Casa by the Sea

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Current status Closed
Checked February 24, 2012
Close.gif Closed 2004

Casa by the Sea was a behavior modification facility located in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. (Satellite photo from Google Maps)

It was associated with World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASP). In 2004, it was shut down by Mexican authorities due to claims of child abuse.

Program description

Some detainees arrived tricked by their families but parents were advised to use a teen escort company. Description of such an event was published by Legal Affairs [1].

Level system

Both programs consisted of six levels. New detainees started at level 1, which had no privileges of any kind. They were followed round the clock by a junior staff member (A detainee on level 4 to 6). They had to show good behavior and attend a number of seminars in order to be voted up to the next level by their fellow detainees and therapists.

They were given a full physical examination, school assessment and an individual educational program, which they began working on immediately. At first, no phone calls were allowed, but parents and detainees were allowed to write letters to each other. Children were put into small groups, and each parent had an assigned time to speak with the group leader once a week for a half hour to discuss their child's progress.

Once Level 3 was achieved, a detainee was given phone privileges home as well as more privileges at the school, on and off the grounds. Levels 4 through 6 built on the foundations of the first three levels, adding new responsibilities and role reversal situations, with detainees working closely with kids coming in new to the program. Their training as a staff member was based solely on their own experiences in the program.

Outside of seminars, no contact with the opposite sex were allowed. Whenever people of the opposite sex were about to pass each other, they were required to stare at the ground rather than look at each other. Low level detainees were not allowed to look at the surroundings outside the campus. In early 2003 there was a co-ed activity where all detainees level 4 to 6 could mingle and eat pizza. Coincidentally there was a photographer during the entire event.


Negative behavior was addressed at once. Because there were only Spanish-speaking staff employed, any talk in English outside group therapy was regarded as negative behavior. Detainees who did not know Spanish before they arrived were punished until they learned the language.

Punishment consisted of being restrained and guided to a room where they could be forced to sit on the floor and look at a wall for hours. Detainees who continued to resist the program, could be transferred to a more harsh facility like High Impact (where detainees were kept in dog cages [2] , if they had problems with food) or Tranquility Bay.

In the news

Claims of lack of respect for their sexual orientation were made by former detainees. They even claim that the facility was used to impose a different sexual orientation upon them [3]. Parents have complained about the lack of therapy at the facility. There were complains about overcrowding (Children slept in hallways). They describe it a lock-down facility with low-paid and uneducated staff [4].

Former detainees complained of emotional scars due to their stay there [5] [6] [7]. An inmate on death row in Texas considers the surroundings on death row to be better than at the facility [8].

The facility was also occupied by European detainees. Those detainees, who came from societies with a more broad-minded and developed youth culture, were exposed to treatment that were so far from their daily life, that it was very close to torture [9].

When the facility did shut down, a lot of parents - who themselves had attended seminars where they have been exposed to brainwashing techniques [10] - were outraged when the news about the closure reached them. Some of the detainees had another opinion about the situation [11]

Seaside academy

The facility was believed to have reopened in 2006 as Seaside academy but it later turned out that it was a new facility now known as Oceanside Teen Center.

Notable alumni

Notable alumni from Casa by the Sea include:

In the media

  • In the TV-show "Weeds" the Character of Quinn Hodes is sent to Casa Reforma [13]
  • In the Dr. Phil show "I Love Myself" Dr. Phil attacks a family who have sent their daughter to Casa by the Sea but he is very carefully not to mention Casa's name [14]
  • A group is in the process of writing a book about the facility [15].
  • 2011 the company was sued by a man who have detained at the facility during his teenage years [16]

External links

Info pages

Community groups

Message boards


  1. WANT YOUR KID TO DISAPPEAR?, by Nadya Labi (July 2004, Legal Affairs)
  2. How To Save A Troubled Kid, by Maia Szalavitz November 2004
  3. The Battle Over Gay Teens, Time Magazine, october 2005
  4. Parents Shopping for Discipline Turn to Harsh Programs Abroad, New York Times, Marts 2003
  5. The Worse Experience of My Life, by Melanie L.
  6. The lessons I learned at Casa by the Sea, by Sarah Barlow
  7. Casa by the Sea: A memory that will haunt me forever, by Jennifer Ilona Chambard
  8. 8,0 8,1 Casa by the sea, Save Michael Perry
  9. Banished to boot camp, BBC, January 2003
  10. Breaking the Vow of Secrecy
  11. Parents, youths shocked by sudden closure of school for troubled teens, SignonSanDiago 2004
  12. 12,0 12,1 Farrah Fawcett's kid..., Anti-wwasp Casa by the sea forum
  13. Ouinn Hodes, weed wikipedia
    Weeds on Internet Movie Database
    TV shows and the Troubled Teen Industry, a thread on Fornits webforum
  14. "I Love Myself", Dr. Phil TV-show homepage
  15. Casa by the Sea- book, facebook
  16. Utah-based program for troubled youths tortured teen boy, lawsuit alleges, By Dennis Romboy, Deseret News, June 1, 2011