Therapeutic Boarding Schools & Residential Treatment
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Therapeutic Boarding Schools & Residential Treatment
Do you have experience placing a child in a therapeutic foster home? I
am considering this for my 14-year-old adopted daughter who is
exhibiting increasingly risky and unnaceptable behaviors such as
smoking weed, running away from home overnight, and having violent
outbreaks with me. She has always been out of the normal range for
developmental milestones, is diagnosed with ADD and anxiety, takes mood
stabilizing medication, and has an IEP for accommodations in school.
She started high school this year and is already floundering and making
poor choices of friends. I am a single parent and it has gotten to the
point where most of our interactions are negative and
confrontative--beyond the norm for cranky teens. Our therapist
recommends a placement in a home associated with Families by
Design/Nancy Thomas Parenting, saying she is concerned that my child
will soon precipitate a crisis which could be more painful than placing
her outside of our home. Any advice or experience you can share would
be helpful. Thanks in advance.
Worried Sick Mom
Our adopted daughter is 16 and just completed 12 weeks in a wilderness
program and is now attending a therapeutic boarding school. I would be more
than happy to share what we have learned along this journey thus far. I can
tell you that I feel so relieved that we are moving forward in getting help
for her and us. Karen
Please do NOT send your daughter away. I think it would be a mistake. We
were at our wits end when our son was doing the same thing - leaving the
house in the middle of the night, having the wrong friends, doing scary
things. However, we got counseling at Kaiser - I asked for a male
psychologist since he was a boy and it turned out well. We only met once a
( I had changed therapists when things got worse, thinking we needed to go
once a week) but that was awful and we went back to Kaiser. It took TIME.
We met as a family for half the session and our son met with him alone for
the other half. It saved me as I was about to jump off a cliff - literally.
Get help. The counselor at school. talk to teachers - let them know what is
going on. Things will get better, and believe me, I did not think they ever
would. Our son is also adopted ( at birth), dyslexic, etc. They are under
enormous pressure to 'keep up' with other kids. But again, get some help.
No one can do this alone, least of all a single mom. I learned how to
ignore the awful language, and when I refused to participate in the
screaming and yelling, his behavior changed. It took 2 years. Then his
spaceship returned to earth. He is a senior now ( he switched schools too)
and is a nice kid. My suggestion is to surround yourself with help and love
and get another therapist. I would never send my kid away. Her 'symptoms'
sound in the ballpark, not out of it.
Do NOT Give Up
I would like to hear from parents who have had to resort to used
residential treatment centers for their teenagers. Hope to get names of the
better ones, ones to avoid, and what your experience was an how it helped
your troubled teen. Need info soon. Thanks
I agree with the advice to avoid sending the child away without trying
family and individual therapy (sometime just for the parent).
You might check on the ones Dr. Phil uses. Avoid Teen Help (or whatever
they call themselves today), Cross Creek Manor. Really check out the
program that are not in CA.
We are in the same place you are and just consulted with David
Heckenlively, an MFT/Educational Consultant. 3 different therapists
recommended him. We just had our first session and his specialty is
matching teens with residential treatment facilities. He also runs a
support group for parents when their kids are in residential. His
website is www.integratedteen.com 925.681.1700. We felt relieved to
meet him. I feel we are in good hands and we will be able to get our son
to the right place and the right help.
I will concur with another poster. Please, do not send your child to a
residential treatment center. I did this with my daughter, with a
psychiatrist and educational consultant adamantly saying I should place
her immediately. She was in the program for 17 months and the effect was
traumatic. My daughter was damaged further at the treatment center, which
was very behaviorally based and which blamed her repeatedly. The result?
My daughter was not only filled with guilt, she left the center with PTSD
and she is now reluctant to seek any mental health treatment. Please,
there are therapists who are gifted and who can save your family much
agony. I recommend highly Terry Trotter in Albany. Oh that I would have
known Terry when my daughter was spiraling out of control.
We would appreciate any shared experiences with Residential Therapy
Centers. Our 16 year old daughter is in a wilderness program
currently. I went to Utah to visit a few schools, one was nice, one
didn't have the ''right'' feel about it and the last was creepy. We
would like to compare a couple more before making the commitment.
Our daughter is struggling with adoption related issues that have
affected her ability to properly manage relationships, set
appropriate boundaries and have caused very low self esteem. No
We had an Ed. Consultant for the wilderness placement but felt
under supported so are managing this next step on our own. If you
have had good or bad experiences at an RTC we would really
appreciate if you would share your experiences.
Mom of adopted teen daughter
First I offer you my compassion. I adopted two girls, one domestically
and one from China. Both are now young adults. My oldest also had a lot
of difficulty in her teen years. RAD was discussed by one therapist,
PTSD by another, Severe Clinical Depression always, and Bipolar
Disorder as well. It turns out all of the above were wrong. She has
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder- not the full syndrome as she does not
have the facial characteristics. Gotta tell you that RAD is one of the
diagnoses that is used in error for young people who were exposed
inutero to alcohol. I mention this to you, as the diagnosis is crucial
and the treatment is very, very different. The behavioral programs of
residential treatment centers and therapeutic boarding school are
contraindicated ! for children with FASD- won't work and your kid will
only get blamed for what is brain based behavior.
I used Molly Baron. It turned out that she
was on the board of the therapeutic boarding school my daughter went
to. Molly had a conflict of interest because she represented the school
that my daughter went to and when it came down to it, Molly represented
the school, not my daughter. I was not the only parent who ended up in
this situation. She never disclosed her
dual relationship to me. And, I spoke with more than one consultant;
they all recommended the same group of programs.
A lot of programs do not have well thought out transition programs.
Kids go from the tight structure of program back to home and many fall
apart. I have kept touch with graduates of my daughter's program. The
number of girls who become pregnant, into drugs again, .... is
astounding post graduation.
If I had it to do all over again, I would send my daughter to Second
Nature for a wilderness program and then home to a therapist in Albany,
Terry Trotter. Terry is skilled beyond what I have seen in any other
clinician and I have had experience both professionally over 30 years
and with my daughter. If you can keep your daughter at home via Terry's
help, do so! My daughter was hurt greatly by the therapeutic program
she was in- filled with guilt, traumatized, her disability left
untreated, and unprepared for life after program. Issues of abandonment
were only exacerbated as well. Caveat Emptor.
are you sure you need a residential therapy center and not a
therapeutic boarding school? they are very different and i did
not know that until i found myself in a similar situation to
yours. my heart goes out to you in this journey--it isn't easy
to make the decision to send your child away for his/her best
benefit. our family went through a similar process with our
teen and i did more research for this ''project'' than i did my
graduate school thesis. and still, we needed an educational
consultant. you did not say who you used, but there is a range
of skill/talent out there. we have benefited from working with
David Heckenlively at Integrated Teen Services. he's in walnut
creek--far for us, but it has been worth the drive for the
holistic and individualized approach he takes. best of luck to
I know what you are going through. First, we had a GREAT Ed.
Conslt. Molly Baron in SF @Mallory, Mclure & Baron. I highly
recommend her. We have had to handle several difficult
situations and Molly has been a lifeline. She is very involved.
My child is at a Utah RTC, Island View and seems to be doing
well. The staff is very professional and my interactions with
them have been good across the board - from getting ins.
coverage to therapy. No adoption issues. Island View also has
an adoption program, but I don't know the quality of the program
or if it would be a good fit for your daughter. A friend does
have very serious adoption issues with her daughter and Molly
recom'd a place - Unitah? - in Utah that specializes in adoption
issues and sounds wonderful. Note that the RTC's will negotiate
the fee by quite a bit, so don't foreclose a facility due to the
fee. Tell them what you can afford and see what happens. My
sense is that in this ecconomy the places are not full. Just be
careful. Some places look great, but are not. That is were
the Ed. Conslt. makes such a difference. Let me know if I can
give you anymore info that would be helpful.
Our adopted son is at Sorenson School
We also made the rounds and ended up choosing Sorenson because
they had horse therapy, a wood working program, and it wasn't a
locked facility. They also have a large adopted population and
they have experience dealing with RAD issues.
He has only been there for three months and it's been hard not
having him around. The school is tough but fair and
academically, he is doing better than he ever did when he was at
He still has a long ways to go. In fact, as a family, we all
have a long way to go. However, it seems that for right now,
this is the best place for him.
I am not sure what your financial situation is, but as we know
residential treatment is very expensive I want to make sure you
are aware of the adoption assistance program (AAP).
If your adoption was a ''public adoption'' you definately
qualify.Some private adoptions also qualify. Here is the
language about who qualifies in California:
In order to be eligible for State-funded adoption assistance a
child must be the subject of an agency adoption and one of the
following circumstances applies:
Under the supervision of the County Welfare Department (CWD) as
the ward of a legal guardianship or as a juvenile court
Relinquished to a licensed California private or public adoption
agency or to another public agency operating a Title IV-E
program on behalf of the State, and would otherwise have been at
risk of dependency as certified by the CWD or
Committed to the care of California Department of Social
Services (CDSS) or a licensed private or public adoption agency
pursuant to Family Code section 8805 or 8918 (failed adoptive
If your child qualifies AAP should be paying for whatever
program you choose. I am a former adoptions social worker and
have several friends who have adopted children that have been
placed in residential care. AAP has payed for the programs. So
do not accept ''NO'' as an answer from them if your child
qualifies based on what agency the child came through. Remember,
your income is NOT a factor in determining if you qualify for
AAP.You would contact the agency you went through for the
adoption to find out about AAP. the I know what you are going
through is really difficult. I have an adopted daughter who gave
me a run for my money and know many parents in your situation.
Take Care of yourself the best you can during this stressful
We are a two dad family and we adopted our boys six years
ago when they were 6 and 7. They were severely abused by
their biological parents and spent two years in a foster
home before we adopted them. Our oldest is now 13 and the
last six months have been a living nightmare. He has always
been an in-your-face type of kid always craving attention
but when puberty hit, he became extremely anger. Cursing at
his teachers, destroying his room, threatening others. We
had to call the police a few times to calm him down. We
ended up pulling him out of Catholic school and put him in a
private school specializing in ADHD. We had about six good
weeks but then he started receiving packages from Best Buy.
It seems he stole some gift cards from us back in October
and started using them. It was one thing after another with
the stealing and the cost came close to $500. Finally, a
parent at his new school has said that she heard from her
child that my son talks a lot about hurting himself.
We are pretty overwhelmed and not sure we can give him the
help he needs. We learned that adoption assistance will pay
up to 18 months in boarding school costs so we are looking
at that alternative. I have a lot of guilt about sending
him away but my partner is tired of coming home every day
and walking on egg shells. I am also not sure how this will
impact his younger brother.
We have looked at Red Rock Canyon School and Sorensen Ranch
but I was wondering if anyone had any recommendations and
what type of success they had with a therapeutic boarding
This is a hard time us. We want to keep him safe but we are
not sure we can do this without some help.
Thanks for reading.
Hi Mark, Please look at our website, willowsinthewind.com. We are a
group of parents whose children are now enrolled in, or have graduated
from, Therapeutic Boarding Schools. We meet once a month in Los Altos,
and once a month in Marin County. The Marin group is likely closer to
you. The Los Altos group is larger since it has been ongoing for five
years while the Marin group is less than a year old. During our
meetings we share our concerns and hopes for our kids. Feel free also,
to call me personally. Are you working with a
therapist already? If so, do they have an educational consultant they
work with? Your son will likely benefit from a wilderness experience
followed by a boarding school experience. Educational consultants are
familiar with these programs and can guide you to one that would meet
your son's needs. I highly urge you to use a consultant, since schools
use different methods. From our experience, I suggest you not use a
school that claims it can help your son and send him back home in six
months. It takes a long time for teens to internalize what they are
learning so they can use their new skills when they come home. Ed
consultants are expensive - thousands of dollars, so ask for a free
appointment first if see if you feel you have a ''fit'' with the person
you use. Please phone or email me and I will give you some names to
try. Your first duty as a parent is to keep your child safe. It
sounds like you can't do that right now.
Has anyone sent their teen to Montana Academy? We would love to hear any
experiences with this school?
Also any other recommendations for schools and/or summer wilderness
camps that people have had positive experiences with would be
My daughter went to Montana Academy about 10 years ago. It's a great
program. Feel free to send me an email at the above address with a
phone number and time to call (other than this evening) and we can
chat further if you wish.
I also posted a response to the question about wilderness programs.
I really recommend you talk to an educational consultant. A
consultant knows the various programs and how they work and their
strengths and weaknesses. Ed. consultants are expensive but
otherwise it is just you and the internet and it is impossible to
know what the programs are really like. A consultant can also put
you in touch with other parents who know the programs.
A parent who has been there
Also received: Wilderness Programs
Can anyone provide a parent-and-teen recommendation for small
boarding schools that would help with PTSD and grief? My
15-year-old daughter is smart and talented, but significant
life events have knocked her emotionally. She suffers from
guilt and her self-esteem is very low. I am concerned that a
therapeutic school will not offer her the challenge or
academics that she needs to return to life after boarding
school. On the other hand, I'm concerned that an academic
school may not have enough support for her psychological
health. She has begun to act out. We've been researching
schools for several weeks and I've talked to an educational
consultant, but our funds are limited. Plus, I'd rather hear
from an actual parent and teen with direct experience than a
school or consultant. Summer programs are also of interest.
Any help would be greatly appreciated!
I faced the same choice you are about to make with my then 15
year old daughter. Please think of an alternative. Boarding
schools are not prepared to deal with PTSD. And, therapeutic
boarding schools are typically very behavioral and the
therapists are typically interns who leave right after they
become licensed. My daughter, who also had PTSD and was acting
out, went to a therapeutic boarding school. The staff was not
trained clinically and she was punished over and over for
symtpoms that really were trauma based.
I wish then that I knew about a therapist in Albany, Terry
Trotter, who is an expert in the treatment of trauma, really an
expert. Terry also is a phenomenal therapist. Please consider
making an appointment and trying treatment with this therapist
as an alternative to the much more drastic solution of boarding
school. Finally, a regular boarding school will not be a place
where your daughter can heal. The above is probably the real
issue- acting out is often a part of PTSD, especially with a
You might want to look at Scattergood Friends School in West Branch
Iowa. It is a wonderful school that becomes home to an eclectic mix
of kids. I can't say enough good about it AND it is relatively
affordable. Please feel free to call with questions.
We've been fighting for a decade to get support for our teenager who was
Bipolar Disorder 1 almost five years ago. Honestly, I'm at the point
where I'm too beaten
down to keep fighting on his behalf. Our son is quick to anger, steals
from us constantly, and
just generally is verbally abusive and unkind. We have done wraparound
county mental health (a joke), we have a great psychiatrist who has him
fairly stable on meds
but he is so hard to live with that the entire family is suffering.
We're looking at an
outrageously expensive school in Utah (and I know some people on this
list think it's bad
parenting to send a child to a Utah school, but hey, YOU take my kid for
a month and watch
how your quality of life deteriorates). Here's my question: I know there
is support for foster
kids but are there any kinds of support -- both emotional and financial
-- for the parents of
adopted kids with mental disorders? Thanks.
My adoptive son just returned from a school (Red Rock Canyon) in Utah.
If your son is adopted through the county, not a private adoption,
then they will pay for up to 18 months of residential treatment. We
also have WRAP services, but do not have a BP diagnosis. I have mixed
feelings about the school experience, and overall was not pleased.
There are many private residential schools that I have heard are good,
however, the county will pay for a private non-profit only. I fully
understand that the family is being held hostage by these behaviors. I
wish you luck, and feel free to contact me. Another Berkeley adoptive
another adoptive parent
Our situations have some things in common, and I'd be happy to share
info with you. My teenage son attends a residential school, and it's
been tremendously helpful for him. Send me an email if you'd like to
get in touch.
Our non-profit organization ''Willows In The Wind'' holds support
groups for parents that have teens in residential care/therapeutic
schools. Many parents come that have teens that have come home from
progams because they want support from other parents that have been
through this journey. Check out our website at
www.willowsinthewind.com. Willows also holds workshops on
transitioning your teen back home. Our next workshop is Aug. 28 and
29th. These workshops help you to work on your own personal
concerns about the family dynamic and re-entry. We also help parents
who are looking to make a decision about therapeutic placement.
Please feel free to contact me at 650 868 1988.
Willows In The Wind
I do not know of any assistance the state has.
Instead, I want to express understanding of your ''beaten down''
feelings and give you something else to check on.
I have an adopted teenage daughter who steals, lies, and has
significant anger issues. We were so lucky when we stumbled on a
great psychiatrist. It turns out the anger and violence are due to
chemicals in the brain not working right -- not Bipolar.
When your son has his anger explosions, does he seem to go into a
trance where only time by himself will make him snap out of it?
After these episodes is he saddened by what happened?
There is no name to what my daughter has ... yet, but our
psychiatrist knew exactly what the problem was when she heard us
describe what was happening. If this sounds like your son, ask your
psychiatrist about the medicine TOPIRAMATE.
My daughter is coming home in December from an RTC program in Utah.
Does anyone know of after care services/groups they can recommend?
She's been gone for 18 months and does not want to go back to her
high school so we are also looking for another public school without
much luck. I'd love to hear from parents who have been in this
situation with their child.
I do have experience with the issues you raised. Here are some
suggestions. There is an organization, in Orinda I think, called
Coytote Coast that specializes in working with teens who are
returning from programs or who ar struggling at home. Give them a
call and see what services they can provide for your daughter and
I know an excellent therapist in Albany. Excellent is not the word;
she is remarkable. The therapist's name is Terry Trotter. I
recommend her highly as someone for your daughter.
Where did your daughter go to school before she entered a RTC? I
must admit that I have qualms about a teen going directly from a RTC
to a large, public school. I would rather, if possible, for a teen
in the above circumstances, to go to a small school, where she will
have more support. If this is not possible, do make sure that your
daughter has a contact person assigned to her at her new school.
Also, will your daughter be in special education?
I recommend a mentor, perhaps a college student, for your daughter.
I need help finding residential treatment away from the Bay Area for my 16 year old adopted
daughter. I am certain she has Reactive Attachment Disorder along with her ADHD. She
cannot live with me due to several violent episodes which have left me with permanent scars
and the physical and verbal abuse of her younger brother. She was living with her father (we
have been divorced for 5 plus years) but he has asked her to leave within a few months due
her running away and unwillingness to adhere to any house rules. Her grades are not passing
and she has fallen in with other students with multiple issues. She loves animals and I am
interested in sending her to a Camp which includes equine therapy. Has anyone had any
success with this approach? The camps are quite expensive and I want to make sure they
would be effective. Any constructive feedback or references greatly appreciated.
I can sympathize with you right now. I went through the same thing
about 9 months ago with my 16 year old son. He was spiraling out of
control, dropped out of school, and was running away anytime I put a
restriction on him. This Wednesday he is coming home for the first
time in nine months a changed young man! I sent him to SUWS
wildnerness program in Idaho for one month which he still thanks me
for to this day. It made a complete turn around for him. He cried
when we left the desert after his graduation. From there he went on
to boarding school at Aspen Ranch in Utah. This is where all the
things he learned in the wilderness program sunk in and became a
part of him. I took a great deal of time researching schools and I
even flew up to Utah to look at different programs first hand before
I sent my son there. Yes, there are some bad programs so take your
time choosing one. It has changed his life and I am happy to say
that he is coming home as the son I always knew he could be! I can't
say enough good things about the programs! They also retrain the
parents on how to better parent your child, it is not all about
changing them so be ready for some intense, hard, life altering
work, many trips to Utah for parent workshops which were very
valuable! Also this is not cheap, I spent everything I had saved for
my son's collage and my own savings, even selling some of my
personal things for him to stay there. But he wasn't even going to
graduate high school on the path he was choosing let alone collage.
I am a single mom of 3. But I could never live with myself knowing
that I had spent more money on cars in my life than I was willing to
spend on saving my child. They deal with all types of issues there,
adoption issues, oppositional defiance, drug use, and so on. This
program is for kids who are inherently good but are making bad
choices. Feel free to email me if you have more questions. Good
My heart goes out to you. I have a daughter who is now in her 20's
who also needed residential treatment. I recommend Heritage School
in Utah (Provo). The program is highly therapeutic with well trained
clinical staff and on site psychiatrists. Your daughter's therapist
will work with her intensively and with the family. Your child's
therapist will be her team leader, an important fact, as some
schools are so behavioral that the therapist plays second fiddle to
behavior modification/ boot camp rules. Not at all what you want.
The school at Heritage is also good and they do have equine therapy.
Give them a call.... you will find the staff very kind.
Finally, caveat emptor, many programs are not safe, based on boot
camp like experiences, focus only on behavior, not clinical issues,
have staff that is not clinically trained, and require your child to
stay 2 years. Also, not what you want.
Finally, Montana Academy is a very good program. Check it out.
By the way, you might be able to obtain public funding for Heritage
School, ask the admissions staff. It is a certified Non-public
school for the state of California.
Call Virginia Keeler-Wolf in Oakland. She is one of a group of therapists who
trained to work with RAD. There are only a few such therapists in the Bay
Area. She is also
knowledgeable about residential treatment. A friend worked with her and his
successfully place in residential for over a year and is now ready to come
home. Our family
worked with her for several years, and she is very insightful and
knowlegeable. One of her
partners, Laura Soble, has worked in equine therapy.
Does anyone have experience with/recommendation of an
effective, compassionate, disciplined residence for an
almost 17 yr old boy who is chronically truant and smoking
weed and won't come home anymore? Thanks in advance.
I'm so sorry to hear your son is struggling, and my heart
goes out to you. I recommend the Bodin group
www.thebodingroup.com, because they refer to a wide range of
settings, and they're also skilled interventionists. Of
course there is a cost to their services, but, without them,
you're handling all this on your own with little confidence
that you've made the right decision. Bodin works with you
to select a setting, and monitors your kid's progress. They
periodically visit every boarding school and therapeutic
program, and they know the staff personally. They've been
working with my son and our family for over a year now, and
we appreciate their expertise and support.
I commend you for deciding to intervene now - we hung on
far too long and intervened way too late.
I was in same place years ago
We are looking at Bridges Academy for Boys near Bend, OR. So far we like what
we see. It's very small (24 boys) and only high school age so the focus is
but the people seem very kind.
In the same boat
The usual way of handling a situation like this is for the
teen to go to a wilderness program and then onto a
specialized boarding school or a residential treatment
center. We made the mistake of just doing the wilderness
program and then bringing our daughter back home. Over time
and some failed attempts at other treatment options, we had
our daughter go to an RTC for about a year. She is doing so
well now (home since January) that sometimes it seems
unreal. She is now a clean, sober, kind and responsible
teen. As a follow-up to residential, 12 step programs are a
good option (my teen loves going to meetings!) It is helpful
to have a guide through this process. We have been using
David Heckenlively, MFT (www.integratedteen.com). There is a
parent support group available if you work with David.
Check out the Hyde School.
It changed my teenager's life -- so much so that
my daughter went there to teach for two years after graduating from college
''give back'' in thanks for what the school did for not only my son but our
There are many therapeutic boarding schools out there. I
visited several (most were out of state) a year ago when
my step son was acting similarly to yours. I highly
recommend that you meet with an educational consultant
right away. (we went to Virginia Reese and Associates in
Larkspur.) Educatinal consultants know the boarding
schools intimately and visit them constantly to ensure
good teaching and therapeutic staff. They find out as much
as possible about your particular child and then guide you
to the right schools. Once there (my stepson was actually
taken by force....hard to imagine but that is what it came
down to) the educational consultant acts as a liaison and
can also help guide you to the best counselors etc.
I don't think we could have made the choice to send him
away without the guidance and counseling and support of
our educational consultant. Good luck....and know that you
are doing the right thing for your son. p.s. my step son
is now drug free and on his way to getting his GED.
Recently, our teen has been a runaway. Now she is back but
sheltered away from our home with friends under our parental
permission. Due to her unsafe behavior and attitude in our home
we are concerned about permitting her to have all of her personal
possessions back. She is 16 years old and almost all of
her possessions were paid for by the family. We feel that we may
need some of her possessions to substantiate her unsafe presence
in our home (journals, threatening letters, etc), document her
willful disregard for her health and safety and to protect
ourselves from our daughters damaging behavior.
We also feel that all possessions in the home belong to us,
including her clothing, furniture, etc. We have permitted her to
take almost all of her own clothing, music and cd players but we
are limiting her access to the other things. We feel we need to
negotiate and manage her behavior thru access to her possessions.
It's unfortunate that we have to use this to deal with her
delinquency and irresponsible behavior. Can you offer any
suggestions and guidelines to deal with the possessions of a
You are doing everything very right on. We have already
been through all of this. It's very hard to do this to
your own child, but it is best. We have been through
different parenting classes, etc & this is what is
suggested. Try to hook up with The Parent Project class.
There is one held in Concord, but it is well worth the
drive. For more info or to register, call Jerry Zimmerman,
Psychologoist 925-687-0374, Melody Royal, MDUSD Parent
Liason, 925-682-8000 x4297. This is an 11 week class and
are held at the John Muir Behavioral Health Center, 2730
Grant St. 94520. Consultations are also available before &
after class. Jerry & Melody are amazing!!
Good Luck with everything.
Been there, done that, not easy.
I am really concerned about your daughter and why she is needing to
runaway and act out. If her behavior is truly damaging to others then you
must be worried sick about her and what is fueling her rebellion. Is your
daughter's behavior a result of drug use (can create threatening and
rebellious behavior in teens), has she suffered a recent trauma (accident,
loss, family conflict) or been victimized in some way? Is she failing in
school or suffering a significant psychological crisis (depression,
anxiety, or bipolar issues?) I think it would be helpful to have your
daughter evaluated for possible addiction (needs to get drug testing to be
sure) and mental illness. You can help your daughter best by showing your
love and concern for her, threatening her will only escalate her need to
threaten you back. There are many therapists in the community who deal
with adolescents and their families who can help you. Are you and your
daughter's mother willing to seek help and advice for yourselves and seek
evaluation and treatment for your daughter?
Focusing on your daughter's access to possessions may be a way for you to
try to maintain some control over your daughter but I am worried you may
be missing the more important message here: this is your daughter's cry
for help. There are many parents who are struggling with similar struggles
with their teens. If community professional help has been tried and has
failed many parents have found it necessary to send their teen to a drug
or residential program to stop the drug use and destructive behavior.
Please hang in their with your daughter, she needs your love and support
now more than ever.
By way of introductions, I work with thousands of
teenagers, am the director of counseling for a high school
and in private practice (and the parent of a former teen),
so I have some experience with the world of parenting
With all due respect, I think you're barking up the wrong
tree in terms of using your teen's possessions to control
her behavior. If she's currently out of the home, having
recently run away, and you're already thinking about how
to substantiate her ''unsafe presence'' in your home, I
think that the question of who paid for her possessions is
the last of your worries. I don't suggest therapy for
everyone, nor do I think it works for everyone, however,
this is clearly (to me) a first priority--not figuring out
which possessions to let her use. Unless her particular
possession is something that she can use to hurt you or
herself, it is only going to further escalate problems by
getting into a war with her over what is hers and what
isn't hers. If she's a teen, she likely feels that her
possessions are not only hers, but that they help define
her in very significant ways.
If you're worried for your own safety, please get help for
your family with negotiating and managing her destructive
behavior; no family should go through this kind of tension
and stress alone. Teens run away for a reason; and
parents, in my opinion, shouldn't feel that they have to
figure out the nearly-impossible job of parenting teens on
The Berkeley Parents Network is filled with parent reviews
of therapists who specialize in working with teenagers. I
recommend that you contact Stuart Brotman at Coyote Coast.
They are available at the address/number: 23 Orinda Way,
Suite 300, Orinda CA 94563; (925) 258-5400 -Phone and fax
My wonderful, sweet, loving little girl has turned into a
teenager (14) who is running our lives with her out of
control behavior. She is still sweet and loving when she
wants to be, but the flip side of her behavior is lying,
stealing (she got caught stealing from Walgreens), cutting
school and just this week, running away (1:00am until
morning). She hangs out with a lot of the independent study
students at Berkeley High, many older than her and who seem
to be running around at all hours of the day with no
supervision. Her most recent report card had grades ranging
from a B to mainly D's. One of her teachers has mentioned
that she is the brightest student in his class, so the poor
grades are not due to a lack of ability. She was suspended
from BHS for 2 days recently for excessive cutting. (Since
the suspension she has been going to all her classes.) We
have tried all kinds of things to reel her in, limiting her
time on the phone and with friends, dropping her off and
picking her up at school, involving the police when she ran
away etc. She started seeing a therapist several months ago.
I'm now seriously considering drastic measures like sending
her off to a Wilderness program. What have other parents
done in my situation? What worked for you?
I read your message with a great deal of sympathy. I have a
16 year old daughter with ADHD who was out of control as a
Sophmore at BHS, i.e cutting classes, running away at all
hours, violent aggressive behavior, etc. We tried many
interventions. Got her tested for learning disabilities at
BHS and Kaiser, got help from Mr. Bovey the excellent school
psychologist at BHS, Individual psychotherapy, tutoring at
Classroom Matters, even considered biofeedback.
Before you consider sending your daughter away Wilderness
Tough Love Camp please consider Family Therapy. Of all the
things we have tryed Family Therapy has made all of the
difference! I'm sure there are many skilled and qualified
family therapists in the area that your health plan may
partially cover. We have Kaiser so we are limited in covered
family therapists. Larry Leibman at Kaiser in Oakland has
I would also like to warn you that there is a lot of
controversy about the safety and effectiveness of the tough
love approach. I would strongly recommend that you research
this option before you commit to it. Good Luck! Jan
I just wanted to interject a note about Wilderness Therapy
Camp. This is not the same as 'tough love' or 'bootcamp.'
I agree it's a last resort, but having used it reluctantly
for my 16 year old son, even I was surprised at how useful
the therapy was. I might even say that my son liked it!
He was really in a spiral - just as you describe - cutting
classes, drugs, hanging out with friends I found
worrisome - and I think he actually appreciated being
stopped. It was very structured, but not toughlove. The
counselors were professionals with advanced degrees and
lots of experience - and we talked with them on the phone
every week. He had not been much of a camper, and he
enjoyed the backpacking and came back with great stories
of having spotted a golden eagle, for example. He was
very attached to his group of kids and even when he
returned, was interested in how the kids who were still
there were doing. He also learned a lot by observing the
behavior of kids who were even angrier, more depressed,
etc. than he was, seeing how unproductive their behavior
was. Let me just add, as the crowning testimonial, that
during the recent holiday season, my son wanted to write
holiday greetings to his counselors at the camp, and now
says that he would like to get a job there one summer! I
think the important thing here, is that you do have to
carefully vet the camp you choose.
A friend of mine has a teen who is totally out of control
and none of their intervention seems to help. The mom
wants to look into boarding school as an option but doesn't
want one of those 'bad' boarding schools you hear about
where kids are made to do extreme activity or something.
Does anyone know of or have experience with a good boarding
school that you could recommend?
When we needed to send our son away, we had no idea where
to start. There must be thousands of boarding schools and
programs out there. Some are definitely better than
others, and some are better for particular kids.
Fortunately [well, it did NOT seem so fortunate at the
time], we tried and my son flunked a local rehab program,
and the psychiatrist there referred us to an educational
consultant, Bodin Associates [in Lafayette and Los
Altos]. They were able to recommend a therapeutic
wilderness program and then a boarding school, both really
right for our son.
We really needed the support, the assurance that these
folks had visited and knew the places they suggested, a
reasonable number of safe places to look at [they
suggested 8 places, and we discussed 3 more we heard
about], and the practical input they had at certain
points. I can't imagine how to approach finding a
boarding school without some kind of guidance like this.
It would be a total crap shoot.
The internet is cool, but -- too many choices, too little
info relevant to a particular kid or a particular place.
There was a time the cost of the consultant would have
knocked me over, but [a] that is nothing compared to the
cost of a boarding school, and [b] much more importantly,
our son ended up where he needed to be, and is doing well
after 14 months, and he has been safe and supported and
challenged -- and also, at his particular school, he got
sober plus had fun. And he's graduating next month!
Best to families in this situation.
We have a troubled relative who is 13, and out of
Her immediate family is from out of the country and is
not equipped to
deal with her current problems, which range from drug
use and stealing to dangerous boyfriends and cutting
herself, and regularly dissappearing. We have already
called the police and Child Protective Services, there is
not much they say they can do at this point -- and we
want to see if we can find a safe place for her to be
contained, such as a boarding school that would be
affordable and effective for us. Please let us know if
you know of any schools, camps, programs, or even
group homes that would be a good option for us (she
has MediCal, and her mother is on Disability). Many
thanks for your help.
my advice the the family with the ''out of control teen'' is
to look on line for therapeutic boarding schools. ''The
ASpen group'' is a great network of schools for troubled
kids. My son went to Stone Mountain school for boys. It
helped him a lot. They have a school for girls in Arizona
i think. Good luck.
mom of troubled kid
To the relative of a troubled teen: Understandably, if her
parents are from another country, it would be difficult for
them to deal with the cultural and social pressures on
teens here. I strongly recommend Berkeley Youth
Alternatives. They can help the parents as well as the
teen and even offer a temporary live-in facility for teen
run-aways while they are in counseling with family. I went
there as a teen myself and it changed my life. Of course,
that was 30 years ago. I'm sure much has changed! Good
former troubled youth
My husband's 16 yr. old daughter has gotten so out of
control - both living with us as well as with her mother -
that we are considering trying boarding school or an
alternative living situation to see if she can get back on
track. A wonderful posting put it so eloquently when the
writer said we ''might begin by considering
whether our problematic children are really the canaries
in the coal mine of our toxic society.'' Considering this,
we hope that a change in her environment might at least
give her a different perspective of what is important.
If anyone has any information on these types of facilities,
we would greatly appreciate any feedback.
I am a family therapist who has treated teens who are making life
difficult for themselves and everyone around them. You do not mention
in your letter if she or your family has sought treatment. It is
important to have a clear idea of what is causing the behavior before
making the change. Kids are also the canaries in the cages of their
families, and their acting out often demonstrates the affects of what's
gone on around them over which they may feel they have no control. Some
express this in extreme ways that may include drugs or alcohol, sexual
acting out, stealing, cutting and the development of eating disorders.
In other cases, there is an emotional problem that's been quietly
developing which surfaces during stressful times, such as depression,
anxiety disorders or more serious mental illness. Since bad behavior is
the cover up for all of these precursors, it is important that a
professional evaluate the child so that even if the decision is to send
her away there can be adequate treatment and/or medication to deal
with a more severe condition. If there is not a pattern of open
communication in the family with either parent there is more chance that
the child will continue to act out. A family therapist can explore ways
of getting family members to open up and speak with each other about
difficult subjects. Often things can change once this happens. Get the
help you need so that all of you can begin to feel better.
I posted above about my serious concerns about the industry
that has grown around ''troubled teens''. I don't want to beat
a dead horse but while the responses of people who've had
success with these programs are not to be dismissed, their
success seems more a matter of luck and that their teens are
among the very few for whom these programs (minus the
stripping of all constiutional rights, including the right
to make a complaint of abuse, may MAJOR concern about most
of these places. Abuses of the most horrendous sort,
especially in states like Utah, ''the fraud capital of the
world'' according to Forbes, have happened and have been
covered up. These programs bring in a large amount of
revenue for their states and the large corp. owners of these
schools donate A LOT of money to Utah. Montana and Missouri
are among others that are known for similar egregious
problems. There is no need for the kind of secrecy, extreme
deprivation and shut off from the world that these programs
(the bad ones) require. The cost of the programs, nor the
slickness of the brochures should not fool anyone to believe
that they represent the quality of the program. I have a
brochure in front of me that baldly lies that they have a
child and adolescent psychiatrist, (actually implying a Team
of psychiatrist), where in fact there are NO psychiatrists.
Intelligent people from the bay are have sent their kids to
these places and have have severe regrets. Their stories are
out there to read in many places. I just pray that anyone
who decides to send their child away, a) consider all other
options before resorting to this drastic option and b) have
not only been to the site but checked on the credentials of
the owner, corporate ownership, therapist, psychiatrist
etc... Adults, know in their 30's who were among the first
to attend these places, including someone I know, often
suffer from PTSD as a result and have never recovered.
I do believe that sometimes a break between parent/teen for
both can be good. IF it can be done in a regular boarding
school, through relatives or friends I believe that to be
better. I seriously doubt that any real ''therapy'' happens at
these places except for a very small minority. I will say
that Anastazi, a wilderness program, is one of the few based
on principles of love and works with the family in a healthy
I have a disorganized blog on the matter at
http://www.troubledteenindustry.blogspot.com. I hope to have
it in place as a very informative website soon. I the
meantime just scroll through and I'm sure you'll find some
good info there.
I have read hundreds of nightmarish stories and only a few
good ones. I am trying to do my best to stop anymore kids
from going through these (often) permanently damaging
ordeals at the tremendous expense of their families, often
with the effect of alienating a child from their family for
good. There is no evidence of their efficacy, only the
anecdote here and there. The tremendous bulk of evidence
points in the opposite direction. AND every major
psychological authority - NIMH, American Association of Chld
and Family Psychiatrists, , American Psychiatric
Association, American Psychological Association, American
Association of Nurses along with all the states in which
these places can't exist (like California) because they
operate without the standard rules we have in place to
protect children from abuse and protect their basic rights.
Unfortunately, I sign this anonymously because there are
educational consultants and people associated with these
programs who can be VERY AGGRESSIVE AND INORDINATELY
DEFENSIVE when criticized. I have already been harrassed to
the degree that I've exposed myself personally.
I am urgently seeking information from parents who've sent
their kids to out-of-state therapeutic, emotional growth,
character building, residential treatment schools,
especially ones run by Aspen Education Group but others
like Hyde or CEDU etc.. as well. Good and bad
experiences are of intense interest, as well as good and
bad experiences searching for appropriate placements,
especially with independent ed. consultants. This
information is critical to someone's life.
This is a tough situation. There are a number of schools
with excellent reputations, and a number that are run by
absolute charlatans, so my advice, having had a very
difficult/high-risk behavior teenager, is to hire the
services of an educational consultant. It's their business
to know which schools are okay and which should be avoided
or have had serious problems. It's not cheap, but making
the wrong decision about an emotional growth school creates
more problems than it solves. I can strongly recommend the
services of Elizabeth McGhee at Virginia Reiss Associates
in Larkspur (980 Magnolia Drive/Suite 8, Larkspur, CA
94939/phone is 415-461-4788). Anyone in that office would
be okay to work with.
Also, if either parent is covered by mental heath
insurance, those insurance companies can pay part or all of
a therapeutic school's tuition, but you need to get the
agreement of your insurance caseworker, and this generally
requires getting a letter from the child's therapist in
support of getting a child into a facility.
I have personal experience with both Provo Canyon School
and Island View School, both of Utah. Both schools are
good and are Level-14 lockdown facilities (highly
controlled access) with accredited schools (junior high
through high school). Provo can handle slightly tougher
cases, but I think Island View has a better progam. At
Island View, in addition to being responsible for their
individual therapy, the kids are all assigned to teams, so
their behavior as individuals affects overall team
progress. This gives them a peer group to whom they must
be responsible, and I think it speeds the process of
behavioral growth. Also, Island View teaches a foreign
language (Spanish), which Provo Canyon doesn't (or didn't,
when my child went there). Island View also has a
continuation school (Oakley School) for kids who have
completed the therapeutic program, but who wouldn't
necessarily do well returning directly home. They also
seem to be pretty well connected to other continuation
schools in other areas. Their family therapy weekends are
much better than what I experienced with Provo Canyon.
In terms of getting a child to an out-of-state school, some
kids may cooperate with you taking them there, some may
not. If you need to hire people to transport them, again,
work with an educational consultant, since horror stories
abound. Mine recommeded AGS (Adolescence Guidance
Service/phone 877-700-3300). They were very low-key, very
quiet and very professional. My husband went on the same
plane and followed in a separate car to the school so her
could meet with the therapist and treatment team. He was
very impressed. Our daughter completed high school and the
therapeutic program at Island View. She came home and has
been working while waiting to start college, and has stayed
out of trouble. She didn't have a meltdown when her dad
paased away suddenly, so overall, I think Island View was
very successful in its work with her.
I am the area director for Northern California for CEDU
Schools and would be more than happy to talk with any
parents regarding our emotional growth/therapeutic boarding
schools. I also encourage you to visit our website at
www.cedu.com and please call with any and all questions.
There is a solution and my heart goes out to all who are
suffering while dealing with the emotional pain of your
children. My office number is 831-688-4434 and my cell
phone number is 831-234-7364. I will be happy to meet with
you or talk with you anytime.
Sharon Kyle-Kuhn skk_cedu at yahoo.com
Yesterday we posted an article, Safe Choices for Parents of Troubled
Teens http://www.askquestions.org/articles/teens. Members of this
Berkeley Parents Network contributed their insights and experiences with
our reporters and helped us develop the article, which offers advice for
parents dealing with an 'out of control' teenager. Feel free to share the
article with anyone you know in that situation. And I'd like to warmly
thank the moms who helped us develop this story.
I've been doing a lot of research into these schools and
would recommend a) in independent ed. consultant (NOT
Virginia Reiss), maybe Bodin in S.F. if they work with
these types of schools. If not, call and ask them for a
referral. The info they have on their website regarding
ther. schools is very good. Also, I'll reiterate that you
should carefully read the above referenced
http://www.askquestions.org/articles/teens/ There are more
pieces of the kind on the net. Provo Canyon may have worked
for a few kids but disasters stories continue to pour out
of that place. Just recently (last few months) Utah (which
is known to do almost nothing concerning regulation of
these schools) put a permanent injunction on Provo for
their abusive, really horribly abusive isolation room, use
of forced drugs, their practice of taping kids mouths shut
and one other think I can't remember. Also, don't simply
trust the ed con. Some of them, no matter how slick,
expensive, experienced may not be independent. Also ask if
they ''specialize in these schools'' Too often these
consultants work with k-12, college, therapeutic programs,
they can't do it all. Double check credentials of everyone
on staff at these programs that you can, especially
psychiatrists and check backgrounds (not necessarily
criminal) of directors and head therapists. I'm glad that
the who posted parent had a good experience with Provo and
Island View with her daughter. I DO wonder though how long
it might take for stories to start coming out. Island View
is just like so many schools, standard behavior mod
program, experienced director but nothing very special.
Kids are usually traumatized by Escort Services. I would
avoid it if possible. And think and double think and triple
think before you sign a contract that allows people you
don't know to do pretty much whatever they want to your
kid, which many contracts more or less require.
As you can tell, a concerned parent that's seen and heard
too much about these places.
This is a BUYER BEWARE arena if there ever was one.
Dear Parents of Teens readers:
Our 14-year-old daughter has been at CEDU Middle School in
the San Bernardino mountains for about 9 months. It has
been great for her. We think this emotional growth
school is excellent. The couple that picked her up at
our house and transported her were gentle and wonderful.
We'd be happy to share our experiences with others -- just
drop us an email.
As a parent who recently had to make the agonising decision
to send our son to a wilderness program and then on to a
therapuetic boarding school, I know how difficult the
process can be. At first we kind of went it alone, mostly
for financial reasons, but eventually we decided to use the
educational consultants, Bodin Associates in Lafayette. Part
of what they do is pre-screen wilderness programs and
for example, there are hundreds of wilderness programs and
they only recommend four. Through Bodin we found a school
that is a perfect fit for our son. His school is called
Monarch http://monarchschool.com/. It is a coed, creative arts based school, in
Montana. They have an organic garden, animals, etc., and
most importantly the founders, staff and faculty are
incredibly caring, and commited to helping kids get back on
track. Their program is very well-conceived and the kids who
graduate appear to be doing well. Our son has made enormous
strides there and is barely recognisable from the angry,
sullen, negative boy who refused to say goodbye to us when
we took him there in March. I'm sure the school isn't
perfect for everyone but I wanted you to know there are
options. If you have additional questions please feel free
to contact me.
I am looking for a residential school for my teenaged son
who,while very bright, has severe emotional problems. We
have exhausted all local options and feel that a
therapeutic/residential program may be the best option
now. This is not a sudden decision and we would like to be
sure that the school we pick will really serve his needs.
I noticed that there was some discussion on this topic here
a few years ago but I wondered if anyone had more recent
experience, particularly whether someone could recommend a
school by name, preferably one on or near the West Coast?
Also, does anyone know the name of a good counselor who
specializes in placing children in residential schools?
Anonymous worried mom
For the mom seeking an educational consultant and
therapeutic boarding school - I can highly recommend
Elizabeth McGhee at Virginia Reiss Associates in Larkspur
(415)461-4788. We had a lot of success putting our child
into Provo Canyon School in Utah (you can check their
website at provocanyon.com & their phone is 801-227-2100).
There is a boys' campus in Provo, Utah, and the girl's
campus is in Orem. Both are about 45 minutes from Salt Lake
City (which is a short flight on Southwest Air Lines out of
Oakland). I STRONGLY advise going through a educational
counselor rather than trying to make a placement decision
on your own, though, because a mismatch on a school can be
an expensive disaster, and while you didn't mention your
son's age, you can't force children to attend such schools
if they are over 18. It can take a while for a child to
settle into a placement. There is also a lot of good
general information at strugglingteens.com, particularly if
you read through the newsletter archive (BTW,you can find
educational consultants on their ''Resource'' list). If you
or your spouse work for an employer with mental health
insurance coverage, you may be able to get some or all of
your child's tuition paid. There are therapeutic boarding
schools in many states, including California, but qualities
of programs vary pretty radically. A closer school might
not be the best fit. Good luck to you.
I have worked with two ed consultants and would be happy to
discuss my experience. I think it's important to have a
good psychological evaluation of your child done before
trying to select a placement. Until you know exactly what
the issues are it's hard to select a place that can address
-A mom who's had similar challenges
To the mom looking for a residential school for her teenage
son - different children/young men need different schools.
This is a difficult situation for the whole family, and it
sounds like finding a school that will address his
individual needs is cruicial to you. (Welcome to the
I strongly recommend spending the money for an educational
consultant. Their services are often a couple of thousand
dollars, but considering the other potential expenditures
you're facing they are an essential investment as well as
being an excellent resource. They should help evaluate
your son's situation and try to match them with an
appropriate school, and my impression is that they don't
recommend someplace unless they're familiar with it's
approach and have personally visited the school. The good
ones will remain in contact with you during his time there,
which helps you understand what's going on.
There are a number of good ones in the bay area, and we
used Molly Baron at McClure, Mallory & Baron in San
Francisco, who was very helpful. She combined her own
evaluation with tests and evaluations from other
professionals to help us make the appropriate choices. She
also met with us while our son was in the program to help
us evaluate his progress and future needs.
Good luck to you and your son.
Advice to person seeking information on a residential
school for child that has emotional problems. A friend of
mine's son with emotional issues has had great success at
the Oakley School outside of Park City Utah--phone
435.783.5001. They used a counselor in Marin County to
find this school, Alice Jackson, and unfortunately I do not
have her phone number.
I'm replying to the mom looking for a residential school and/or educational
consultant for her son. Several years ago we were seeking a boarding school
for our daughter, at her request, and we went to see a very knowledgeable
counselor who specialized in boarding schools. This was in the Fall of
1996, and I don't know if he is still around here, but just in case, here is
his name and number:
Bodin & Associates
Los Altos, CA
Our daughter ended up at Happy Valley School in Ojai, CA. It is a wonderful
school; however, I don't know if it is appropriate for your son's needs --
you might want to check it out. Their web site is hvalley.org
Good luck in your search.
To the anonymous worried Mom looking for boarding schools and/ or ed
consultants. We've been down this road very recently and have gotten
VERY good help from Bodin Associates in Los Atos. They are
profesional and well informed. they also do no take any money from
any school. They are also expensive but in my opinion, worth every
cent ( and I am not well of by any means). Their phone # is
650-948-8651. They plan to open a Oakland office sometime soon
As for boarding schools there are many and you need to really
look at what your childs particuliar needs and issues are. There is
no one answer and a good ed consultant can match your child and a
school. I cannot stress this enough. Boarding school is expensive
but the wrong boarding school is even more expensive because it may
not work. The advertising that some of these schools! i! s polished
and often they will tell you they are sure they can meet your
needs. If your willing to make the commitment to a boarding school,
get good objective advise. I have been extremely happy with the
school that Bodin Associates have helped us find. If someone would
have told me 8 months ago how happy and well adjusted my daughter
would be now, I never would have believed it. Good luck, it is a very
hard road to go but it is harder to watch your child lose hope,
self-esteem and get into trouble.
I agree with the other parents who have recommended
evaluations and counseling before selecting a school, but I
want to mention a school I haven't seen in the archives....
(See NAWA Academy for the rest of this review.)
Since this newsletter has carried discussions about residential schools
in the past, I thought readers might be interested in an article that
appeared in the New York Times May 9, 2003.
Here is the abstract; the full article (and it is long) can be purchased
from the NY Times - info is on this page:
Parents, Shopping for Discipline, Turn to Harsh Programs Abroad
By TIM WEINER (NYT) 2654 words
Late Edition - Final , Section A , Page 1 , Column 1
ABSTRACT - Behavior-modification programs and boarding schools for troubled
youths that have faced legal and licensing challenges in United States are moving
abroad, where they operate largely free of regulation; some are said to employ
minimum-wage custodians more than teachers or therapists; about 2,200 youths
are thought to attend 11 affiliated programs in Mexico, Costa Rica and Jamaica
run by businessmen based in Utah under banner World Wide Assn of Specialty
Programs and Schools; local governments and State Dept officials have
investigated these programs in Mexico, Czech Republic and Samoa on charges of
physical abuse and immigration violations; some have been closed; many parents
and youths say behavior-management system of discipline and punishment scares
youths into sobriety and obedience; others say programs profit from struggling
parents unable to handle their depressed, delinquent, defiant or drug-abusing
children; profit margins and growth within programs appear solid.
I am in the process of looking for a boarding school for my
out-of-control teenage daughter. I need something that addresses both
emotional growth and academic growth. I don't want a lock-down
situation, but hopefully something that's isolated enough that it
accomplishes the same purpose. Things have gotten continually worse
in the last month and her grades have plumetted. Does anyone have any
experience with such schools or know a good source of information?
(Yes, we've been in counseling each of us individually and also as a
I recently did a massive search for residential schools that included
a therapeutic/growth model, both in California and out-of-state. A
good place to start learning about the options is a website called
the Woodbury Report: http://www.strugglingteens.com/ It has
schools divided into same sex, co-ed, behavioral/conduct issues,
psychiatric and wilderness programs. Keep breathing and Good Luck.
[The following replies were printed anonymously with the offer to
correspond further via the moderator]
I understand someone was looking for boarding schools for
out-of-control teens. I've had a recent positive experience and would
be happy to talk one-on-one with parents who need assistance in this
My best friend has a 16 year old daughter in real trouble. Over the past
couple of years she has become increasingly unmanageable. She has
developed a drinking problem, become depressed, and become extremely
sexually active with adult males. The other night she was found by the
police on a remote canyon road with an adult in a very compromising
position. This just isn't safe. My friend has tried all the home-based
solutions, the girl is in counseling, has had all rights and privileges
revoked or monitored. This is just a very painful situation for all concerned.
My question is this. Does anyone have any experience with those "boot
camps" you hear about? It is my friends opinion that he needs to get her
away from the area and from the friends she has developed and start on a
new path. If this child's path isn't changed soon - she will suffer some
So sorry to hear about that girl's situation. I have a friend whose
daughter sounded a lot like the girl you wrote about. She's really in
trouble. This girl had similar stuff going on and then she took up
with a group of older biker guys in San Francisco. These people
essentially whisked her away and sent her to what they refer to as "a
convent in Italy". [the mom's a Catholic school teacher] The girl was
there a year. Five years out she's living at home, doing well,
attending community college. Tell your friends to get that girl the
hell out of here. If they're interested in more details about
"convent" the newsletter coordinator can contact me. Hopefully
someone else on this newsletter knows about someplace closer!
We have close friends who placed their teenaged son in a residential program
in Oregon for about 2 years. If the original poster would like, I will try
to put her in contact with them.
I'd be happy to talk to you or your friend about this. I have researched
some of the residential treatment programs, and found one in Utah that
saved my daughter's life. I'd say your friend's daughter needs help fast.
This girl is in crisis, as is her family. She needs to be protected from
herself and from her "friends" who encourage this behavior. I haven't any
experience with the "boot camps" but it certainly sounds like a necessity
in this case. (My teen's situation isn't as dire but I am in the process
of nipping similar behaviors in the bud.) I am learning that there are
many types of schools with varying degrees of restrictiveness. First, I
would suggest that he get a psychiatric diagnosis of his daughter to
determine if there are psychological problems. He might also want to do
educational/psychological testing. After getting all that, he can start
researching the schools (since there are so many out there, hiring an
educational consultant might be helpful).
As a parent of an out-of-control teen, I can strongly recommend Tough Love
International, a self-help group for parents of teens who have behaviors
that cause parents deep concern. This group is simply excellent and the
concepts it uses work. I have been attending a local chapter of this group
for 5 weeks and have found it a lifesaver. It doesn't provide an instant
cure to your problems, but you gradually collect skills and tools which are
priceless. See their website at:
toughlove.org Good luck!
I just wish to communicate my utmost sympathy to the family of the 16-year
old girl. It is extremely painful to see a beloved child go through such
turmoil. Foremost, this 16 yr.-old girl needs 24 hour supervision. This
may require pulling her from public school into a private school that will
work intimately with the parents to oversee her while in school. One of
the parents needs to drop her off at school, escort her into the school,
pick her up after school, and supervise her 100% of the time outside of
school. The whole family needs to get into counseling right away. She
most likely also needs individual counseling. Try to get her involved in a
youth group (Christian or any other solid group) where she can meet peers
who may or may not have gone through similar experiences, and who can
relate to her. This is a matter of life and death for her. She will need
100% time and emotional commitment from her parents until she is safely
through it all. She most likely was not born with the tendencies to behave
in this manner, and a deep exploration of the causes of her behavior is
crucial. Best wishes, much love to this young person and her family.
To the person looking for help for an out of control teen: We have friends
who sent their son to the Hyde (spelling?) School in Maine. There is an
additional campus elsewhere on the East coast. It has been an incredible
experience for their son. The school is not a "teen bootcamp." It is a
school with firm values around strong academics in a therapeutic environment.
This opportunity has really been powerful for both the boy and the family.
I just phoned them for information, but the family is currently away at
"Family Weekend" at Hyde. Call me and I will get further information and/or
put you in touch with the (local Berkeley) family.
I was a bored, gifted 'out of control' teenaged girl nearly 30
years ago: sexually active from 15 (though used effective contraception
every time); some tobacco, pot and acid use; much confrontation with
parents, especially authoritarian father. Kept my grades up the whole time.
My parents' felt desperate, that choices were boarding school, detention
center (as 'inccorrigible'), and psychiatric hospital. They chose the
latter, and it took me 20 years to get over that decision. Really. I
caution you to be very careful about your decision. I've read horrible
things about those boot camps.
Is your daughter gifted and bored? Send her to a rigorous single
sex boarding school (though boarding school leaves lots of room for drug
use and sexual experimentation, too, check it out carefully). If you think
your daughter has fundamentally good values at base, try some kind of away
summer program, maybe some teen outdoors adventure program (do you want her
to behave healthier, or to punish her - something to consider). It will
give you a break from each other, which is what I really felt my parents
were after (despite all kinds of acting out behavior, it wasn't until I
said f-you to my mother that I found myself literally taken off the street
and deposited in an old fashioned state psych hospital, ah, the good old
days). I think an Outward Bound program would have been good for me (though
I may have hated it), boarding school, or even a group home. They went for
the thing they could get the fastest.
I do feel it's important to intervene: though I've been successful
academically and done lots of interesting things in many countries, I
believe I missed some fundamental lessons during adolescence that affect me
even still. Just be very careful what you choose; punitive solutions may
have repercussions that you all may not recover from.
Based on the problems you described with your friend's daughter, I
myself would have been considered an out of control teenager.
Drinking, drug-consumption, various risky/dangerous behavior, sexual
and otherwise, were all part of my very "independent" life. Basically
I was very bored, very nihilistic and liked experimentation. (Like
dropping acid every day for 33 days at noon.... go figure.) I might
have differed from your friend's daughter in that I was very
self-aware, was very "philosophical" about my behavior, and I was
smart/clever enough never to be caught doing anything illegal.
My parents were rather oblivious, and nobody in my immediate family
was really pressuring me to change or conform. I did well in school
and kept my private life to myself. However, I sensed what was
happening was leading to a bad outcome and I decided to save
At age 15, I bought a round-trip ticket to Paris. I had been
corresponding with a French pen pal for several years and arranged to
stay with him and his family in a small town outside of
Paris. Needless to say, the host parents were rather wide-eyed when I
walked off the plane in my lipstick, halter and sandals!
During this time, I underwent a rather dramatic transformation. In
short, I cleansed and processed my personal history. Being away from
my usual destructive environment really changed the way I saw myself.
I quit shaving and wearing make-up, for example. I didn't drink hard
liquor and quit smoking cigarettes. It's not that I suddenly became
straight and narrow. What happened was much subtler: I basically had
a chance to collect myself, refine my thinking and make new
impressions on myself. I continued to lead a very independent life,
perhaps even more so than before, but I was more mature and self-aware
about my behavior and the responsibilties and consequences of
The idea of juvenile "boot camp" makes me cringe. A 15 year old person
who is making bad judgements needs to find a path that makes sense
_according to their own world view_, limited as it may be. Conformity
is not a real long-term solution, IMHO. Learning how to take
responsibility for one's actions, in terms that are self-generated,
seems infinitely more dynamic and effective. Such solutions are the
product of a developing conscience, and that seems to be what it's
really all about.
Hope this story is of some use.
I'd like to echo Claire's story and thoughts on boot camps (from last
week) for wayward teens. I too was in trouble as a teen: depressed, on
drugs, drinking, having risky sex with risky men, and very angry about
the family and world I saw around me. Being sent to a boot camp
wouldn't have made me toe the line; it would have made me crazy with
anger and probably would have made it even harder for me to develop a
solid foundation. What helped me was having a few insightful adults
around (they were rare, as we were in a very rural area), who
recognized a few good seeds in my psyche and nurtured them, by telling
me I was sensitive, I was smart, I had talents, etc. That set me on
the difficult path to breaking free of old habits and friends,
developing some goals and focus, and starting to get my life
together. Looking back on it now, I don't think of myself as a bad or
even out-of-control teen: I think I was a smart, sensitive, lonely kid
in a very difficult family and social situation (small town). I see
teen-agers who look like "trouble" today and my heart goes out to
The preponderance of responses to this request for advice that seem to
be coming from people who see themselves in the picture of this
troubled teenager compels me to respond. Obviously, some, in fact
many, "out-of-control teens" find a path for themselves that leads
them out of danger and, in these cases, on to become parents of teens
themselves. These people write telling us passionately how "boot
camps" would not have worked for them and may be "inhumane." But I
think we should acknowledge that not all despondent, rebellious,
self-destructive teens come out of this phase of their lives as well
and that those who don't represent voices we are not likely to hear on
this e-mail list.
So I will relate the story of my older sister who had three sons
(large blended family) who went through very, very difficult periods
when they were teens--alcohol, drugs, depression, crime, anti-social
behavior, etc. She agonized over the decision that this parent is now
agonizing over: should I consider an act that I find repugnant because
it may be the only thing that will save my child? In two of the three
cases, she ended up concluding that some kind of forced removal from
the immediate scene was what the child needed. In one case, the child
had to be decieved about what was happening in order to take physical
custody of him. It was awful and at least as traumatic for the parents
as for the son, who was too stoned to know what was going on. I'll cut
to the chase. One of these two boys has ended up just fine. As a
result of the program he went completely clean and sober (more than 15
years now), has subsequently married and is a loving and responsible
parent. The second also substantially changed his behavior and was
pretty much ok for 5 or 6 years, until he had a very tragic run-in
with a firearm and is now in prison. Interestingly, after he
completed the "boot camp" program, not only was he not angry with his
parents, but rather he thanked them for caring enough to do such a
difficult thing. Just to complete the tale, I will say that the third
troubled son, who did not go into a program, came out OK as well; that
her two other children never got into any trouble whatsoever and went
to college, pursued careers, and had families as she had expected all
five would; and that the entire family has been very close and
supportive of one another, despite their very different paths, for
There are two points here. One is that it is very, very difficult to
understand why children get derailed or what pulls them out of it. The
second is that horrific as these "boot camps" may seem to some of us,
we need to remember that they are probably right for some kids. In
this case, I believe they saved one kid and helped another. I would
implore this heartbroken mother to listen, listen, listen to her child
and her heart.
A few years ago I faced the decision of what to do with my very much out of
control teen aged daughter (who up until 10th grade was a straight A student).
I took her to a "theraputic community" out of the country. It was one of the
hardest things I've ever done in my whole entire life. The desicion was agony,
but I was sure my daughter's life was in danger. After I left her there I went
through her things and found her beautiful down jacket full of cement glue. It
also had a tear in the back from where someone tried to knife her. During a
visit as we were lying in the dark falling asleep she said to me "mom, I've had
guns put to my head and knives to my throat...you probably saved my life".
I've had doubts. I'll never be totally sure if I did the right thing if I
should have kept her here and let her work things out. She was angry at me
after she left the place for a while and her life has not been easy and clear
cut since, though not bad like it was before. I do know one thing though. She's
alive to make it better.
this page was last updated: Apr 14, 2012
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