Advice about Therapeutic Boarding Schools
I don't have personal experience with that location but I have significant experience with RTCs in the states. My concerns would be about accreditation and liscencing. If your student is in high school, even the California accredited facilities don't transfer academic credits the qualify for A-G requirements. The academic rigor just isn't available.
Liscencing is specific about qualified staff. I would be especially concerned about therapeutic and medical clinicians and their qualifications. The ability to be able to prescribe medications and evaluate their efficacy, where are medications purchased from, how many hours each week is spent in individual, family, group and recreation therapy, how they may support an IEP or other ways they may collaborate with your student's home district, how they support transition planning for the return to home, what are the visit restrictions both there and away, what types of behaviors and illnesses to they treat and support, do they have many students that are judicial placements, I could go on. There are a lot of things to consider and a lot of research to do.
I would definitely visit there and plan to spend a few days, not a few hours, being in the environment. Best to get a tour from a staff member and then another tour from a student. Eat the food. See the homes. What do they do when a student is AWOL?
Are you planning on having this placement funded by the school district? This also makes a lot of difference. Have you contacted Willows in the Wind?
Archived Q&A and Reviews
- Therapeutic boarding school for daughter with Conduct Disorder and Substance Abuse
- Will BUSD help pay for therapeutic boarding school?
- Therapeutic boarding school for younger adolescents?
- Therapeutic Foster Home for violent 14-year-old?
- Therapeutic boarding school for angry and violent 13-year-old
- Boarding School with challenging academics for teen w/PTSD and grief/loss
- Need info about out-of-state schools that offer treatment
- Residential school for bright son with emotional problems
Hi, My husband's job is based out of the Bay Area, we reside in San Diego currently. Our
16 year old daughter has a dual diagnosis of Conduct Disorder and Substance Abuse (marijuana, wax, alcohol). We are working with a wonderful psychiatrist, however she is saying that she believes our daughter would benefit most from residential treatment (already in the works with Center for Discovery Long Beach), followed by Therapeutic Boarding School. Since most of the TBSs are out of state, I worry that we'll end up with a place that has a history of insurance fraud and abuse. Would very much appreciate hearing any experiences and recommendations, including costs, from anyone with personal experience with TBSs. We are open to any in: CA, AZ, UT, NV, OR, WA, NY, FL, VA, MD. And yes, we will be using planned college funds to pay for this, since it has become clear that our daughter will never get to nor complete college without a major change. Criteria should include: girls, age 16-17, 11-12th grade, education component, strong therapy component, mood disorders/mental illness, substance abuse. Thank you all so much, have a great day. L
I'm sorry to hear of your troubles, and hate to point this out. However, it sounds as if your psychiatrist has a financial interest in therapeutic boarding schools, rather than simply a disinterested belief that they're a good idea.
Unfortunately boarding schools in general have been getting a bad rap recently: my ex and I sent my daughter to St Pauls, and got to see the place pilloried on the front page of the New York Times.
I'd suggest- since you're asking- that you find an internship with an environmental or animal-protection or some other wholesome non-profit in your home town, and see if a lot of independence and exposure to the world's problems help your daughter. Best of Luck.
Even though there are some negative reviews on Yelp (and one never knows what prompts those), our friends found a great fit for their daughter at Maple Lake Academy in Utah.
Their 14 year old daughter had severe, brain chemistry-induced emotional problems. (Pooping in her pants out of spite, some really dreadful stuff, no friends, screaming fits.) But she is also wicked smart. There was no choice but to send her somewhere that could help her.
She has been able to make great strides under their observation. She finally got the right meds, and most importantly, loves being there. They do horse therapy, which she just adores. She only wanted to come home briefly over the summer, which I think speaks volumes, because her parents are lovely people, and she has a nice relationship with them. But she finally feels like she fits in somewhere. Like you, the parents bit the bullet and are using her college fund to pay for this. Sympathetic
Thank you to all who replied to my query, I appreciate your understanding and compassion. We've decided to move on from this idea for several reasons: a) Can't afford it at all (can't even afford a consultant or interventionist); b) insurance - we've asked and prodded and gotten our healthcare advocate involved, but Blue Cross won't chip in any money for this (but they will give us a couple of weeks of inpatient rehab); c) Risk of elopement - I wouldn't put my daughter anywhere where she'd be chained/locked in anyway, so given what we know from extensive testing and therapy, she would most likely run away. So we are continuing to work with a great local psychiatrist, are looking into rehab options (and making the insurance pay for that as much as possible), and are also looking into alternative public school programs for 12th grade next school year.
If all else fails, we will be detaching with love and kicking her out after her 18th birthday to sink or swim on her own. Any college money (read: spare change) still around will be given to her to get an apartment and find a job. She'll have to figure out if and how she will get to and through college on her own. As for college in general - we make too much money for aid but not enough to pay for it, we won't co-sign loans, her grades are too low for merit scholarship, she has zero outside interests that would lead to scholarship funds, and it's doubtful she'd make it through first semester without major implosion. If she said ''I love pot so much I want to be a grower'' we'd say ''Great - go study business and agriculture, move to CO and do it.'' But that's not her thing - she's too sick to see the forest for the trees. So tough love is how it's going to be. Thanks again to all of you. L.
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] aol.com 1-805-772-4311. And Anne Lewis eduoptions [at] aol.com 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
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 unnacceptable 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
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, willowsinthewind.com. We are a group of parents whose children are now enrolled in, or have graduated from, Therapeutic Boarding Schools. We meet once a month in Los Altos, and once a month in Marin County. The Marin group is likely closer to you. The Los Altos group is larger since it has been ongoing for five years while the Marin group is less than a year old. During our meetings we share our concerns and hopes for our kids. Feel free also, to call me personally. Are you working with a therapist already? If so, do they have an educational consultant they work with? Your son will likely benefit from a wilderness experience followed by a boarding school experience. Educational consultants are familiar with these programs and can guide you to one that would meet your son's needs. I highly urge you to use a consultant, since schools use different methods. From our experience, I suggest you not use a school that claims it can help your son and send him back home in six months. It takes a long time for teens to internalize what they are learning so they can use their new skills when they come home. Ed consultants are expensive - thousands of dollars, so ask for a free appointment first if see if you feel you have a ''fit'' with the person you use. Please phone or email me and I will give you some names to try. Your first duty as a parent is to keep your child safe. It sounds like you can't do that right now. Robin
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
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 http://www.askquestions.org/articles/teens . Members of this Berkeley Parents Network contributed their insights and experiences with our reporters and helped us develop the article, which offers advice for parents dealing with an 'out of control' teenager. Feel free to share the article with anyone you know in that situation. And I'd like to warmly thank the moms who helped us develop this story. 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 http://www.askquestions.org/articles/teens/ There are more pieces of the kind on the net. Provo Canyon may have worked for a few kids but disasters stories continue to pour out of that place. Just recently (last few months) Utah (which is known to do almost nothing concerning regulation of these schools) put a permanent injunction on Provo for their abusive, really horribly abusive isolation room, use of forced drugs, their practice of taping kids mouths shut and one other think I can't remember. Also, don't simply trust the ed con. Some of them, no matter how slick, expensive, experienced may not be independent. Also ask if they ''specialize in these schools'' Too often these consultants work with k-12, college, therapeutic programs, they can't do it all. Double check credentials of everyone on staff at these programs that you can, especially psychiatrists and check backgrounds (not necessarily criminal) of directors and head therapists. I'm glad that the who posted parent had a good experience with Provo and Island View with her daughter. I DO wonder though how long it might take for stories to start coming out. Island View is just like so many schools, standard behavior mod program, experienced director but nothing very special. Kids are usually traumatized by Escort Services. I would avoid it if possible. And think and double think and triple think before you sign a contract that allows people you don't know to do pretty much whatever they want to your kid, which many contracts more or less require.
As you can tell, a concerned parent that's seen and heard too much about these places. This is a BUYER BEWARE arena if there ever was one. 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 http://monarchschool.com/. It is a coed, creative arts based school, in Montana. They have an organic garden, animals, etc., and most importantly the founders, staff and faculty are incredibly caring, and commited to helping kids get back on track. Their program is very well-conceived and the kids who graduate appear to be doing well. Our son has made enormous strides there and is barely recognisable from the angry, sullen, negative boy who refused to say goodbye to us when we took him there in March. I'm sure the school isn't perfect for everyone but I wanted you to know there are options. If you have additional questions please feel free to contact me. Best wishes, lori
I am looking for a residential school for my teenaged son who,while very bright, has severe emotional problems. We have exhausted all local options and feel that a therapeutic/residential program may be the best option now. This is not a sudden decision and we would like to be sure that the school we pick will really serve his needs. I noticed that there was some discussion on this topic here a few years ago but I wondered if anyone had more recent experience, particularly whether someone could recommend a school by name, preferably one on or near the West Coast? Also, does anyone know the name of a good counselor who specializes in placing children in residential schools? Anonymous worried mom
For the mom seeking an educational consultant and therapeutic boarding school - I can highly recommend Elizabeth McGhee at Virginia Reiss Associates in Larkspur (415)461-4788. We had a lot of success putting our child into Provo Canyon School in Utah (you can check their website at provocanyon.com & their phone is 801-227-2100). There is a boys' campus in Provo, Utah, and the girl's campus is in Orem. Both are about 45 minutes from Salt Lake City (which is a short flight on Southwest Air Lines out of Oakland). I STRONGLY advise going through a educational counselor rather than trying to make a placement decision on your own, though, because a mismatch on a school can be an expensive disaster, and while you didn't mention your son's age, you can't force children to attend such schools if they are over 18. It can take a while for a child to settle into a placement. There is also a lot of good general information at strugglingteens.com, particularly if you read through the newsletter archive (BTW,you can find educational consultants on their ''Resource'' list). If you or your spouse work for an employer with mental health insurance coverage, you may be able to get some or all of your child's tuition paid. There are therapeutic boarding schools in many states, including California, but qualities of programs vary pretty radically. A closer school might not be the best fit. Good luck to you.
I have worked with two ed consultants and would be happy to discuss my experience. I think it's important to have a good psychological evaluation of your child done before trying to select a placement. Until you know exactly what the issues are it's hard to select a place that can address 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 hvalley.org 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.)