Future Expectations Today

How To Choose a Troubled Teen Treatment Center


If you are the parent of a disruptive and behaviorally challenged teenager, you may be considering a troubled teen treatment center or ďteen boot campĒ if you feel that you have exhausted all of your other options in parenting your child. You wouldnít be alone, many parents of difficult teens find themselves in the same position, wondering if they are stuck between choosing a wilderness teen programÖ or jail. A teen treatment program can possibly be the turning point for your troubled child. However, itís important to choose wisely before you give your child over to a program. According to the FTC, a 2007 Report to Congress by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found cases involving serious abuse and neglect at some of these programs. So how do you know which program is safe, helpful and effective for your teen?

The most important thing to remember is that you are the parent, and no matter how difficult, your teenager is still a child that depends on you. You are responsible for their safety, and itís up to you to make sure that the program you choose is up to snuff. Doing your research beforehand can feel overwhelming, but it is critical to ensure the wellbeing of your child.

Start by gathering some information about centers for troubled teens. If you already have a family therapist or social worker, ask for their recommendations. If you know family members or friends who have been through the process, ask about their experiences.

Next, check in on your child. Is it possible they have a mental illness that is undiagnosed that may be causing their behavior? A mental illness is not going to get better by being in the wilderness, and may even expose other kids to risk if your child becomes violent during the program. Mental illness requires medical treatment first.

Finally, begin to do your research about the troubled teen treatment centers you are considering. Some things to consider:

  • Are they accredited? By whom? (The major accreditation agencies for these types of programs are JACHO, COA, and CARF.) What part of their program is accredited?
  • Are the therapists on staff licensed? What titles do they hold? Ask for proof of their licensure. What credentials does the clinical director hold?
  • Is the program in good standing with the BBB? The IRS? Does it have good reviews online from former residents and families?
  • Does the program conduct background checks on employees?
  • Ask to visit the site and look around for yourself. A good program should have no problem with this, and there should be nothing at the site that makes you feel uncomfortable or raises any red flags for you.
  • Ask for a written copy of the programís policies and procedures.
  • How many years has the program been operating successfully?
  • Is there a specific emergency plan in place to deal with medical emergencies? Is there a doctor or licensed nurse on staff at all sites? Will you be contacted in the case of a medical emergency with your child?
  • Does the program have an aftercare plan in place for problem behavior that comes up after the teen returns to family life? Will they have ongoing access to their therapists?
  • Ask specifically about the programís discipline procedures and policies. No program should ever yell at, hurt, physically discipline, threaten, or endanger a teenager, no matter how problematic their behavior.

As you consider a center for troubled teens for your child, we encourage you to ask questions, demand information, and be suspicious. There are too many dangerous operations out there specifically preying on troubled teens. They know these kids are particularly vulnerable and can be easily separated from their families and abused. Good treatment is available. Itís worth it for you and your child to find it.

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