Wilderness Program / Therapeutic Boarding School

Hi All, looking for a few parent recommendations  and guidance re: a therapeutic educational consultant for boarding and wilderness placements.  Please know it’s very sensitive as this is for an adoptive child, who has some attachment issues, so placement is delicate. 

willows in the winds has been very very helpful - 🙏🏼 - but also looking for direct feedback.

Open Sky? Sorrenson Ranch? Randi Klein? Dore Frances? David Heikenlively? 

Many many thanks! To better days ahead ...

Parent Replies

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Your message says that you are looking for an educational consultant, but also includes a request for direct feedback about Open Sky, which is a wilderness program.  You also ask for feedback on David Heckenlively.  We ended up placing our son at Open Sky after learning about it from friends.  We had met with Heckenlively initially, but learned of OS and selected it without his assistance.  We ended up hiring Heckenlively for advice re: post-wilderness placement, and frankly I wish we had saved our money.  For $3k we got a list of therapeutic boarding schools, a number of which were already on our radar.  Most disappointingly, when we asked him how much each of the schools cost, his response was that they were all between 7k and 8k.  The first one we called was over $13k/month.  

As for OS, I can't say enough about that place.  It's astonishing to me what they are able to achieve in 12 weeks.  I would recommend them without reservation.  You should know that by the time your kid is getting close to graduating, they will be recommending the next placement (e.g. Residential Treatment Center, Therapeutic Boarding School, home) so you won't need an EC for that.  If I had it to do over, I would have been asking my kid's OS therapist earlier in the process what type of placement they were leaning towards because everything happens very quickly at the end, and it is hard to find time to visit potential placements (we didn't). 

My final words of advice are to trust your gut.  The situations that lead one to consider such placements are emotionally turbulent and it's hard to find your center in the midst of this turmoil.  But it's still in there.  Best of luck to you on this journey.

I think I will be in the minority when I say that I did not love the education consultant that we worked with (Shayna Abraham). I talked to others who had a very positive experience with her, but I didn't think that she gave us the personalized and individualized attention that we had hoped she would. As a result, I didn't have the confidence to pull the trigger on sending my child to wilderness, residential treatment, or boarding school. Specifically, she recommended some local programs that my child was literally already enrolled in (and which we had told her about). She made strange assumptions about my child and about our family situation, and ultimately provided a list of residential treatment/boarding schools that she recommended with no explanation of what it was about each program that she felt was a good fit.

I would definitely interview a few ed consultants before you sign on with one--especially since it is an investment of several thousand dollars.

Other resources to consult would be your school district's IEP coordinator--they sometimes place students in these programs and some of them actually visit the programs and have insight. You could also ask your kid's local therapeutic team for recommendations.

I wish you the best--I know that you are going through hell right now. It will very likely get much better.

I just went through placement with my teen last year. My Ed consultant is Mary and she is very knowledgeable. She explained clearly and firmly on why my teen needed to go to a therapeutic boarding school as I had some concerned and misperceptions about TBS. I could have not done it without her. There were quite a few adopted kids at the program and they were all making great progress there.

It was the hardest decision I had ever made. My teen eventually ended up thanking me for saving his life.


I also had contacted David Heikenlively but he cancelled last minute the night before of the appointment and never called me to reschedule. 

you can email me directly if you have questions.

Hi There,

My daughter just completed at New Vision wilderness. She had a great experience there. She is adopted and the program is focused on attachment and trauma. Many wilderness programs aren't. My daughter does not have a major attachment disorder, but being adopted, there are attachment issues that just come with the territory, I think.  My educational consultant is Jennifer Taylor at Jeted consulting. She made very good recommendations. I cannot speak highly enough about New Visions or her. My daughter has moved on to an RTC called Solstice West in Utah. It was a little rocky at first, but she's doing well there now too. Good luck with everything!

Hi - chiming in a bit later than some, but wanted to make a couple points. I agree wholeheartedly with the person who sent their child to Open Sky. That place saved my son's life, no question. It's a top notch amazing program. We found it thanks to an excellent EC who is no longer in the business. I agree with the assessment of Shayna Abrams, with whom I had a disconcerting conversation when interviewing her. I DO think it's critical to have an EC help with the after-wilderness piece. I disagree with the opinion of the Open Sky parent who said that the OS therapist can recommend places. They typically do NOT do that, because to do so is to incur a conflict of interest. They might suggest a TYPE of place--therapeutic boarding school, residential treatment center, etc--but they aren't in the business of recommending specific programs. There are some good ECs out there, and a whole bunch of mediocre ones, and some bad ones. For reference, I suggest a closed facebook group called "Parents with Kids in Residential Treatment." There are document that that this group has created with ECs (and programs) that they can recommend. You can also post a query to the group asking for advice. Also, I'm open to your reaching out to me - please go through the moderator. I did a lot of EC research and there's at least one name I wish I'd gone with instead of the person I chose. Good luck. I admire you for taking these steps. It's the hardest thing we can do as a parent, but this work can be amazingly transformative. My son thanks me for saving his life.