40 years of faulty wiring

Beth Thomas, Candace Newmaker and Attachment Therapy Controversy

This is a follow-up to my original blog:  Children of Rage: Beth Thomas and Mary Bell. There appears to be confusion as to which therapist took Beth into her home for intensive attachment therapy. Some people believe it was Nancy Thomas however this is inaccurate.  Connell Watkins rehabilitated Beth in her home and it appears she did a remarkable job. There is also an ongoing debate about Beth’s current mental state, her career choice of R.N. working with children, and her recovery. Due to Thomas’s extreme change in personality as a child and her ability to bond with others, I believe she is fully recovered and a good candidate for working with children with extreme RAD (reactive attachment disorder).Note that Thomas doesn’t work with children with moderate RAD symptoms but rather children whose severe mental condition have echoed her own.

It is Nancy Thomas, Beth’s adoptive mother, who concerns me. She is currently associated with a clinic that was established by Connell Watkins and Julie Ponder, both of whom are responsible for the suffocation death (re-birthing therapy) of 10-year-old Candace Newmaker. Beth and Nancy have since opened their own clinic treating children with RAD

Details of the Newmaker case:

  1. Candace was informally diagnosed with extreme RAD although she did not meet the criteria.
  2. Connell Watkins, Julie Ponder, Jeane Newmaker (Candace’s adoptive mother) and two other adults used a technique called “re-birthing” on Candace allegedly to help her to bond with her adoptive mother.
  3. The rebirthing method involved wrapping Candace in a flannel sheet, placing pillows on her body and having 5 adults lean upon the child.
  4. She vomited and excreted, however the adults wouldn’t allow her release and after approximately 40 minutes, Candace expired.
  5. Candace endured what one psychiatric expert stated violated the Nuremburg Code on Permissible Medical Experimentation, the standard used at the trial of Nazi doctors after World War II.
  6. Colorado Gov. Bill Owens signed “Candace’s Law” which bans re-enactment of the birth process when it uses restraint that carries a risk of death or physical injury. Julie Ponder (left) and Connell Watkins were given 16 years imprisonment, however Watkins served just 7 years and was released on probation. She is no longer allowed to work with children. watch woman terminates adoption because she can’t bond

It is Nancy Thomas’s association with Watkins and Ponder that I find worrisome in her work with Beth. Nancy worked with Watkins and Ponder during the Newmaker murder.  Thomas owns two clinics “Families by Design” and “Stop America’s Violent Youth“. She remains an advocate and practitioner of Attachment Therapy (AT). Some of its techniques include screaming in the child’s face, shaking the child’s head violently, forcing the child to perform-type military exercise, isolation, food deprivation, taunting, rebirthing, and humiliation. Read a blog examining Nancy Thomas’s therapeutic methods and watch a child’s therapeutic session with Neil Feinberg, a therapist with whom Nancy Thomas trained,  Advocates for Children in Therapy: Opposing Abusive and Unvalidated Psychotherapy.

Nancy Thomas’s credentials include training with Watkins and Ponder, Feinberg, Deborah Hage, William Goble and others. Nancy has no educational or professional credentials, although she was once a dog trainer. Perhaps treating children and dogs overlap in AT. Goble was the therapist who diagnosed Newmaker without having met her. He claims to have a doctorate from Union Institute in Ohio, however this organization is not recognized by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Hage is a registered unlicensed psychotherapist who was involved in at least one rebirthing session on a child with Watkins before Newmaker’s death. watch stop martha welch attachment therapy

The connection in all of this mess with Beth Thomas is that she was a victim of severe RAD due to a sexually abusive father. Her first adoptive parents, Tim and Julie, were so concerned about Beth’s destructive behaviour that they locked her in her room at night. Ultimately they gave up custody of Beth. Watkins didn’t use re-birthing with Beth. Instead, Beth lived under tight rules in her house, needing permission for everything  from using the washroom to getting a glass of water. Although it seemed extreme, within a year Beth’s behaviour was radically different. She attended church with the Watkins, sang in the choir, attended school and was no longer considered dangerous. She was even permitted to share a room with Watkin’s daughter. Certainly in Beth’s case, Watkins’ therapeutic approach brought about positive changes. read advocates for children in therapy

Numerous alternative child discipline approaches abound. One such program is Tough Love, another unrecognized child therapy approach that advocates strict discipline toward a child or teenager. If the child violates a rule even once, there is an applicable disciplinary action. TL gained notoriety during the Karla Homolka-Paul Bernardo criminal cases, when two teenage girls, Leslie Mahaffey and Kristen French, were abducted, tortured and murdered separately for days by the murderous pair. Mahaffey had ignored a nighttime curfew and her parents, attendants at a TL support group, refused to let her inside their house. An hour later she was picked up by Homolka and Bernardo.  She was never seen alive again. watch how is paul bernardo doing?

Generally child therapy is recommended for a number of reasons including:

  1. behavioral problems (such as excessive anger, acting out, bedwetting or eating disorders)
  2. social withdrawal or isolation overly aggressive behavior (such as biting, kicking, or hitting)
  3. therapy following sexual, physical, or emotional abuse or other traumatic events

These reasons were applicable to Beth Thomas, however no one is certain if Candace Newmaker was a candidate for RAD therapy since her supposed symptoms, if they existed, have not been disclosed to the public. To hear Newmaker tell it, Candace was displaying poor behavior at home and developed a bad attitude, although Newmaker didn’t offer specifics. Candace was treated with medications but Jeane reported that Candace’s behaviors got worse, alleging playing with matches and killing goldfish. It was around this time that Newmaker made the fatal decision to take Candace to Watkins and Ponder’s clinic. The Beth Thomas and Candace Newmaker cases ended very differently although Watkins claims to have used AT practices with Beth. How and why she crossed the line with little Candace Newmaker is inexplicable but one thing is certain: Beth Thomas is lucky to be alive today.Read The Daily Bastardette – The therapeutic murder of Candace Newmaker et al

April 30, 2012 - Posted by | Bizarre yet True, corrruption, Crime and Punishment, Human psychology, Politics | , , , , , ,


  1. Thank you for clarifying these points. I have been puzzling for hours over who actually adopted Beth after Tim and Julie, and how the documentary by HBO did not show Beth’s therapy to be so radical and intrusive as that of poor Candace. It worries me that Beth may be involved in the forms of ‘therapy’ employed as part of Attachemnt Therapy, but I truly hope that she is able to employ her terrible early traumas and her own rehabilitation for the good of other mistreated children. Thanks again.

    Comment by Beck | November 25, 2012 | Reply

  2. Well, according to Nancy Thomas herself, Beth is her daughter and lived in her home. She was very clear on this point when I heard her speak.

    Comment by Autumn | December 11, 2012 | Reply

    • Beth was nancy’s daughter through adoption – she wasn’t nancy’s daughter originally – she was born into a highly abusive family. her mother died when she was 1 year old and her abusive father sexually and physically abused her until she was taken away from him at the age of 3. That is how Beth developed RAD.

      Comment by gothrules | December 12, 2012 | Reply

  3. That not completely accurate. Beth was taken from her father, along with her baby brother, when she was 19 months old. The couple who adopted her relinquished custody and she was adopted by Nancy Thomas.

    Comment by Lisa | January 27, 2013 | Reply

    • yes if you read the blog that’s what the explanation is – she was taken by children’s services out of the abusive home, julie and tim adopted her, couldn’t deal with the situation, and Nancy thomas adopted her. The full story is in the video I included.

      Comment by gothrules | January 28, 2013 | Reply

  4. Did the mother change names? I don’t get it, first you say Beth’s mom is named Julie (same as in the documentary), then you call her Nancy? Did she have to adoptive mothers? Sorry if its a stupid question

    Comment by N | May 12, 2013 | Reply

    • there are no stupid questions….this situation, like Beth’s life, is complex.

      Comment by gothrules | May 13, 2013 | Reply

  5. ok thanks so they all had the same last name

    Comment by N | May 12, 2013 | Reply

  6. Yes, she had TWO adoptive moms. 3 moms total if you include her biological mom. Her biological mom died. She was left with an abusive biological father. While still a baby, Beth and her brother were taken from the home by CPS and adoptive by Tim and Julie. Tim and Julie couldn’t deal with her, so they gave up just Beth (not the little brother). She was then adopted by Nancy Thomas (and became Beth Thomas) and Nancy, who COULD deal with her, sought therapy from Watkins. She only lived with Watkins as part of her therapy–Nancy Thomas remained her mom.

    Comment by lana | May 18, 2013 | Reply

  7. so so sad. So, what happened with her biological father? Does he still live? Does he know about the grave psychological harm and damage he did to his own daughter? What does he have to say about this?

    Comment by dove | June 29, 2013 | Reply

  8. Is she in the video?

    Comment by Heilmann | May 22, 2014 | Reply

    • Hard to say if that woman is the beth thomas I blogged about – this woman discusses palliative care and oncology. So far as I know Thomas is working with children with extreme RAD (reactive attachment disorder) like herself.

      Comment by marilyn4ever | May 27, 2014 | Reply

  9. […] In an excellent blog post by marilyn4ever, posted on October 30, 2010, Marilyn details Beth Thomas’s story with empathy and apparent clarity. I strongly suggest you read Beth’s post and a second post critiquing a controversial treatment program for RAD called Attachment Therapy, as well as Marilyn’s follow-up post on Attachment Therapy called Beth Thomas, Candace Newmaker and Attachment Therapy Controversy. […]

    Pingback by “Children of Rage”: The Strange Case of RAD Victim Beth Thomas and Her Re-Birthing Benefactor Connell Watkins | All Things Crime Blog | November 3, 2014 | Reply

    • Thank you for the kind words.

      Comment by marilyn4ever | November 9, 2014 | Reply

  10. […] In an excellent blog post by marilyn4ever, posted on October 30, 2010, Marilyn details Beth Thomas’s story with empathy and apparent clarity. I strongly suggest you read Beth’s post and a second post critiquing a controversial treatment program for RAD called Attachment Therapy, as well as Marilyn’s follow-up post on Attachment Therapy called Beth Thomas, Candace Newmaker and Attachment Therapy Controversy. […]

    Pingback by “Children of Rage”: The Strange Case of RAD Victim Beth Thomas and Her Re-Birthing Benefactor Connell Watkins | All Things Crime Blog | February 14, 2015 | Reply

    • Thank you.

      Comment by helthnut | February 23, 2015 | Reply

  11. No child should be exposed to this type of therapy PERIOD. The more I became aware of what was happening to these poor, already traumatized children, the angrier I became.What is happening in this “attachment disorder” quack therapy is all about making money no matter who gets hurt.Beth Thomas is lucky she survived and should be fighting against this retardedness, instead it sounds like she is cashing in on it. Disgusting

    Comment by Stephanie Boyer | December 15, 2015 | Reply

    • Beth Thomas was fortunate enough to receive a very different type of therapy than Candace Newmaker and it worked beautifully for her. I believe the people who killed Newmaker should be in prison.

      Comment by helthnut | February 15, 2016 | Reply

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