Experiences with therapeutic boarding schools?
September 21, 2017 1:16 PM   Subscribe

My nephew has wreaked major havoc on the family. Would a therapeutic boarding school help? How does my family go about evaluating a "good" program.

He's 13, an abuse survivor (from his father, who is now out of the picture). He's been thrown out of one school and is now on school two with counseling both in school and with a second psychiatrist (He's diagnosed with opposition defiance disorder).

My parents and his mom (his primary caregivers) are in counseling as well. I won't go into all of the behaviors but ultimately, his acting out is going to get him thrown in jail very soon. My parents and his mom are at their wits end and are considering boarding school. Cost isn't an issue.

Can anyone help us with resources to evaluate a decent program? We don't want to make this worse by throwing him in some unaccredited wilderness program. My parents are religious and considering a school affiliated with their faith based on the fact that my nephew attended a camp affiliated with that faith for the past two summers and really enjoyed it. I'm ... doubtful. As a family, we are really stressed. Any ideas?
posted by nubianinthedesert to Education (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Mod note: A few comments removed. Folks, I know this budges up against more than one hot point but let's trust the asker to know why and what they're asking and try to focus this on specific, concrete advice/guidance for the question asked.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:01 PM on September 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

I don't know of a resource to help you evaluate programs, but I do know of a great program. Eckerd Youth Alternatives is a non-profit foundation that has been around for almost 50 years. They run many different types of programs, but the specific program I think you should look into is their Wilderness program. I went through their girls' camp as a kid and it was life changing/life saving- I genuinely would not be who or where I am without them. I am still in regular touch with some of my counselors nearly 30 years later.

The program was so profoundly effective that I eventually went back to work at the very same camp with some of the women who had been my counselors (chiefs) when I was a kid in the program. That was a true growth experience that came 15 years after my time there as a kid. I can NOT say enough wonderful things about my life experience with Eckerd.

I'd be happy to help connect you with the right people at Eckerd or to talk more about my experiences there- just MeMail me. I wish you the best of luck, your nephew sounds like he is crying out for help.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 3:05 PM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Depending on where you live there may be a local non-profit you can turn to, like the Washburn Center or Tuesday's Child. Local programs tend to focus on educating both the child and the family; the idea is to provide an emotional toolkit to create a healthier environment for everyone.
posted by givennamesurname at 3:18 PM on September 21, 2017

My comment was removed, I assume because it referred to prior removed comments. The important part was: a close friend of mine, who's a therapist and a lovely person, sent his son to a therapeutic boarding school in Montana, and the son did extremely well there. I know he also hired someone to make a home visit, do an evaluation, and recommend a school for the son. I'm sorry, I don't recall the name of the school, but feel free to MeMail me if you want details; I'm seeing my friend late next week and can ask him.
posted by holborne at 3:19 PM on September 21, 2017

Nubianinthedesert, I apologize for that comment. It's clear that you care for your nephew and that your family is in pain. Like cortex said, this is an issue that has "hot points"-- PorcineWithMe is quite literally the first person I have ever encountered, online or offline, who has not been seriously abused while they were institutionalized or "in residential" as a child for ODD or other trauma response behavior. Many, many others were pathologized by their families in the way I accused you of doing to your nephew; I'm sorry for conflating your sincere request for help with the way friends and loved ones' families discarded them when they needed it.

The deleted comment was a poorly organized list of google hits for articles about institutional abuse at boarding schools, ranging from prestigious college prep facilities to the "troubled teen" industry. I realize that does not directly answer the question of how to select a decent institution, but I do think it's germane to the question to point out that the therapeutic boarding school industry is rife with abusive organizations that prey on vulnerable families who are in pain and desperate for help. Here is a link to the r/troubledteens subreddit: it's a community dedicated to exposing facilities or companies in the "troubled teen" intervention industry that have systematic abusive practices, legal cases they've tried to cover up, etc. If your family is seriously considering sending a child to a therapeutic institution, recommendations like PorcineWithMe's are going to help, but getting a grasp on the bad faith actors in that industry is vital to your kid's health and well being. Good luck to you and your family, and I apologize again for contributing to how much you're hurting right now.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 3:26 PM on September 21, 2017 [12 favorites]

How does my family go about evaluating a "good" program.

Identify multiple knowledgeable counselors/therapists, doctors, teachers, etc that you trust and listen to what they say about specific programs/options. Also ask to speak with families (students and parents of) that have used the programs, of course, keeping in mind that the school/program isn't going to given you contact info for those whose experience was less than positive.

Is your nephew currently in public school? If so, how are his needs being addressed by the school system? What are their recommendations so far?

You might want to check into IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) regarding potential resources. Unfortunately, all I have to offer about the topic is from my friend, whose teenage daughter was having serious anxiety-related and behavior issues a few years ago. The local school system (suburban Chicago) eventually decided that her needs could not be met with existing resources. She spent a couple of years at The Orthogenic School, a therapeutic residential school in Chicago, which was so helpful for her. My friend said that the ~$175k/year (!) tuition was covered by the local school system pursuant to IDEA, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
posted by she's not there at 4:14 PM on September 21, 2017

I have worked for several programs that treated their students poorly and without regulation. Memail me and I'll send you the names of those specific schools to avoid.
posted by Marinara at 7:46 PM on September 21, 2017

For the cost of a good school, intensive 2-3 week therapy (art and talk) plus home tutoring and sports and art activities could be cheaper. If he's an only child or is no danger to the other children, I would pursue at-home care first. The trauma of separation is huge and takes a lot of additional work to overcome. Look into respite care for the mom and grandparents so they can get a break from his behaviour and refuel emotionally. Speaking from experience, short term respite earlier, medication and intervention would have helped. The idea of sending them to a monetary or boarding school seems great, but unless they're leaving a worse environment, the risk is very high and there is a lot of medium intervention to do first.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 12:32 AM on September 22, 2017

Sorry - monastery! Not a banking school, good lord. I mean, I definitely had discussions and have had discussions since with other parents about temples and monasteries etc. and know people who years ago were packed off to temples etc. I myself survived a bad start thanks to boarding school in part, but it was escaping terrible home life, not the school, and the growing awareness is that this should be respite care if possible, not longterm.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 3:00 AM on September 22, 2017

The one I'm a bit familiar with is Devereux, which includes a variety of types of treatment programs, including boarding school type situations.
posted by gudrun at 9:13 AM on September 22, 2017

My nephew has wreaked major havoc on the family.

Well, as someone who has sent a teen off to residential treatment, in some good places and some terrible places, lemme just say that I'm happy to hear that the family members are in therapy or something because when this stuff happens it's a family issue. It's not like the kid is broken, gets sent off to be fixed, and then everything is hunky dory. Sorry to say, nope.

When I was in this situation, I asked myself what would a rich person do? I was not rich but I pretended to be rich. It turns out there are people called "educational consultants" who basically make it their job to visit treatment centers regularly and to look at your kid's history and medical history and try to find a good fit.

My first education consultant was terrible. Like, not helpful and shortly left the company where she worked. A former therapist recommended a great education consultant, one who gave 3 recommendations but said, basically, "there's really only one place you should send this kid to, and it's here." And that place was really wonderful and helpful.

PM me if you'd like more info. People warning you about treatment centers aren't being mean; there are great places and terrible places. As mentioned above, there is a real and meaningful cost to sending one's child away for treatment. In my case, the cost of not sending a child away for treatment was sufficiently high that I did it anyway.

I am happy to talk to your nephew's mom confidentially about my own experiences and those of my family if that might be helpful. These situations are a nightmare but they don't have to end a nightmare. Wishing your family all the best during this challenging period.
posted by Bella Donna at 11:25 AM on September 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hey OP, just saw that your account is disabled. If/when you enable it, do drop me a line and I'll give you my number if a family member wants to talk.
posted by Bella Donna at 11:26 AM on September 23, 2017

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