Residential Treatment Programs

Parent Q&A

  • ISO: Dual-Diagnosis Treatment Program for Adolescents

    (0 replies)

    It's becoming clear that my 17-year-old (very soon to be 18-year-old) son can no longer live safely at home, if we continue on the path we're on.  I'm searching for a program to address cannabis addiction and an eating disorder (ARFID), both underlain by anxiety.  I'm open to intensive options while living at home, or a residential facility.  I would be grateful for any recommendations for programs, facilities, or interventionists / consultants who can help find a good fit program or facility.

    With gratitude.

  • Residential Therapeutic School recommendation for 14 yr old

    (2 replies)

    Hi There, I have a 14 yr old daughter who is dealing with anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation.  I would like to get any recommendation on IEP plan and placement by the school district into a residential program.  Also, need some help in shortlisting few therapeutic schools for her education needs.  

    Willows in the Wind is an amazing local resource to help with questions like this. They have monthly parent support groups where you can talk to and get insights from parents in all stages of their journey with struggling teens. Their website also has a lot of useful information.

    My son has been at 2 RTC's in Utah and I recommend Heritage in Provo. He was suffering from anxiety, depression, homicidal and suicidal ideation. There is a xl document with all of the NPS's in the US that are certified for California, that's the best document to use to short-list a school that would be more likely for district funding. We needed an education attorney for an IEP placement and had to unilaterally place and self-pay at first. Good luck and best wishes for the safety of your daughter. Willows in the Wind support group meeting is an excellent resource for support and understanding.

    New replies are no longer being accepted.
  • Troubled Teen / Boarding School Or A Summer Program

    (4 replies)

    Evening, I have three children - 2 biological and 1 adopted - my adopted son was diagnosed with adhd at 7. We adopted him out of foster care and aren’t sure of his first few years nor natal history. We haven’t ruled out FASD - though doctors arent certain and there’s no true way to tell without a neurologist. At 16 we are seeing a spiraling out of control — dangerous behaviors, drugs, sneaking out, apathy, dishonesty, and poor grades. It’s unsettling for our family and not how we have raised or children. The psychiatrist he sees has recommended - sadly - that it’s time we look into a theraputic boarding school or summer program. This seems to be a slippery slope ... Some good, some bad ... and often you are hand held by a consultant. Does anyone have experience with this? Have the name of a consultant? I have seen previous post recommending Terry Trotter, Sullivan Ranch School, Herritage, etc. Also, any Los Angeles based Consultants would be welcomed too. We are currently down here for family - so a local opinion now to tied us over and help us launch into research might be good. Thanks.

    We used David Heckenlively out of Walnut Creek to help us look at options for our emotionally troubled 17 year old son.  In the end, our son went to a therapeutic wilderness environment and then to a RTC that was very therapeutic based.  It was the hardest but best decision we have made and our son learned a lot of skills that still help him in life.  We were lucky in that our son was engaged and actively looking to find ways to manage and cope with life.  His take was that 1/3 of the boys were actively working on themselves, 1/3 were just going with the program and 1/3 were actively defiant or not at all engaged so not all kids will always have a positive outcome.  

    Coyote Coast, a private social work type organization specializes in dealing the kids like this, in Orinda should be able to help you. They are thoughtful,experienced and work with troubled kids and placements like schools and wilderness..  I'd be wary of sending away an adopted kid, but I know an instance where it worked well.  I think these schools are full of adopted kids.  Adoptive mom of teen.

    Mercedes Carbone, educational consultant in Walnut Creek has guided us through finding the best support and placement for our child. I highly recommend working with her. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have. This can be a very challenging process.

    There is a non-profit group that meets monthly in Los Altos, Oakland, and San Rafael.  It is called Willows in the Wind and is a support group for parents such as yourself, facing this decision, or after having placed their child in residential treatment.  Here is the website:

    New replies are no longer being accepted.
  • Heritage Residential Treatment Center

    (1 reply)

    Hello! Have any families sent their children to Heritage RTC in Provo, UT? Our 15-year-old daughter is there now and we are hoping to get some insight from others. We'd love to hear about your experiences, good, bad or in between. You can either post here are contact me directly. Thank you!

    My son has been in the PEERS program (for HFASD) at Heritage since Dec 2016. We are using it as a step-down from a level 14 facility in southern Utah and I really like Heritage a lot. I'd be happy to contact you. I have a friend with a son in the Elevate program there (for mood disorders). All of the students interact and spend time with each other, though classes are separated by gender.

    New replies are no longer being accepted.
  • therapeutic boarding schools

    (9 replies)


    I am looking for any recommendations to therapeutic boarding schools for a troubled teenage daughter. I realize there is a lot of data against them but I really feel at a loss. She lies, skips class, has no motivation aside from putting on make up... I don't know if she is doing drugs -- it may be so with the amount of blatant lies that go on. I really don't think I can manage this at home. We have tried the carrot and the stick, read books on teenage behavior, talking to counselors at BHS (which I have to say are are overall blaze about the whole thing: "there are worse students" etc). If you know of schools that can be helpful I appreciate your recommendations. 

    Desperate mom of a teenage monster

    RE: therapeutic boarding schools ()

    First, I want to tell you I am sorry for your pain, and know this is a difficult time.  I am glad you are reaching out to find out more from folks who have been there.

    Our 16-year-old daughter has just returned from 13 months of residential treatment and is thriving--kind, loving, responsible, managing all aspects of her life, joyful and engaged--and I wish that we hadn't waited so long to seek more treatment than simply a couple of therapists.  It was really helpful when her psychiatrist said, "She needs more help than two loving parents who are not trained professionals can provide.  She needs trained and compassionate professionals who can rotate through shifts to provide the high level of care she needs now."

    First step:  hire an educational consultant.  They are expensive but know the industry and the many, many programs and what type of program your child will respond to.  After a very poor experience with one consultant (find out how much time you are contracting them for.  We found the first consultant did not accurately represent the kids that were admiited to the program we chose, and were very upset to find kids with much more serious problems than our daughter, and that we only received three hours of direct consulting advice for placement recommendations.), I interviewed 7 consultants from around the country and ultimately chose Vania Mattheus, who is based right here in the east bay.  She's been exceptionally knowledgeable and constructive in her input, and even the residential staff and management express their trust and gratitude for her insights and strategies for supporting our daughter prior to coming home.  Consultants have knowledge about the inner workings of programs, and through experience know when a program is not functioning in a manner that benefits its students.  It's difficult for laypeople like inexperienced parents to truly assess quality and program problems.

    Next:  get informed.  Jan Rao and Willow in the Winds is an incredible local resource for learning about educational consultants, types of programs, and connecting with parents struggling and learning in the same process.   An additional resource is SNAP: Support Network for Alumni and Parents for families served by the residential treatment community, and is a offshoot of the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP).  The website has an extensive listing of websites, programs, and other support services for families.  

    Very helpful books:  Second Shelter: Family Strategies for Navigating Therapeutic Boarding Schools and Residential Treatment Centers; Rebecca Haid (probably the first book you should read, as it covers the range of programs offered and how programs differ);  The Road Home, Ruben Jimenez; The Journey of the Heroic Parent: Your Child's Struggle and the Road Home, Brad Reedy; Not by Chance: How Parents Boost Their Teen's Success In and After Treatment; Tim Thayne; Parallel Process: Growing Alongside your Adolescent or Young Adult Child in Treatment, Krissy Pozatek.

    This decision is certainly the most difficult I ever faced, but I am glad to have made the choice and feel profoundly grateful for the growth and healing in my daughter and our family as a result.  Many blessings to you, your child, and your family on your journey.  

    RE: therapeutic boarding schools ()

    I feel your pain...your daughter is acting out and I've found, after being in your situation, it doesn't get better. You didn't mention if your daughter is in any kind of traditional talk therapy. I would start there, but judging from what you've described, she may not go willingly.

    We used Prepare to Bloom, as a therapeutic and educational consultant. Berkeley High was worthless in helping the situation. Shayna helped us evaluate which next steps or programs our daughter needed. After her behavior escalated we decided to send her to wilderness therapy at Trails Carolina. After that program she went to Spring Ridge Academy, a therapeutic boarding school. I've found the advice after wilderness is usually boarding school, because it's very hard for these kids to return to their prior lifestyle. Trails was an amazing experience for our daughter and our family. It's an well thought out program that doesn't use as much isolation therapy as others. Spring Ridge had it's ups and downs, but did a great job preparing her for her return to "real life".

    I'm happy to say after all of this that my daughter is doing very well. I can't fathom what would have happened if she did not get the help she needed. 

    RE: therapeutic boarding schools ()

    I recommend you speak with Teresa Currivan ,, before you do anything. She does phone consultations as well as in person consults, and she will talk with you about the situation, your daughter, and make recommendations on therapeutic & educational options, including what schools to look at, etc.  She helped me with my own daughter when we realized public school was definitely not going to work for her (or us) and I occasionally follow up with her to get a "reality check" on where things are at now, even though big picture is things are going really well.  My daughter was much younger (8) at the time of her crisis, but Teresa works with kids of all ages and I've referred a few friends with teens to her over the years.

    As a former "teenage monster" myself, I want to say, your daughter is crying out for help in the only way she can right now. Please hear her pain above all else. I am now a happy and successful business owner & mother, but I'm pretty sure there was very little evidence of my future success in the ways I appeared to others, the things I said and did. I wish I'd had an adult advocate, ideally my own parents, but at least someone who saw me and understood me.

    RE: therapeutic boarding schools ()

    Evoke/Academy at Sisters mom:

    A young woman from our town who had just graduated from a therapeutic boarding school said to me, "I think most parents wait too long before they take serious steps". So that is really what precipitated our journey with the more extreme pro active path of therapeutic boarding school etc. Our experience and those parents I have spoken with highly recommend a wilderness or RTC program initially - with our daughter, like I said above, we thought she could just go straight to a therapeutic boarding school but that didn't work. She flailed even more. I really believe the wilderness therapy gave her the initial skills to begin reflecting on her reactions and develop healthier communication skills.

    ​It's a rough path. I feel very clear kids' access to media is not helping anything. Books I recommend are "Untangled" (most helpful if your daughter is 11 or 12 as pro active reading) and "American Girls: social media and the secret life of girls" (to begin to recognize the impact of technology that is inappropriately used and relied upon). For movies and ongoing up to date info I recommend Screenagers.

    RE: therapeutic boarding schools ()

    Continuation of Evoke/ Academy at Sisters experience:

    around being overly engaged with social media and addictive screen behavior that interfered with real life and getting school work done. She also tends to be a creative, very sensitive soul, and for most of her life loved school. Perhaps she was just really good at hiding anxiety or wanting to please. For 9th grade she chose to go to an out of state, highly respected, incredibly expensive academic prep boarding school, that she got a scholarship for, and seemed like a dream come true. That year she went into a severe depression, however the school was not really fully aware because she sort of functioned.  We were not able to figure out what was going on as she disconnected entirely from us and her anger toward us prevented any kind of dialogue. The school kept recommending she finish out the year even though we felt something was drastically wrong. When visiting her she would not engage, same when she flew home. She never said she didn't want to be there and was very defensive if we asked how things were going. We were very concerned about the idea of wilderness/therapeutic boarding school/RTC concept because she really wasn't appearing to do extreme things relative to others, and yet she obviously needed help and did not want to be home or have anything to do with us.

    A young woman from our town,

    RE: therapeutic boarding schools ()

    My heart goes out to you as I imagine the anxiety about the safety and well being of your daughter is overwhelming. Similar to one of the other responses, I recommend an education consultant/consulting group such as Bodin. there was another one we interviewed in Walnut Creek I can't remember the name of.  We were impressed with both but didn't use them. We didn't use one at first because it seemed so expensive, choosing to do our own research, placement tests, transportation etc. and it ended up costing us way more, on many levels, in the end. There is a whole industry out there and it is unlikely you would find all the options and best fit without the help of a consultant.

    After choosing not to do a wilderness therapy program but rather going straight to a therapeutic boarding school of our choice, our daughter ended up in the hospital for 10 days under psychiatric care after extreme emotional outbursts and episodes of self harm attempts in the 30 days at the therapeutic boarding school where we had enrolled her.

    After the hospital, she went to Evoke which is a wilderness therapy program in Bend, OR for 3 months (she really thrived there and the therapists were excellent - Brigitte and Sabrina) and then the Academy at Sisters which is a girls therapeutic boarding school for about a year. I highly recommend both of them.

    Our daughter never really appeared to struggle prior to 8th grade except some red flags 

    RE: therapeutic boarding schools ()

    I am SO sorry that you are in this situation. I'm sure you'll have many responses. A good resource when you are considering residential treatment is Willows in the Wind. They have been really helpful for me. DREDF is a fantastic resource to learn about educational law and your rights.

    My son was hospitalized non-stop for 3 months for harm to self and others prior to entering a crisis RTC in St George Utah. He's now at a wonderful step-down RTC called Heritage School in Provo Utah. We found out he has autism spectrum disorder and was really good at hiding his daily struggles and challenges during the school day. Based on my experience, please be sure to completely exhaust all other resources before resorting to residential treatment, unless it is a matter of life or death. Your child needs to be assessed for learning disabilities and illnesses.

    Follow the law, start immediately with the school and with your health insurance and do not back down until you get what you need. Document everything you do to advocate for your child.

    There is no such thing as advocating too hard for your child's rights. 

    Best wishes.

    RE: therapeutic boarding schools ()

    I can honestly say sometimes I feel the same, like I don't know if I can survive my daughter's lies and acting out very much more. So, if you find anything, a good school, I'd definitely be interested to hear and kept in the loop. It hasn't gotten to that point yet, but I'm keeping my options open.

    RE: therapeutic boarding schools ()

    I've spent the last couple of years considering options for my teen.  In addition to what you described we also had sneaking out at night, on-going bullying an episode of physical violence against a sibling, barricading in the room for days at a time, refusal to follow house rules or engage in general civil behavior, beginnings of self-harm and cannabis and alcohol mis-use.  A real Jeckle and Hyde, our teen presents outside the home as a "a little down" but basically a good kid with friends and respectful to adults.  At heart this is a good kid who we love dearly, but clearly struggling in a way we cannot parent or help effectively despite "trying everything", including years of evaluations, therapy, and various other "interventions" both individual and family. 

    We worked with The Bodin Group in Los Altos ( to explore options. There is a wide range to consider from treatment at home, to therapeutic wilderness programs, to a range of boarding schools (traditional, supportive, therapeutic).  This is serious stuff and traumatic for not only the teen, but also the whole family.  If you are considering a therapeutic option, I highly suggest you work with a professional and speak with many parents that have been through / are going through it.  Therapeutic programs and schools are truly the point of last resort after "everything else" has failed.

    At the beginning of this summer, we were one scheduling phone call away from entry into a wilderness therapy program - application in, acceptance offered, spot held.  A final few phone calls with parents who's teens had gone through the program made us think the move was too drastic for us, we became concerned we risked further alienating our teen.  We realized we we'd be putting our teen in a program with much more troubled teens than ours, and that we hadn't "tried everything".  Getting through the summer was hell.

    Our teen is now in the second week of an out-of-state traditional boarding school with an optional supportive program which we found with the help of an independent high school placement counselor.  We are hopeful the supportive program is appropriate to address our teen's challenges that underlie the out-of-bounds behavior. Our teen went reluctantly, but after a few days of radio silence, communication is open and better than it's been in a long time.  Clearly, we're in the early days here, but all looks promising.  We are grateful that our teen is in a structured environment with adults we trust, and for relief from the constant stress day-to-day parenting a teen like this put on our marriage and family.  We'll see how it goes, but I'm glad we made this decision.  I'm more hopeful than I've been in a long time.  (BTW: the $ spent with Bodin was well spent, as it got us to this point, even though in the end we did not follow Bodin's recommendation).

    These programs are all ridiculously expensive.  They are deep investments in time and emotion as well as money.  There's something underlying the troubledness.  Do your research thoroughly and find what's the next best step for your teen and your family.  You're not alone, find other parents / parent groups to support your through this phase.  I wish you the best through this difficult process.

    New replies are no longer being accepted.
  • Alternatives to (or reviews of) Heritage School in Utah?

    (2 replies)

    Looking for recommendations for non-public therapeutic boarding schools (or residential treatment centers) for a boy entering 7th grade.  ADHD + anxiety + OCD.  District recommends Heritage School in UT.  If anyone can share their recent experiences with this school or recommend others, we'd greatly appreciate it!  Many thanks.

    My son has been at Heritage since December 2016. I'd be more than happy to talk with you and hopefully connect with other Heritage families.

    Best wishes through this most difficult time.

    My son spent 11 months at Telos in Orem, Utah and it was the best thing we've ever done to help him.  

    New replies are no longer being accepted.
  • Therapeutic boarding schools--reviews wanted

    (5 replies)

    My son is a very bright high-school sophomore who has been suffering from anxiety and depression for some time. His father (my husband) died 20 months ago after a long illness, and I also had a major illness when my son was very young. He is in outpatient treatment, but he is not thriving in general. In particular, Berkeley High does not seem like the right place for him to be. Not the school's fault, so much (though they offer few services due to budget problems), but it's just not a good fit right now. I seek recommendations for academically excellent boarding schools that include a therapeutic component: i.e., substantial counseling services and a "whole-person" approach to education. I also want a place that offers good arts and language classes and gives the kids job responsibilities. Preferred regions are California or New England. Reviews of the Hyde School in Maine and any other similar institutions would be welcome. Thank you.

    Hi - My 17 year old son is at a residential treatment center (Telos in Orem, Utah) and while sending him to wilderness and then to the RTC was the hardest decision of my life, it has turned out to be the best decision of my life too.  My son has social anxiety, anger, ADHD.  All issues that made it so we didn't function well as a family, and he had trouble functioning socially.    We had numerous years of therapy (mostly for him), but I think he wasn't mature enough for much of the therapy, and in the end he needed much more than a weekly therapy session.  We only sent him to wilderness to get him off the computer as he was isolating more and more into his video games, but the video game playing was just a coping mechanism to help him get through life since he was having trouble functioning in a healthy way and having trouble making friends.  Plus, he needed to have intervention when his behaviors, emotions, etc. were in the heat of the moment, not just meet with his therapist and tell her about it and his father and I did not have the skill set to help him with his challenges.    After 6 weeks of wilderness (which he grudgingly went to), he admitted that it was helpful.  In the end, so helpful, that he was the one who hugged me and comforted me, telling me it would be ok, when his father and I dropped him at his RTC.  He is still there, and I visit often.  I see the growth he is making every week, and he himself it the first to say, that this investment of a year of his life will help him for the rest of his life.  I am happy to share more with you.  

    I'm writing from the perspective of a parent who is also a therapist for over 25 years.  I had an opposite experience from some of the comments.  I sent my 14 year old to residential treatment for anxiety and depression and it was a very, very positive thing to have done for her.  Yes, it was painful and difficult and she missed the family terribly, and we missed her terribly, but it helped her tremendously.  She came home functioning so much better than she had been, so much happier and with so many positive tools to help her when she has mood issues now.  She is not on any medication whatsoever and doing as well or better than her peers.  I highly recommend considering it.  I would also recommend you get an educational consultant to help you choose the right situation for your family and child.  They can be extremely knowledgable and helpful.  It's just terrible to have a child struggling, but it definitely can get better.

    I have been working in the mental health field for over 20 years, including working with adolescents and their parents with varieties of issues.  My recommendation to this kind of situation is never a boarding school/residential treatment programs.  I have almost never seen a success story by sending kids to these programs.  From my experiences, I recommend family therapy with you and your son (and any siblings, other adults involved)right here.  Adolescents never feel great when they are "sent away" from their home.  Imagined to be them.  Does it feel good to be sent away?       I know it's really hard to see your son suffer. I know you may feel incompetent or inadequate to help your son,  You may feel your son needs more than you can ever provide help with at home.  I am a mom too and I get that.  But, they need you right there with them. 

    My ultimate recommendation is to get down with your son to struggle with him.  Some time, you just need to be there. Let him know you are right there when he needs you.  Let him know you want to help but don't know how.  Ask him help you help him.  Ask him to go learn how to help him together. 

    He may reject at first. Teens are like toddlers. They will test you first. Be persistent and consistent.  

    Please know that I can be completely off. I am saying all this based on the little fact I know about your life that I learned by reading what you posted. 

    Hope you both will find a way to thrive together.

    You might want to contact Willows in the Wind, which is a parent group with a lot of experience with residential treatment programs.  There are two monthly meetings, one of which is in Oakland.  Information about the monthly meetings  They are very kind and knowledgeable people. 

    I understand that this must be a very hard place to be in, but I couldn't help but think while reading, that your son has been through the trauma of your illness as a young child, and then the loss of his father at such a young age - so much loss! Sending him away, especially far away from you, who are likely his only constant, at this tender point in his life seems like a choice you may want to reconsider. I'm not judging you, I understand how hard parenting is, but I would urge you to seek compassion for his losses (as well as your own) and perhaps find a therapist and school environment where he might be able to be home with you - studies are showing more and more that our teens need us more than they did as toddlers, and sooner than you think he'll be away at college and in the world. Sending you prayers of hope and peace!

    New replies are no longer being accepted.
  • boarding schools for troubled teen

    (3 replies)

    Can someone recommend a boarding school that have both therapeutic and strong academic components for a 15-year-old teen. Thanks. 

    My daughter attended a residential treatment center called Newport Academy that she had a lot of success at. I would try calling them, if they aren't right then they maybe know others.

    You might want to contact a group called Willows in the Wind, which was founded by parents whose children had gone to residential treatment of one sort or another.  Willows has monthly meetings, one in Los Altos Hills and the other in Oakland.  The Oakland meeting is usually held at Kaiser Oakland, but is not affiliated with Kaiser.  It a wonderfully supportive group and they have a lot of knowledge about programs.  Several years ago, I regularly attended meetings even though I could not afford to send my troubled teen daughter to a residential program.   I'd suggest contacting them and attending a meeting:  Jan Rao 650 868-1988 jrao [at]   The website is

    Best of luck to you and your family. 


    I have a friend who runs just such a school in Bend, Oregon. It's a great place, really supportive and structured with good academics. It's called Bridges Boys Academy. Check it out. Good luck.

    New replies are no longer being accepted.
  • Therapeutic Boarding School options for ADHD & Anxious 12 y.o.

    (1 reply)

    Have any of you had to resort to this?  I feel so alone.  My DS refuses to do any school work and it is often a challenge to even get him to go to school.  He is very smart but also very anxious and feels overwhelmed easily and generally has a mindset of "I can't do it." 

    Looking for Therapeutic Boarding Schools that are licensed for California...any luck getting funding from school district?  They offered me NPS but having trouble getting them to fund the places that seem like a good fit...(i.e.Cherry Gulch).

    Contact The Bodin Group  They will assess your child and work with you on options and placement.

    New replies are no longer being accepted.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Experience with therapeutic boarding schools?

May 2013

Do any parents out there have personal experience with therapeutic boarding schools for challenged younger adolescents (ages 10-14)? I am searching in particular for therapeutic boarding schools with a high level, professional clinical services, and possibly residential treatment centers with a high level of nurturing. Any suggestions welcome, particularly any comments (positive and negative) about Cherry Gulch in Idaho, Intermountain in Montana, Cherokee Creek in South Carolina, and Forest Heights Lodge in Colorado. Thanks.

We have experience with finding the therapeutic boarding school that most appropriately could meet the needs of our son at 15 years old - wish we had taken action earlier,but we were in denial and ignorant of the resources. His issues were anxiety, depression and turning to drugs to check out rather than learning appropriate coping skills. So we found help through 2 EXCELLENT Educational Consultants. We found hiring an Ed Consultant really important because EVERY place looked excellent on their webpage, but the Ed Consultants know the inside scoop on which programs really are suited for kids of a particular category and which are well run, which have counselors with longevity, which have a current turnover in staff or leadership struggles. We have personal experience and can recommend: Larry Stednitz lstednitz [at] 1-805-772-4311. And Anne Lewis eduoptions [at] 1-805-969-2186. And look for places with NATSAP certification (national assoc of therapeutic schools). Good luck. Ginny

I have 2 yrs of direct experience with Forest Heights Lodge and it is of the highest professional and common-sense quality. I recommend it without reservation. eb mom

Therapeutic Foster Home for 14-year-old adopted daughter?

Oct 2011

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 month ( 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

Your experience with residential treatment centers?

Oct 2011

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 anonymous

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. anon

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 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. m.

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. anonymous

Residential therapy for adopted (RAD) daughter

Sept 2011

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 substance use.

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. anonymous

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 you. anonymous

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. Optimistic Mom

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 home.

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. Best, Mark

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 dependent or 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 placements).

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 time. r 

Therapeutic boarding school for adopted 13-year-old

May 2011

Hello. 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 school.

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. Mark

Hi Mark, Please look at our website, 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. Robin

Residential treatment for troubled teen

April 2011

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 appreciated. Struggling mom

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

Boarding School Recommendation for teen w/PTSD and grief/loss

Feb 2011

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! Thanks, Em

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 teen. anonymous

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. 415/747-8909 Barbara

2007 - 2009 Recommendations

After care services for teen coming home from RTC?

Nov 2009

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 your family.

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. Good luck anonymous

Residential treatment for RAD ADHD Oppositional Behavior

June 2009

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. Anon

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 Luck!

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. anonymous

Call Virginia Keeler-Wolf in Oakland. She is one of a group of therapists who are specifically 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 son was 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. Mom

2004 - 2006 Recommendations

Good boarding school for totally out of control teen

April 2005

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? jen

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. a mom

Boarding Program for Troubled Teen?

March 2005

We have a troubled relative who is 13, and out of control. 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 luck.

former troubled youth

My 16-year-old step-daughter is out of control

October 2004

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. Cynthia

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 way.

I have a disorganized blog on the matter at 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 Child 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. anon

Need info about out-of-state residential treatment programs

July 2004

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. Thanks Betty

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. Anonymous

Yesterday we posted an article, Safe Choices for Parents of Troubled 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. Cheryl

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 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. anon

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 boarding schools, 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 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. Best wishes, lori

2003 & Earlier

Residential school for teen with emotional problems

November 2002

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 & 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, 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 them. -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 club!)

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. anonymous

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. anonymous

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: Douglas Bodin Bodin & Associates Los Altos, CA (415) 948-8651 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 Good luck in your search. JS

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 too.

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. Another Mom

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.)

Warning about Harsh residential schools

June 2003

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.

Looking for residential schools for out-of-control teenage daughter

April 2000

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 family.) Anonymous

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: It has schools divided into same sex, co-ed, behavioral/conduct issues, psychiatric and wilderness programs. Keep breathing and Good Luck. Rosa

[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 area.

Boot camp for 16 year old who is endangering herself?

April 2000

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 horrible result. Anonymous

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: 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. anonymous

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 myself....

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 independence.

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. Best wishes, Claire

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 them.


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 many years.

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 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.


My son's friend's mother had him kidnapped and taken to boarding school - what can I do?

April 1998

I'm in the role of the other adult for one of my son's life-long friends and am wondering if anyone has any advice that could truly help this kid now because I think by the time he can legally separate from his mother his life will be such a mess that it'll be very unlikely he'll be able to set it right.

My son's friend was adopted as an infant and his very sweet foster dad died suddenly when he was about four. Since he was about five his mother has repeatedly told him (typically in a frenzied scream) what an awful and useless person he is. I've been a witness to these sessions, and while in recent years he's also been less than an angel in them, for a long time he simply took the abuse. She told me once about how she'd been raised this way and how awful it had been, but of course such patterns tend to repeat despite such awareness. Now, at 15, he seems hell-bent to prove her right and has totally destroyed his chances to succeed in school.

The mother's solution has been to send him away to boarding school both during the school year and the summer. All the other parents around this situation agree that this is the best thing for him because it gets him out of her house, but he's now refusing to go because he wants to stay near his friends, who are for the most part good kids & decent students. Several of us parents have talked to him and suggested that he'd be best off just going to boarding school and focusing on pulling his life together, but he's steadfast in the opinion that he can turn it around here. I think he's fooling himself and have told him so. So far as I know, none of us have confronted the mother directly because we're all pretty scared of her ourselves, although recent events have some of us now chomping at the bit for the opportunity to lay into her.

The other morning at 5:30 she had him kidnapped by two huge guys (according to the kid who was spending the night and was picked up out of his bed and deposited outside) to Idaho for a wilderness experience camp for wayward kids. I can imagine the approach taken... He will then be transported to the boarding school in Maine that he was sent to this summer with the (now broken) promise that he'd be allowed to attend a local private school this year. The whole idea of having your own kid kidnapped out of his bed by a couple of thugs is repulsive to begin with, and yet I do think in the end that he's best off as far away from her as possible. So the question is, what do people think I should do? Let it lie, finally confront the mother (although I can't imagine she'd really listen), do the Dear Abby solution and send her this letter, what?

Thanks in advance to all. - a Dad

Parents having their children kidnapped is not uncommon - it's increasingly used as a way for parents to deal with children who have become a behavior problem in one way or another. Maybe the kid is destructive and dangerous, or maybe he just disobeys overly-strict parents and they don't want to deal with him.

There is a whole cottage industry surrounding the treatment facilities the kids are taken to. They are usually sent off to camps or schools where they receive intensive therapy or live under very strict conditions that are basically like being in prison. Sort of a new twist on sending problem children to military school. Look in the back of a magazine like Sunset that is targeted to older, upper-middle-class people and you will see lots of ads for these camps and schools, under the headings Defiant Teenager? and Teen Help. They even take insurance and offer student loans.

I read several articles in the newspaper about this over the summer. There was a case in the Bay Area of a neighbor who went to court to try to prevent a 16-year-old boy from being shipped off to one of these schools (in Jamaica) against his will. This neighbor was himself a judge, and he claimed that the boy was not a problem, but that his parents were very strict & inflexible and that the boy's only behavior problem was sometimes not obeying his parents' strict rules. This neighbor was ready to have the boy come live with his family. But he lost the case and the boy was sent off to the school. The ruling was that his parents were not harming him and so therefore they have the legal right to make decisions about their child.

Personally I think this kidnapping stuff is bizarre and abusive. The parents must have at least as many problems as the kids, to do something like this. On the other hand, I know someone who had her teenage son kidnapped and sent off to boarding school in a different state. She said that he was violent, and had had a lot of drug and alcohol problems since early teens. He had made threats of violence against his parents - they were afraid to leave him at home alone and didn't know what else to do. He went to one of these places and apparently drastically improved, grade-wise and attitude-wise and otherwise. He's back now in a regular private school, doing well. So, it just goes to show you that there are all kinds of different ways to look at this, and it is really hard to know what the right thing is.

First ... don't give up on the kid. No matter what happens, just try to find a way to stay in touch with him ... write to him at the boarding school in Maine, if you can. You don't have to have all the answers ... SIMPLY caring, consistently caring, and not bailing out on him WILL make a difference. Even if you don't know how to help, just keep telling him you care and you believe in him. His mother is NOT telling him that (as I hear your email) AND his mother is breaking commitments to him. You have an unspoken commitment to show him that you care; don't give up; model for him an adult who will keep a commitment.

He also has some options. Now that he's out of state, it's more difficult, but if he comes back to California say, for holiday, *he* could take himself down to Social Services and ask to be legally freed from his mother and put into a foster home. To do this for someone under 18 is very difficult and I really don't know what Social Services would say to him. I don't know if they'd try to get him a place to move or try to offer counseling to him and his mom or what. But if he made such a move, on his own, the authorities would have to do something to offer some sort of intervention. Of course, he'd also run the risk of his mother just getting more angry with him, but if he feels things are bad enough, he might be ready to take that risk. He could, at a minimum, receive some free, professional advice.

I want to tell you that my sister never went to high school at all. She was a troubled teen with serious dyslexia which, in the early 60s was not diagnosed (no one knew about it) so teachers always just scolded her for not paying attention. She grew more and more despairing and left school altogether, and at 16,17,18 seemed utterly bent on self-destruction. She worked odd jobs for many years, married, had children ... and then decided that she WOULD be a good role model to her kids, WOULD get a college degree. (She also got a diagnosis of dyslexia, which helped a lot.) It took her many years of remedial work and tutoring before she was ready for serious college work, but ultimately she got her BA with honors and is almost done with her Masters.

Don't give up on your kid's friend. He may pull himself together in one year or in five, but if HE is steadfast in the opinion that he can turn it around then there is still a lot of hope for him.