Also known as
Anderson Academy, Vero Beach Ranch for Boys
801 154th Ave., Vero Beach, FL 32966
No legally recognized accreditation
This 15-month residential program for boys was founded in 2001 and is connected with the international Teen Challenge network. It is not licensed by the state and no longer has a religious exemption under FACCCA.
It has been investigated by state child care officials 20 times in the past 10 years, with credible evidence of abuse found in eight cases, the most recent in 2011.
The school’s director, Maynard Sweigard, denied the abuse, but said the school once used a more rigid format when it followed the model based on a Teen Challenge program in Bonifay (also known as Gateway Christian Military Academy).
Punishments still include hours of on-and-off exercise. But in recent years, Sweigard says, he has relaxed the way he handles children on the ranch. "Our boys are happy as pigs in slop," he said. "They love it here."
Sweigard told the Times about a child in state care who was transferred to his home by an agency that contracts with the state to place foster children. Florida statutes ban children in state care from being placed in unlicensed homes.
The state launched an investigation to determine how the child wound up in the home and how many others like him may have been improperly placed in an unlicensed facility.
The home has applied for accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools as a boarding school.
Nick Palmer, 20
He says he benefited from the program when he was there from 2009 to 2010, and agreed with the forms of control, which included kids being shackled if they ran away or got violent.
Jordan Wilson, 19
In 2010, the state found evidence of inadequate supervision. In 2002, investigators verified asphyxiation and physical injury. Over the past decade another 18 cases were investigated with six turning up some evidence to support allegations of bizarre punishment, physical injury or neglect.
DCF abuse or neglect investigations
DCF verified cases
Maltreatment types reported
Maynard Sweigard says he was saved from drugs and alcohol by Teen Challenge. He was a jail chaplain and has prevoius experience running homes. " I know what state programs are like from evey angle and there is no way, there’s just no comparison," he said of his program. "Everything about what we do, from the food the boys eat to the structure of the program, everything is head and shoulders better than any state program I've looked at."
Group home profile last updated: Dec. 7, 2012, 1:49 p.m.