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Posted: Aug 2, 2007 10:45


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by: Lon Woodbury

It is said that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. If so, the essay named above has been very flattered. Since its original publication in December 2000,, there have been three instances we know of where individuals published it word for word claiming their own copyright on it. One even claimed copyright from the 1990s, before that person ever even got into the educational referral business.

Then there was the rash of imitators. There were essays on nine common mistakes, or eleven common mistakes, and even twelve common mistakes. Many of them however, apparently lacking much creativity, used some of the same unique examples and much of the same wording. However, the changes were great enough to avoid copyright infringement charges.

In the meantime, for almost seven years, this essay on our site consistently receives hundreds of visitors a month, and we receive frequent thanks from parents struggling how to make sense of the wide variety of options when considering placement of their child in a residential situation for making very poor and often dangerous decisions. Obviously it has been accepted as one of the most important tools Woodbury Reports, Inc. has developed to help parents make sense out of this industry.

Although when taking another look at this essay I see several changes and/or additions that could be made, I'll resist the temptation, and danger, of trying to improve what has proven successful. For space considerations I'll just summarize the ten points here, and refer the reader to the full original essay for more detail

  1. "We want a place close to home." All parents want the best for their child, and it is far more important to find a place that best fits his/her needs than to emphasize the mere convenience of being close to home.

  2. "We want something affordable." Except when a program has a large endowment or fund raising capabilities, low cost comes from cutting corners. Deciding on a place based on costs runs the risk of entrusting your child to a place with untrained minimum wage staff.

  3. "We want our teen fixed." This view tends to come from looking at the child as an inanimate possession, and discards possible causal influences such as family dynamics, past trauma, or pathology. The child might have the problem, but the solution is likely to come from the whole family.

  4. "That school helped our friend's child." This view seems to think of children with problems as all the same, and are as interchangeable as a mass production item. Each child is unique, their problems are unique, and the solution/intervention is going to be unique.

  5. "A six month placement should do it." Children grow at their own rate, and necessary insights will happen in the child's own time. Setting up arbitrary time limits run the risk of setting up unrealistic expectations on the part of both the child and the parents which can sabotage the placement.

  6. "We are looking for a military school or a boot camp." While a punishment oriented model might work for a child who is age appropriate emotionally, it will frequently backfire for a child with emotional/behavioral problems, and for these children can even be dangerous. This request all too often comes from parents who are angry at their child and want to punish them into submission, an unhealthy impulse.

  7. "We can trust what professionals tell us." First, many people parading as professional in this business have no professional credentials whatsoever and should be avoided. Second, even legitimate professionals have a personal frame of reference or bias, and the parent should accept their advice only when it makes sense to the real authority on any child, his/her parents.

  8. "We don't need to tell the school/professional everything our child has done." When a school or professional is blindsided by less than full disclosure by the parents, the child can be hurt by an inappropriate placement. It can result in something like trying to cure cancer through cold medicine.

  9. "We will save some money by finding a school or program by ourselves without the help of an educational consultant." This is similar to answering charges from a criminal court without the benefit of an attorney who knows the rules, the law and the players. Just because there are some people who parade as educational consultants while accepting finders fees, or seem to be in it just for the money, doesn't mean that a legitimate educational consultant with credentials like membership in a professional organization or a good reputation among quality schools can't save you much grief and money.

  10. "We don't need to get the other parent involved." A child needs to develop whatever relationship he/she can with both parents. That is one of the strongest motivations a child with problems has to heal. Trying to cut one parent out of the placement intervention in most cases just deprives the child and reduces the chances of success.

If you place a child's needs as a priority, balancing it with the parents' needs, common sense will show that all these mistakes are obvious.

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