within the past two years, dozens of former Boys Ranch residents have made outcries of physical and sexual abuse they endured while in Boys Ranch[’s] care.”

The Child-Friendly Faith Project (CFFP), an Austin-based nonprofit organization, advocates for abuse survivors of Boys Ranch. The CFFP co-manages a closed Facebook group with survivors that has nearly 120 members. Last year, the CFFP organized the first Boys Ranch Survivors Reunion.

A Pattern of Failing to Keep Children Safe

According to the court filing, the alleged abuses are not isolated events. Rather, they “resulted from the continuation of a long-standing and deeply entrenched dangerous condition throughout Boys Ranch’s facility.”

“Just like many of the survivors that endured sexual abuse at Boys Ranch over the past seventy years, Stuart’s and Andy’s house parents failed to protect them from being abused by older residents – and both were sexually abused by older residents in their dormitories,” states the filing.

The filing shows a pattern of Boys Ranch failing to protect children from abuse by describing incidents involving 10 men and 1 woman who lived at Boys Ranch from the 1950s through the 2000s. For example:

D.S. (who lived at Boys Ranch from 1990 to 1993) was sexually, physically, and emotionally abused. “When he first arrived at Boys Ranch at the age of 15, another resident threatened to physically assault D.S. if he did not engage in sexual activity with another resident – and D.S. was forced to comply. D.S. reported that sexual abuse was common at Boys Ranch: boys on boys, staff on boys, staff on girls, and boys on girls. Not long after his initial sexual abuse, another resident began sexually touching D.S., sometimes multiple times a day.”

C.P. (who lived at Boys Ranch in 2002) says his house parents physically and emotionally abused him and other residents, “once giving him a black eye and a likely concussion. C.P. also reports that his house parents forced him and other residents to carry buckets of animal excrement back-and-forth without purpose and dig holes in sand without purpose.” CP was also subjected to physical abuse by older residents, “including being forced to fight every other dorm resident in his group home in a single night.”

J.D. (who lived at Boys Ranch in the 2000s) reported to law enforcement that her house parent “sexually touched her countless times – almost daily – while she was in Boys Ranch’s care. It was reported to law enforcement that J.D.’s abuser had previous investigations and disciplinary actions for similar accusations through Boys Ranch. J.D.’s abuser and Boys Ranch house parent is now listed on the sex offender registry.”

The lawsuit states that the survivors uniformly reported that the abuse “occurred, continued, and remained unaddressed due to two simple facts: (1) Boys Ranch staff would not intervene to protect their residents from being abused by older residents or staff, and (2) there was a culture of fear throughout Boys Ranch that silenced the reporting of abuse by residents.”

AP Story Details Abuses during Boys Ranch’s 80th Anniversary Year

In a May 11 article published by the Associated Press, abuse survivors talked about having suffered childhood trauma and extreme abuse and neglect while living at Boys Ranch. One man who was interviewed for the story called Boys Ranch a “horror house” where sadistic staff members whipped children until they were bloody and boys were repeatedly raped.

Boys Ranch has been celebrating its 80th anniversary by holding fundraising events and sending out emails without mentioning the abuses. In the AP story, CEO Dan Adams said he didn’t want survivors’ stories incorporated into Boys Ranch’s account of its history. Adams also said he would not do what legal experts say gives validation to survivors—and what the Amarillo Globe-News has twice urged Boys Ranch to do: hire a third party to investigate abuse allegations.

Many survivors feel Boys Ranch is covering up untold numbers of abuse cases and should be doing more to help survivors with critical daily life needs. Many struggle with problems such as PTSD and substance abuse, due to having suffered abuse at Boys Ranch. Some have committed suicide; others are living on the street. In one particularly tragic case, a survivor is dying from asbestosis as a result of having been exposed to asbestos while working in Boys Ranch’s dining hall as a child while it was being renovated.

While Boys Ranch claims to care about its alumni, it has been criticized for treating abuse survivors with disdain. In a 2018 alumni newsletter, Boys Ranch CEO Dan Adams referred to abuse allegations as “chatter.” Last year, the institution named a new dorm after Lamont Waldrip, a former superintendent of Boys Ranch (now deceased) whom survivors say was a renowned abuser. In a July 13, 2018 email to the CFFP, Adams threatened that he and his staff would “distance ourselves” from survivors needing help if the CFFP continued to advocate on their behalf.

About a month ago, Boys Ranch contracted with Praesdium, an Arlington, TX-based organization that educates institutions about abuse and develops best practices in abuse prevention. The CFFP learned about the program by chance when its founder and board member Janet Heimlich visited Boys Ranch’s website a couple weeks ago. After speaking to Praesidium’s CEO, Heimlich learned that the organization now will refer Boys Ranch survivors to local therapeutic services and pay for those services (to be reimbursed by Boys Ranch).

For two years, the CFFP had been insisting that Boys Ranch set up a third-party entity to provide support to abuse survivors. Heimlich notes that Boys Ranch didn’t contact the CFFP or lead survivor Steve Smith to let them know that the Praesidium program was being considered or had been implemented. It wasn’t mentioned in the spring alumni newsletter and hasn’t been highlighted in Boys Ranch’s marketing emails.

“This is an excellent first step that Boys Ranch has taken,” says Heimlich, “but no matter how good a program is, it can’t help survivors if they’re not told about it.”

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