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Schools & Program Visits - May, 2002 Issue #93 

Salt Lake City, Utah
Jeff Simpson, Director

Lon Woodbury’s visit on March 25, 2002

Alpine Academy, a small home-style program for teen-age girls, was started in January of this year, drawing upon the several decades of experience from their parent organization Utah Youth Village. For years, Utah Youth Village has provided a wide variety of services for Utah’s troubled youth, including family counseling, foster homes, and group homes. Alpine Academy is their venture into the private parent-choice market.

They use what they call the Teaching-Family Model, which is based on research done in Kansas in the1960s. Utah Youth Village has found this treatment model to be very successful with their clients. As it was explained to me, researchers studied in detail the actions and behaviors of successful house parents, who they prefer to call, “Family Teachers”. Based on their research, they created specific components of the Teaching-Family Model which is the basis of what is taught to Alpine Academy family teaching staff. They feel following this model has been very effective for some quite serious problems.

There were two girls there when I visited. At the time of this publication, in mid-May, they have 8 girls in residence, which is their capacity at the present time. The girls I saw looked good, though rather nervous since I was probably one of the first educational consultants needing a tour. They were living in a large house that was clean and comfortable, and had the feel of a real home. The Family Teachers have a section of the house set aside as private personal space for their family, which included two young boys. The large yard had several fruit trees, and as was pointed out by one of the girls, the pile of branches from the pruning was her recent contribution to the upkeep of the grounds.

Every effort is made to make the girls’ experience as home-like as possible. Their schedule is fairly firm, with fun activities interspersed between specific times established for school, homework, counseling, and quiet time. The girls of course fully participate in cleaning, meal preparation and yard work, similar to what would be expected of them in their family home.

By being part of the larger Utah Youth Village, Alpine Academy has plenty of access to experienced backup staff for therapy and support any time a girl might get into some kind of personal emotional crisis.

They work with girls ages 13 to 18, describing good success with students who have eating disorders, self harm behaviors, and adoption/attachment issues, as well as with girls who have other more common problems such as parent/child conflict, oppositional/defiance, and school behavior/academic problems. They feel they have good expertise in de-escalating explosive behaviors, both as a result of the training and experience of the Family Teachers as well due to the small size of their program, which keeps to a minimum the stimulation that a girl would likely be exposed to in a larger program.

Some of the most difficult to place children are those with explosive outbursts, possible Reactive Attachment Disorder or Borderline tendencies. Most treatment centers are not equipped to work with these children, but from what I saw, I would definitely consider Alpine Academy for a girl with any of these descriptions. They also should be considered for any girl who needs a small, cozy environment that is not overly stimulating.

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