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Posted January 3, 2005

By: Lon Woodbury

It has been a long tradition to treat the end of a calendar year as a time for reflection. The popular custom is to make New Years resolutions, and the game then is to guess how long until old habits overcome good intentions. However, behind that popular custom is a more serious intent. This intent is represented by the ancient God Janus, who with two faces symbolized portals looking both into the past and the future at the same time. Many people still use this time to reflect on accomplishments and failures of the past, while projecting goals and changes that need to be made for the future.

In the spirit of this season, let’s look at the network of Emotional Growth/ Therapeutic schools and programs this newsletter focuses on. I will cover some of the things that have happened in the last few years, and speculate on what might happen in the next few years. First, it would be helpful to define the network, as we at Woodbury Reports Inc. understand it, and what elements seem to define the schools and programs we track. The schools and programs we are interested in have three main elements.

The first element is Parent Choice. We look for schools or programs set up to allow a parent to make application for their child, with the parent negotiating payment. Parents may pay directly, or use their insurance, or even obtain qualification through a government program. The key thing is that the application process is largely initiated and under the control of the parent. This is as opposed to the generally accepted standard several years ago where most schools and programs would accept applications only from some professional or agency, and the parent’s recourse was to either make suggestions to the professional, or just accept their decision.

Along this line, we renamed our Directory, The Parent Empowerment Handbook, to reflect the Woodbury Reports Inc. mission of providing as much information as we can to help parents make sense of their options and make placement decisions based on current and better information. Our focus is to help parents with a child who has problems. There is a need for programs that work directly with children and ignore parents, and there are some good ones. But, our focus is to help parents find quality programs that best match the needs of their child.

The expansion of Parent Choice options in this network since the 1980s also reflects a broader societal tendency in other areas of our society. For example, more people are taking personal responsibility for their health. Medical Doctors are now making suggestions to their patients, rather than the older tradition of “The Doctor Knows Best,” where the Doctor made their decision and the patient was expected to automatically comply. It is also reflected in the increase in alternative health therapies, and new spiritual perspectives that rely on self-awareness rather than spiritual interpretations by ordained ministers, priests or rabbis.

For better or for worse, it appears that Parent Choice will be increasingly important in all areas of education and mental health treatment for children, and parents must be accommodated because they are demanding more information and more involvement. Another aspect of this is the growing demand for family oriented services, rather than just services for children themselves, which many programs are now doing.

The second important element for this network is Privately Owned. This is because the dynamics of the public and private sectors are radically different. In a private school or program, especially small schools and programs, the ultimate decision makers regarding the children are those close to the children’s daily activities. In the public sector, the ultimate decision makers are legislators, far removed from the daily activities of the children. This usually calls for a lengthy chain of command that requires much more paperwork in order keep the distant ultimate decision makers informed. This also means that basic policy in the public sector is usually based on general categories, rather than the specific needs of children and families. It is also more likely for the parents to be intimately involved with a private program since they are usually providing the tuition and thus have a financial stake. In the public sector, parental involvement is optional; depending almost exclusively on the attitudes of the school or program staff, and it is easier for the parents to maintain a distance from the program since they do not have a financial stake in the program. Ever since the 1980s, this country has moved toward more private involvement in most areas of our society, often through public-private cooperation. It is reasonable to expect this tendency to continue, providing many opportunities for new start-up schools as more parents realize they can make the enrollment decisions. There also is an increasing tendency for private-public cooperation to obtain the advantages from both systems to serve families with limited means.

The third element is our definition of Struggling Teens. It is broad, encompassing any resource for parents with children who are floundering in mainstream society. Although several professionals think we deal only with clinical or therapeutic residential programs, we have found many parents have successfully intervened with their children with problems through counseling, home schooling, mentoring, wilderness adventure programs, character schools, turn-around schools or day schools. These all provide some extra element of intervention that, when done early enough, can preclude the need for a highly structured residential program. It is our view that a successful intervention using local resources or effective mainstream schools is better for a child than waiting until the problem becomes so great that the only solution is a highly structured residential intervention.

Thus, we are always interested in hearing about intervention resources that can help a child before a highly structured residential placement is necessary, along with hearing about highly structured residential schools and programs. Our current public school and mental health institutions are having a very difficult time changing with the times and meeting the new needs of the country’s young people. They even seem to be creaking under the strain of the demand from new needs and demands. It is likely that concepts of emotional growth, character education, parent choice and therapeutic support found in the Emotional Growth/ Therapeutic network of schools and programs will expand to meet the increasing demand for quality services. Perhaps, someday, these concepts will become the new mainstream for raising our children.

Copyright © 2005, Woodbury Reports, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
(This article may not be reproduced without written approval of the publisher.)

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