Distraught, Desperate Parents
Parents and Teens, Unite!
May 28, 2007
This article is written for parents
who have, for one reason or another, found themselves at their wits’
end – many losing confidence to parent their own children and teens.
Often the idea of sending a teen or pre-teen away to a residential
facility or program is tempting, especially when parents feel they
are not being heard or when their child or teen is being defiant.
Parents who have succumbed to that
temptation have shared with me that if they knew then what they know
now they would never have sent their child or teen away. While there
are some very extreme cases where outside intervention is necessary,
most often times the answers lie within us – the parents.
After years of research and
experience working with parents, teens, and pre-teens, I have
learned that in nearly every situation the main issue is a lack of
communication between parent and teen. While that conclusion may not
sound profound, it is amazing how a lack of communication can
destroy the parent/teen relationship.
Through Parents and
Teens, Unite! I provides coaching for parents, teens, and
pre-teens. Coaching is a valuable experience that has a positive
impact on the entire family. Parents and teens not only learn how to
better communicate but they also feel more connected with one
I have helped parents regain
the confidence they need to parent their own children and teens. I
have helped teens understand the importance of taking responsibility
for their own actions and being a productive member of their family.
If you would like to explore the
option of family coaching, please contact me for your free
30-minute consultation by
Preying on desperate and
Because of a lack of community
services, a lack of relatives living close by, the rise in blended
families that aren’t blending so well, and the rise of single-family
homes, we have seen an increase in parents reaching out for help to
raise their children and teens.
It did not take long for people to
realize this need, and in their haste to get a piece of the pie, so
to speak, many who were neither qualified, licensed, nor
credentialed began opening programs and facilities for children and
It wasn’t long before these
programs began sprouting up all over the US, with some US-based
companies opening programs outside the US in foreign countries such
as Western Samoa, Mexico, the Chez Republic, Jamaica, and Costa
Rica, to name a few.
The Child/Teen Help Industry has
grown into a multi-billion dollar a year industry with no signs of
slowing down. What is frightening is that currently there is no
Federal oversight – I will go into that later in this article.
Thousands of websites flood the
Internet promising to help parents. Parents have been convinced that
the easiest way to deal with their children and teens is to send
them to these programs away from home. Sadly, so many have found
that their child did not receive the help that was promised and
often their child or teen was abused and/or neglected – some have
If you are a parent who is
desperate, distraught, and at your wits’ end this article was
written for you. As you begin your search for help for your child or
teen it is imperative that you understand it is a “Buyer Beware”
Many parents have regretted their
decision to send their child or teen away and have encouraged me to
write this article - it is their stories that have inspired me to
share my knowledge with you. Their message – and mine - to parents
is that just because someone tells you the only hope is to send your
child or teen away does not mean it is in the best interest of your
Something worth thinking about –
the perception that these programs are there to house
out-of-control, strung out teens is incorrect. Most residential
facilities and programs for children and teens will typically not
accept these types of children, and most of these kids find their
way into the juvenile justice system.
I believe that sometimes the
answers lie within us – the parents – and that we lose confidence in
our own parenting abilities. I work with parents to help them regain
their confidence, to take a breath, and to make an informed
decision. I encourage parents who are feeling pressured to sign
their child into a program to take time to re-evaluate the
More about the industry
In their quest to find respite and
help for their teens tens of thousands of desperate parents have
turned to the parent-choice, parent-pay Teen Help industry - a
silently emerging multi-billion dollar per year industry - where
many have found more than what they bargained for. Because of a lack
in community services for families there has been a push by
psychiatrists, psychologists, judges, school counselors, and others
to send children and teens away to Residential Treatment Centers (RTC),
Therapeutic Boarding Schools (TBS), Wilderness Programs,
Christian-based Residential Programs, Boot Camps, Behavior
Modification Programs, Positive Peer Culture programs, that have
sprung up all over the US with some outside the US. The average
length of stay at most of these programs is one and-a-half to two
years or more.
What many people don’t know is that
while there may be some good, safe, and therapeutic programs for
children and teens, there is a dark side to this industry. I have
researched this industry for the past four years (see
and have learned that many of these facilities and programs are not
licensed, they often hire untrained and non-credentialed staff,
there is no Federal Governmental oversight, there is no governing
body overseeing their operations, and the facilities are not
regulated. And even those that are licensed are often not closely
monitored and do not receive routine unannounced visits. In my
opinion – this is a recipe for disaster. Many children who have been
sent to these programs have reported they were abused or neglected,
and some have died.
There are currently no statistics
available to indicate if the industry is helping our children or
causing more harm. Some parents have reported they were lulled into
believing their child was receiving help when in reality they were
being lied to and deceived. Some kids have been kept away from their
families for up to five years or more. We have learned that in some
states anyone can purchase a piece of property, put up a sign, and
start taking in children and teens without any licensing or
Many distraught parents have
reported they were duped into sending their children and teens to
programs and facilities away from home only to learn months or years
down the road that their child or teen was abused and/or neglected,
that the program did not offer their child the help he or she
needed, that the educational component was lacking, and that the
program was not what they were promised or what they paid for – to
the tune of $40,000 to $100,000 or more per year!
Some facilities claim a 95% success
rate, or more. However, there is no unbiased entity monitoring these
claims. Some parents have informed me they had difficulties removing
their own children from some programs, especially in divorce
situations, and that in order to have their child returned to them
they were forced to write positive things about the program – hence
their high rate of success.
I believe that sometimes there is a
need for outside intervention and that with careful planning and
parents doing their homework they can find proper help for their
children and teens.
Seeking help for your child or teen
can be daunting and very confusing. Please read the following:
Message to parents:
If you are considering
placing your child or teen into a residential treatment program, or any other program or facility away from home, or if your child or teen is in a program, please read CAICA's
Message to Parents
Questions to Ask and Warning Signs.
If your child is in
a program and you have received letters or signs that something is wrong, but the program is telling you everything is alright, CAICA urges
STOP - TAKE A
BREATH - AND REASSESS
Listen to your
intuition and fully investigate the situation. If there is any sign your
child could be in danger CAICA urges parents to visit the program and make the
best decision for their child. If you determine your child has been abused it is
imperative you report the abuse to the proper local authorities, including Child Protective
Services and the local police or sheriff. Most abuse in programs goes unreported.
If your child is in
an overseas program please visit the
US State Department Fact Sheet on programs. Parents can also contact the American Embassy in that country if they suspect child abuse.
If your child
was mandated by the court to be placed into a program for a set amount of time, and you believe something is wrong, you can go to your attorney
to plea with the court to have your child returned home. Locating information about
the program or any organization associated with the program and providing that
information to your lawyer will be helpful. Parents are urged to direct their attorney to
this website at www.caica.org
for helpful information, as well as other websites you find useful.
If the judge agrees
to bringing the child home on the condition you, the parent, locate another program within a set period of time, typically 48 hours, and
attempts to change the judge's mind are not successful, CAICA strongly urges you to try to
locate a program close to home, if possible. We do not recommend finding programs via the
CAICA is not a referral agency and does not have programs to refer. We
can, however, provide you with
Questions to Ask and Warning Signs so you will know what to
look out for when choosing a program.
If you are a parent
who is distressed and feels there is no other option but to send your child away to a program, we recommend again that you:
STOP - TAKE A
BREATH - AND REASSESS
If you have family
members or friends who can help, this is a time to reach out to them. Making a hasty decision has, at times, resulted in children being
abused, neglected, or
losing their lives. It is important
parents are aware there is no governmental oversight to this industry and that is is very much a Buyer Beware
available to parents is parent / teen coaching. Again, this is very much
a buyer beware market as well. Unfortunately, there is not much in place
for protecting our children. The best advice we can provide is that you ask how long the
coach has been working with families, what experience they have had, and what type
of program have they or are they currently attending for credentialing.
Credentialing is not mandatory but we strongly urge parents to seek out a coach that is
credentialed or that is currently enrolled in a quality training program. Coaching has proven
to provide fast and effective results.
NOTE: It has been
brought to our attention that the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS)
is now known as Premier Educational Systems.
For advocacy for
children or youth with disabilities please go to your
Disability Rights Network.
Look for the dropdown where you can choose your state.
CHILDREN IN THE
JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM:
For youth at risk
through the juvenile justice system contact the
Welfare League of America.
It is my goal to help parents stop
and take a breath before making one of the biggest decisions they
will ever make for their child and for their family. Many parents
have reported that marketing agents they find over the Internet have
frightened them into thinking if they do not act immediately their
child is in danger. When in reality only a very small number of
children and teens fall into this category.
How did we get here?
Looking back to the 50’s, 60’s, and
even the 70’s, most households consisted of mom, dad, and a few
kids. Over time, we have seen a shift. In the 80’s the divorce rate
began to skyrocket. By 2005, the National Center for Health
Statistics reported 37% and 38% divorces for the years 2004 and 2005
and since every divorce involves two people the numbers would be
more accurate if they were doubled, meaning 75% of the married
population divorced during those years.
Raising kids, especially teens, in
today’s world is no easy task. The increase in blended families and
single-family homes has brought with it a shift in the family unit
and a host of new issues for parents and kids. Many parents have
found themselves alone to raise their children, often unprepared to
meet the challenges. Many are overworked, overstressed, and
overwhelmed with the demands of raising children and teens. For
those who find themselves parenting solo these demands are often
magnified. Sometimes, things at home spiral out of control and
parents find themselves in need of outside intervention.
The teen years have always been a
transitional and often tumultuous time for families. Many teens have
admitted that though they want their independence they also have a
need to be a child and to feel cared for, loved, and safe. It does
not take much to shake up their world and when a teen’s world is
shaken everyone knows about it. They can become defiant,
disobedient, they can experiment with drugs, sex, and alcohol, they
can sneak out at night, and their school work typically suffers.
That doesn’t mean their parent cannot help them – most often times
When this happens parents often
find themselves looking for help on the Internet. It is important
for us all to remember that the Internet is filled with a vast
amount of information and misinformation. We have found that like
the sexual predator preying on innocent and vulnerable children
there are those who prey on unsuspecting, vulnerable, and distraught
parents claiming they have a program that can save their child.
Parents have reported they were
unduly pressured into making a hasty decision for their child or
teen, and that if they knew then what they know now they would have
done things differently. Hindsight is always 20/20.
Whenever possible - slow down
and take a breath
A distraught mother called me
recently because her daughter was seeing a boy who she believed was
abusive. She found “help” on the Internet. The pressure was on to
enroll this child into a behavior modification program at the age of
17 – her last year of high school. The program was located in
another state many miles from home and was under the umbrella of an
organization named in a lawsuit where children were alleging they
had been abused. All communication with friends and family would
have been cut off, except weekly censored letters with her parents.
This would have meant no prom, no high school graduation. I asked if
her daughter was in any immediate danger and if she believed there
was time to stop, take a breath, and think about this very big
decision she was about to make.
She agreed with me that this was
not the emergency the person she found on the Internet said it was.
Her daughter’s life was not at risk. Rather than send her away, she
asked me to speak with her daughter and with her. After several
conversations I received a very promising e-mail from her indicating
that her daughter had broken up with this abusive boy and that there
was peace in their home once again. She is happy that she did not
fall into the trap so many others have fallen into. We talked about
how her daughter would have been transported to the program. She
realized that having her daughter woken up in the middle of the
night by two strangers who would then take her to a place she’d
never seen before just didn’t make as much sense once she had time
to really digest it and think it through.
Parents, if this is happening to
you I urge that you do as this mother did (if you child is not in
immediate danger) – stop, take a breath, reassess the situation.
It is my hope that this article
will enlighten and inform you.
Another option – Parent and
It is my goal to help parents
regain control over their situation, to help them learn how they can
better communicate with their teen, to restore their self-confidence
as parents, and to bring peace back into the home.
Teens have always faced challenges.
It is a time in their life when everything is changing and they are
trying to figure out where they “fit” on this planet. They are faced
with more challenges today than any other time in history – to think
otherwise is naïve.
It is also my goal to help the teen
understand his or her role in the family, how their behavior affects
those around them, what they can do to diffuse situations, how they
can better communicate their needs to their parents, and how they
can be part of the solution.
If you would like more information,
please contact me at
firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free 30-minute consultation.
I do not refer children or teens to
programs but rather work with parents to find alternative options.
For the sake of our culture and future generations I believe our
communities as a whole need to embrace the stance of proactive
rather than reactive when it comes to the care, nurturing,
and guiding of our children from birth to adulthood.