"These [children] must grow up with a feeling that they have a real home." - Milton S. Hershey

PHC White Paper - Requests Department of Justice Action

For immediate release: Watchdog Group Issues White Paper Sounding Alarm on "Epidemic of Mistreated Children" at $12 Billion Hershey Charity, Calls for Department of Justice Action to Remedy Discrimination Against Children Suffering Depression and Other Abuses (Hershey, PA. November 12, 2014)

Protect The Hersheys' Children, Inc. (PHC), a child welfare advocacy group seeking reform of the $12 billion Milton Hershey School Trust, announced today that it has called for federal action at the troubled charity.

The request came in the form of a white paper that outlines a "pattern of discrimination" at Hershey and was sent yesterday to United States Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.

"Epidemic of Mistreated Children"

The paper's first half focuses on what the group calls "bright-line and open discrimination against children suffering from treatable depression."

According to the group, the Hershey charity's stewards have been systematically expelling children who suffer from depression, rather than providing them treatment, "primarily to protect [Hershey's] pristine image." This has led to at least "a hundred or more...victims suffering in silence right now, many alone and lacking anyone in the world to care for them," says PHC.

Thirteen examples of allegedly mistreated children are cited. This includes one child, Abbie Bartels, who took her own life shortly after being expelled.

Another student is described as going "from [Hershey] poster child to homeless cast-off."

One former student from Massachusetts is quoted as saying: "I was a 4.0 student and top of my class. One summer while home for break my grandmother passed away...I was in a very fragile state. I had notes from medical professionals begging for the school to allow me back in but they didn't. My heart was broken. The fact that the school I loved so much and called home for so long would just kick me to the curb devastated me. I too thought about taking my own life."

PHC says the known cases are "only the tip of the iceberg." The group asks federal authorities "to identify all of the victims...so that they can at least receive help."

According to PHC, "Alleviating the stigma visited on these blameless children, with its otherwise lifelong consequences, requires nothing less."

Broader Systemic Illness, Cascading Problems

With an accompanying exhibit binder containing dozens of news articles, court opinions, and other evidence, PHC's white paper also argues that Hershey discrimination is merely one symptom of a larger, systemic illness. According to the group, this hurts children on a massive scale and squanders hundreds of millions of child welfare dollars. Says PHC, "While ending...discrimination is imperative, to do no more would leave the illness untreated. A meaningful cure is needed."

To support its case, PHC points to a pattern of Hershey problems involving abused children, staggering attrition, reckless housing experiments, and recent incidents of pedophilia, child pornography, and questionable behavior by Hershey administrators.

PHC's white paper focuses on what the group says is inadequate Hershey leadership and a board of managers that is "riddled with conflicts of interest."

Citing the board's questionable decisions, including use of charitable funds to purchase a luxury golf course and compensation that totals over a million dollars for several board members, PHC calls for complete overhaul.

According to PHC, the Hershey board's composition is fatally flawed and has produced a string of inadequate school president choices. Says PHC, these choices "in turn create a downward cascade of problems that afflict the school at every level."

Among other problems, PHC asserts that inadequate senior leadership has led to mass departures of frontline staff and plummeting houseparent morale.

Compromised State Oversight

PHC also blasts Pennsylvania oversight authorities for failing to remedy Hershey problems, or even insist that the charity's board include child welfare professionals.

The problem with Pennsylvania oversight, according to PHC, is that Hershey's stewards have used"the school's vast wealth to politicize the charity and seduce [state authorities] into non-action."

In support of this, the white paper cites plum Hershey appointments bestowed on state attorney general cronies, use of charitable resources for political campaigns, and, most recently, a family link between a high-ranking oversight official and the charity.

Says PHC, "The picture that emerges is a thoroughly ugly one, wherein needy children's interests are trampled in a stampede of Pennsylvania politicians frenetically trying to access Hershey's $12 billion... This in turn has made a mockery of [state] oversight, even when children's safety is at stake."

Call For Action

As a result of the failure by state officials to act, the white paper calls for intervention by the Department of Justice, "if our nation's civil rights and nonprofit laws are to have any meaning at all."

PHC's white paper is available here. The accompanying exhibits are available here.