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Parent Resources for Teen Help: Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Who and what is P.U.R.E.™?
  2. Why use P.U.R.E.™ services?
  3. How does P.U.R.E.™ work and what is its purpose?
  4. What is the average cost of residential schools and programs?
  5. Where are the schools and programs located? Should we visit a school we are considering?
  6. My child has already been in therapy, how can residential programs help?
  7. Should I tell my teen we are looking at programs? He/she is not willing to go. I have read all these horror stories online about transports, so how do we find a reputable one?
  8. Will my teen be around kids that are worse than him/her? Will my teen be around bad kids?
  9. Are military schools for troubled teens? What about boot camps?
  10. Are there free programs?
  11. How is P.U.R.E.™ funded?
  12. How do we get started?

1. Who and what is P.U.R.E.™?

P.U.R.E.™ is an organization which offers parents resources about residential therapy for pre-teens and teens. We educate parents about researching schools and programs online and learning more about the teen help industry. Since 2001 we’ve been assisting families in this big business of teen help. When parents are most vulnerable, they are most at-risk at making rash decisions.

P.U.R.E.™ was founded by a parent who was duped online years ago while searching for a school for her daughter. During this time, there was a feeling of loss, desperation, and confusion.

With this, there is a need for a service as P.U.R.E.™ to help parents know they are not alone. P.U.R.E.™ is here to help sort through the confusion during a desperate time as well as determine internet fact vs. internet fiction.

2. Why use P.U.R.E.™ Services?

Since 2001, P.U.R.E.™ has dedicated their service to locate licensed, accredited, and qualified programs and schools. We are constantly researching (including visiting programs personally) and taking the time to listen to parent and student feedback. Firsthand experience is a valuable tool for learning about programs and schools.

Let’s face it, with the expansion of the internet, anyone can create a beautiful website for their school or program, but how do you know it truly exists?

P.U.R.E.™ believes that being overwhelmed and confused can cause errors in the placement of your child. Being an educated parent can help you make an informed decision.

There are many websites that are dedicated to frightening parents. Many are created by former students that were placed in programs decades ago. We can help alleviate your fears without diminishing their experiences. As a parent that had a child harmed in a program, and successfully won in a court of law substantiating the neglect and fraud, there are ways to decipher people’s opinions (maybe disgruntled parents) to actual events. We help educate you.

P.U.R.E.™ has been featured on Dr. Phil, Today Show, CNN, Anderson Cooper, The Mel Robbins Show, Rachael Ray Show, Katie Couric, CBS Nightly News, 20/20 ABC, CBS Early Show, Fox News, Lifetime, and many more.

3. How does P.U.R.E.™ work and what is its purpose?

P.U.R.E.™ will consider your needs. We want to give you qualified options to find the best help for your child. We believe that residential therapy is usually the last resort.

Our purpose is to educate parents on an industry that is extremely confusing, especially as you enter it for the first time. When dealing with a struggling teen, parents usually will turn to the internet for resources and are quickly bombarded with tons of ads, sales reps, and confusing jargon stating they can save your teenager. Sorting through internet facts and fiction can be overwhelming.

Selecting a private boarding school for your child is a very important decision and we believe you should be armed with as much information as possible, so that is what we want to give you: reliable and factual information from firsthand experiences and research.

There are some teen behaviors are are unable to assist parents with. Read more.

4. What is the average cost of residential schools and programs?

The costs vary depending upon which school or program you choose for your child. Qualified programs can start at about $65000 per month. In some cases, your medical insurance may cover a portion of a therapeutic boarding school (TBS) or residential treatment center (RTC).  PPO only has been the only type of insurance that has been accepted at some programs. Most schools/programs will run a verification of benefits (VOB) for you to determine what your policy will cover for you. IEP’s have also been accepted at some programs as partial payment for the educational component.

If you have an adopted child through a foster-care system, you may want to check with your social worker. In many states they have financial resources available to you and a list of residential programs that they will cover.

Most military and traditional boarding schools start at $25,000 annually. Please note these are not for troubled teens.

The majority of TBS/RTC offer educational loans to assist families with tuition. They are very similar to college loans.

See our Financial Options page.

5. Where are schools and programs located? Should we visit a school we are considering?

There are locations throughout the United States. We do encourage parents not to restrict the search to a limited geographical area. Finding the most appropriate fit for your child may require travel. We help you understand that it’s best not to select a program on geographic locations, but rather on your child’s emotional needs. This is only a short time out of their entire life – let’s make it what is in their best interest, not the convenience of your travels.

Keep in mind each state’s age of majority, the age at which your child has the ability to sign themselves out of a program. In some states, such as Florida, the age is 16. We can discuss other states with you.

Ideally, it is great to visit a school or program you are considering for your teen. Realistically, however, time or financial constraints prohibit families from touring a program prior to placing their teen.

We encourage you to speak with parent references and students who have graduated the program. We also suggest calling the local sheriff’s department to ask their opinion of the program and/or if there have been many incidents there. They can’t always share incident reports, but will sometimes give you an idea of their feelings regarding the program. You never know who answers the phone.

These are some ways to get a good pulse on a program, especially if you are unable to visit. If a program won’t give you parent references, this can be a red flag. Read more in our help tips.

6. My child has already been in therapy, how can residential programs help?

Most teens have already exhausted their weekly one-on-one sessions at home and have concluded that it didn’t help them. Why? In many cases, it is because they are still coming back to their home environment and peer group. When the teen is physically removed from their comfort zone, they will finally be able to open up completely to identify where this negative behavior is stemming from.

At home, it seems to be escalating in a vicious cycle, so it is time to get off that bus and get help. In a program that is about bringing the family back together, they should incorporate you all as your teen begins to heal.

7. Should I tell my teen we are looking at programs? He/she is not willing to go. I have read all these horror stories online about transports, how do we find a reputable one?

In our opinion, you should never discuss your adult business with your teenager. Up to this point, your teenager has not proven to you they are mature enough to handle a decision of this magnitude.

You are about make a decision to give them a second opportunity at a positive future. They are not in their right mind to understand that — yet.

Most teens are not willing to attend, and that is normal. This is why there are legitimate transport services that are licensed and insured to transport your teen safe and sound.

The internet is full of deceptive information and horrors stories of all kinds. When selecting a transport service be sure you get parent references and speak to people that have used their services as well as always asking for a copy of their credentials.

8. Will my teen be around kids that are worse than him/her? Will my teen be around bad kids?

Using a service like P.U.R.E.™, we can help you sort through some of the programs and which type(s) of student they accept. You want to be sure that you aren’t placing your teen out of their element.

Please review teens that are our of our scope, that need more intensive care here.

There are many sales reps (aka place specialists) out there ready to place your child simply to increase their numbers and/or collect a commission. P.U.R.E.™, on the other hand, is about educating the parent to understand how to determine what is the best fit for each individual child and family, both emotionally and financially.

9. Are military schools for troubled teens? What about boot camps?

Absolutely not! Military schools are a privilege and an honor to attend. If you are threatening to send your teen to a military school, it is an empty threat. If you do happen to find a school that will accept him/her and they get expelled, there is a good chance that you will end up forfeiting your tuition.

Boot Camps are short-term programs with very limited (if any) success. In our opinion, we never recommend or suggest boot camps. Teens usually come home with more anger and resentment, commonly targeted at the person who placed them there.

Contrary to quality residential therapy, where programs build a child up, boot camps are usually punitive and primitive. This is not conducive to helping your teen gain the confidence to make better choices.

10. Are there free programs?

Yes. In most cases, you will have to provide documentation to prove to you qualify for free or sliding scale programs. For more information, contact your local United Way services.

11. How is P.U.R.E.™ funded?

P.U.R.E.™ is funded by several schools and programs as well as private funding. Sue Scheff, founder of P.U.R.E., is a national public speaker, author and spokesperson for ReputationDefender.

Our motto is: Bringing families back together…

12. How do we get started?

Fill out a contact form!

Founder of P.U.R.E. talks to Your Teen for Parents:

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    Helpful Tips for Research Teen Help ProgramsMost of us never expect to land in a spot where we are searching for teen help outside our local area. It’s really hard to swallow that we have exhausted our resources, our teen is out-of-control, we’re constantly walking on eggshells or feeling like we’re hostage in our own home to their explosive and defiant behavior.

    Turning to the internet can be daunting and downright confusing! You start reading terminology you never thought about or heard of -- wilderness programs, therapeutic boarding schools, residential treatment centers and more. How do you know who is qualified and who isn’t? More importantly, how do you know what your individual child needs?

    Years ago this happened to me when I had a good teen that started making bad choices. The internet, which can be a wealth of information, can also be extremely deceptive. It’s one of the reasons why I created Parents Universal Resource Experts. To help educate parents about the big business of teen help programs.


    When searching for a therapeutic boarding school (TBS) or residential treatment centers (RTC), keep these tips in mind:

    -Internet deception

    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.

    -Fear-mongering sites

    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. It’s exactly why I created P.U.R.E.

    If you find negative complaints about a school/program you are considering – take the time to ask us about it. We never diminish a person’s experience, however we have also realized that some people are there to make it harder for parents to get help. Again, we have walked your shoes and have taken time to dig deep into this industry.

    -Beware of the Placement Specialist

    Are you talking to a placement specialist? What exactly is this? Today these are people that are paid to place your troubled teen in a program. This is not in the best interest of your child. In some cases these are programs that have less than desirable reputations – however the placement specialist is making a commission. Typically what they are good at – is marketing. You may have just become bait and will become inundated with emails from different programs. They will be sending your name and email to many programs without qualifying your child as an appropriate fit for their school.

    If you’re a parent at your wit’s end, be sure you’re always speaking to an owner or director of a program. Someone that has a vested interest in your child’s recovery. These marketing arms aka placement specialists, can be deceptive. Read “A Parent’s True Story.”

    -Placing Abroad

    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 tuition–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.

    -Behind the Screen

    Don’t allow fancy websites, emotional online videos 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.

    Don’t judge a program by their website. You never know what is behind a screen. We have visited programs that have less than attractive websites with amazing facilities and staff. On the contrary – you will find polished websites with programs that wouldn’t leave your pets at.

    -Myths of Wilderness

    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.

    -Finding the right program

    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.

    -Accredited programs

    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. Below – the importance of calling parent references can be helpful with this.

    As far as education, ask the program for a copy of their accreditation for their academics. With that you can contact your local school to be sure the transcripts will be transferable.

    -Basic human rights

    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.


    Asking the program about their communication with parents and visitation schedule is imperative. Another helpful tip – is to verify it through asking parent references when you call them.

    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 recovery.

    -Ask questions

    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. You are your child’s advocate.

    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.

    -Age of consent

    Know what the age of majority (consent) 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 U.S. (especially Utah ) due to the age of majority of 18. This ensures your child cannot leave without your consent.

    -Choosing a program in the best interest of your teen

    Do not limit your decision on geographical location. The fact is this is the most important 6-9-12 months of your child’s life to date, it has to be the best placement/program/school that fits their emotional needs — not your travel plans.

    In reality, family visits are never more than every 4-6 weeks (depending on the program) after your teen has completely the initial ninety days.

    We remind parents – this is only a snapshot of their entire life – yet will have such an impact on their future. Let’s not limit it for geographical reasons.

    You won’t be making daily or weekend visits. This is about your teen’s healing, recovery and what is best for him/her. If it means you need to take an extra plane ride or few hours by car, remember — it’s only several months out of their entire life.

    Most programs are very similar in tuition fees, using credit cards as tuition can build frequent flyer miles. (If you are able to do this – with paying it off either with your funds or a loan you have received, can be a good option).

    There are many excellent programs in our country, find the one that is best fitted for your child, not your airport. The other important fact is – if you have a teen that is a flight risk, they are more likely (or tempted) to leave a program (runaway) and call one of their new less-than-desirable friends to pick them up.

    Choosing a program that is in an unfamiliar area is in the best interest of your teenager. Remember this is about your teen’s emotional wellness and recovery, not about geographically convenience.

    -Background check

    Check with the local sheriff department or the state office of the Attorney General or Department of Social Services (DSS) or Department of Children and Families – for reports of neglect or abuse as well as their current licensing.

    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.

    When you contact the local sheriff department, ask them how many times a month they are called out to the program – how many runaways they have – and your final question should be, is if it were their child, would they send them there?

    With licensing, you want to be sure they are licensed as a residential treatment centers and not a daycare center or foster care home. You will be paying a significant amount of tuition, be an educated parent.


    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.

    -Ask for and call parent references.

    If a school/program won’t give you parents references, it’s a red flag. It might be time to consider another program.

    Hopefully you have time to ask for at least 3-5 parent references. In some situation you can also speak with the teen that graduated the program too. This should be a call for information, guidance, and support. Did their child have the same issues as yours?

    If you are considering transport and apprehensive about it, ask the parent reference how they got their teen to the program. It’s a great way to gain more insights on residential therapy.

    Parent tip: Ask for families from your own geographical area, as well as parents that have the same gender and age as your child. You want to try to talk to parents as similar to your own situation as well as possibly near where you live. Maybe you could have an opportunity to meet with them in person. Keep in mind, first hand experiences are priceless.

    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.

    -Inside a 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.

    -Family decision

    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. If possible – do this research before you’re in crisis.

    Many parents call us with that gut feeling, than things go well for awhile and they don’t do anything. Suddenly they’re in crisis-mode and have 24-hours to select a program. Don’t be that parent.

    -Free consultation

    Parents’ Universal Resource Experts is about helping educate parents about residential therapeutic schools and programs. We offer free consultations.

    These tips are not to frighten anyone, it is to make parents aware of an industry that has little to no guidelines or regulations 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.

    Many parents contact us about the fear-mongering websites that are up. These sites are usually created by former students and they have listed just about every program in the country.

    Sadly, what they are doing is preventing families from getting the potential help they may need for their child. There is always good and bad in every field/industry — this is why it is imperative you do your due diligence when researching programs.

    We have personally visited, researched and spoken with many parents, students and former employees of programs since 2001. Feel free to contact us if you are considering a program and you find it on one of those fear-based websites.

    One of their issues is that they don’t believe in level systems. Keep in mind – in life, we all work our way up. Whether you start as a clerk and work your way to judge, or start in the mail room and work your way up to an executive. It’s part of the way life is. As long as it is not done in a degrading way.

    Are your considering Wilderness programs? Learn more about them.

    Understand there are some teen behavioral issues that require more intensive therapy. Read more.

    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…

    Click here for questions to ask schools and programs.

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