Woodbury Reports Archives


The Internet's leading source of information on emotional growth schools & programs

Archives Contents

Archives Home
Contents by Year
      1989 - Present
Contents by Topic
      Industry News
      Schools & Visits
      Opinions & Essays

Archives Search

The easiest way to find information is by using our search function. Just type in the words you would like to search for and you'll get a list of articles related to your topic.

Site Index

Schools & Programs
Chat Board
Online Store
Contact Us

Opinion & Essays - Feb, 2000 Issue #66 

A Proposal by Lon Woodbury

Woodbury Reports is circulating a survey both to parents who have enrolled their children in residential programs for teens with behavioral/emotional problems, and to individuals who as teens were enrolled in those residential programs. The information obtained will be used to develop a database of what respondents, based on their personal experiences, thought to be effective or not effective in these programs. Although our main focus is on the schools and programs in the network of private-pay, parent- choice schools and programs featured in this newsletter, participation is welcome from individuals who have been involved in any residential program for teens making poor decisions. Those who want to participate can obtain a copy of the survey by calling my office 208-267-5550, or checking on my web site or e-mailing me at lon@woodbury.com.

I was first introduced to the private-pay, parent-choice network of residential schools and programs that work with kids making poor decisions when I was hired in August of 1984 to do Admissions at Rocky Mountain Academy (RMA - A CEDU School) in North Idaho. At the time only a handful of private-pay, parent-choice alternatives to the standard residential solutions (psychiatric hospitals, treatment centers, group homes…) of that time existed nationally. Virtually all the parents that found us had already tried the usual mental health approach of counseling and/or treatment with limited success. They were willing to try a radically different approach; and were willing to pay for it out of their own pockets, some parents making extreme financial sacrifices to afford the tuition. Our justification at the time for the work we were doing was based on our personal experiences of seeing countless individual success stories where prior traditional treatment had failed. It is my opinion many of these private-pay, parent-choice schools and programs are a new approach, the result of a synthesis of boarding schools and treatment centers, creating many new and unique ways of working with children making poor decisions.

Since then the private-pay, parent-choice network has rapidly grown to consist of hundreds of schools and programs where parents choose and pay for their child’s enrollment, either out of their own pocket or by convincing some third-party payer to pay the tuition. It has been said that the “industry” of schools and programs for struggling teens is one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. Today. The format of these schools and programs in the private-pay, parent-choice network varies as widely as do the needs of the teens in turmoil whom they serve. There are short-term and long-term wilderness programs, longer- term ranch settings, group homes, highly structured college prep boarding schools, therapeutic boarding schools, behavioral modification centers and treatment centers. The variety is such that the needs of almost any teen can be matched to an appropriate placement, and often to several possibilities. At the same time, supportive businesses have come into being, for example, the rapidly expanding number of educational consultants who make their living helping parents find the right placement for their failing child, and the escort professionals who accompany the teens to the selected school or program. At least two newsletters are devoted to this network, my Woodbury Reports’ Places for Struggling Teens and Tom Croke’s Bridges to Understanding.

The need for substantiation of the effectiveness of the schools and programs in the private-pay, parent-choice network becomes more important with increasing public scrutiny. No longer are anecdotal data sufficient. In our modern society, that means research using standard accepted research techniques. Woodbury Reports encourages competent research to be conducted focusing on the questions of “What works and why?” and will cooperate in any way we can with serious research efforts.

It has begun. John Hendee and Keith Russell at the University of Idaho Wilderness Research Center have made an excellent start, by researching wilderness programs. However, they are looking at only one slice of this network, specifically the effectiveness of wilderness in helping to heal struggling teens. Several of the larger schools and programs have also conducted or contracted studies, but since these are limited to their own program graduates, are paid for and owned by those who are reporting, or are being done by the schools themselves, the question arises as to how independent the research really was. Even if legitimately independent, it still is just a narrow slice of the total answer.

With this Woodbury Reports’ survey, we hope to stimulate quality research by developing a broad based database of parents and ex- students/patients. Although it will not be a random sampling, it can be a first step. It can suggest broad patterns, locate those who are willing to cooperate with further research, and develop questions that provide the most useful answers. Dr. Carol Maxym will be collaborating with us in developing ways to analyze the data and as time goes on, we would be interested in collaborating with other serious researchers. From time to time we will be releasing aggregate totals from the responses, but in a manner that will maintain strict confidentiality.

Anyone with personal experience either as a parent of a student/patient or is a person who has attended a residential school or program for teens making poor decisions can participate by contacting my office by phone and giving your address at 208-267-5550 or e-mailing me at lon@woodbury.com to receive a copy of the survey. We also would be interested in collaborating with any residential schools and programs that would be willing to help us contact their graduating families.

Copyright © 2000, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

Site and content copyright © 2000 by Woodbury Reports Inc. All rights reserved.