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When searching for a therapeutic boarding school (TBS) or residential treatment centers (RTC), keep these tips in mind:
- Be cautious of the internet: Today we turn to the Internet for almost everything we do, but how do we know what is internet fact, fiction, or somewhere in between? This is why doing your due diligence, especially in this big business of teen help programs, is imperative.
- You will find some websites and forums that will criticize families for seeking outside help for their teens. They may lead you to believe that all programs and schools are bad or abusive. In reality, not all schools and programs are who they say they are– which is why are you here, doing your research! You are taking your time to investigate what will be best for your individual child’s needs and learning from the mistakes I made so you don’t have to.
- Parents’ Universal Resource Experts is about helping educate parents about residential therapeutic schools and programs. We offer free consultations.
- Be very cautious if sending your child out of the country. Laws are different and cannot protect your child out of the country. Many parents are misled by the lower tuitions–don’t be one of them. We recommend keeping your child in the United States. If you are a resident outside of the United States, this may not affect you.
- Don’t allow glossy brochures, emotional online videos/DVDs, and fancy websites determine your decision for your child. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. If a program is advertising a very high success rate, please ask them what third party organization did their statistical studies. In-house surveys are prejudiced and not always a good source of reliability. Keep in mind, this a major emotional and financial decision you will be making.
- Your teen does not need to complete a wilderness program before they attend a residential treatment program (RTC or TBS). In many cases families today cannot afford that extra step of a wilderness program; however we hear over and over that parents are talked into breaking a child down before sending them to a therapeutic boarding program. Isn’t your teen already broken down? Isn’t that why you are reaching out for help? This is why you are looking for programs that will help stimulate your teen back on to a positive road– making good choices and creating a bright future that you had planned for them.
- You are not choosing a program to “teach your child a lesson.” This is a common mistake many parents make. Many times, these are good children making bad choices. Harsh treatment and environment can enhance their anger as well as build resentment.
- Don’t accept a program that is not accredited to educate your child, provides scant food and/or clothing, and has unsanitary living conditions. A visit to the program prior enrollment, if possible, is recommended. It is understandable that not every family has the finances or the time for the extra trip. With this, please be sure your research is thorough.
- It is normal for parents to want their child to appreciate what they have at home; however deprivation of food, sanitation, and clothing should not be accepted. These are basic human rights. Many of these teens are suffering from low self-esteem, depression, peer pressure, etc. Taking away their basic needs may escalate these negative feelings.
- Don’t enroll any child in a program that refuses to allow parents to speak with their child within a reasonable amount of time, usually no longer than 30 days. Visitation in many programs begins at three months. This is your child, and family counseling is just as important as your child’s counseling.
- If you feel you have valid concerns and do not understand something, do not allow the program director to overlook your questions. Keep asking until you receive an appropriate response. This is your right as a parent.
- Ask for the staff’s education, training, and experience. Credentials of those working with your child are vital. Ask if they have background checks for all employees.
- Know what the age of majority is in the state of the program. Be sure children cannot sign themselves out of the program at their current age. You will see that many programs are located in the western part of the US (especially Utah ) due to the age of majority of 18. This ensures your child cannot leave without your consent.
- Check with the local police or the state office of the Attorney General for reports of neglect or abuse. With this, understand that there are no perfect programs. Some may have had issues which have since been rectified or are not related to the students. However, others, with constant complaints, should be crossed off you list. Investigation is your best solution in finding a good program.
- Find out what the program’s use of restraints is. If they have “isolation,” inquire about the length of time that is normally spent there and what this entails. Ask what the program does if your child runs away.
- Ask if the person who is marketing the information receives any kind of direct, or indirect referral fee or compensation (i.e. A month’s free tuition, gifts, certificates, dinners, etc.). P.U.R.E.™ discloses on our FAQ page that we do receive fees from some schools and programs.
- Call as many parent references as you have time for. Please remember to ask to speak with former students or graduates from the program as well as the parents. This should be a call for information, guidance, and support. Did their child have the same issues as yours?
- When asking for parent references, always try to ask for families that have the same gender and age of your own child. It is also beneficial if you can ask for families in your geographical area to speak with. You will likely get good references. One question to ask the reference parent is if they could change one thing about the program, what would it be? Though it may not be a major concern, it may be another question you can ask the owner or director of the program.
- Look for programs that offer an ACE factor:A=Accredited Academics
C=Clinical with credentialed therapists
E=Enrichment Programs such as music, sports, animal assisted therapy, horticulture, art therapy, fine arts, drama, or whatever your teen may be passionate about. It is about stimulating your teen in a positive direction by encouraging them to build self-confidence and want to be their best.
- Most Importantly, placement needs to be a family decision. Trust your gut and your heart. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Keep searching. It is time to bring the family back together.
This is not to frighten anyone, as it is to make parents aware of an industry that has little to no guidelines to follow. It is a fact, some of our kids need help. Let’s get them the right help with an educated and researched decision.
Be an educated parent, this is a major financial and emotional decision for your family.
P.U.R.E.™ is part of bringing families back together…