Opinion & Essays
- Feb, 2000 Issue #66
A CALL TO RESEARCH
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 email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.)