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Essays

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Posted: Aug 1, 2005 17:01

SECRETS

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By: Lon Woodbury

The one thing students in Emotional Growth/Therapeutic schools and programs have in common is secrets. Those secrets may include internal impulses like rage, fear, extreme mood swings they are afraid to talk about, or something bad that happened to them. Or maybe they have secret agendas to manipulate others, or they are afraid of admitting or confronting something they did, or a feeling that they are different and if others find out about it, they will tease or bully them. The energy required to handle these secrets alone or to hold these fears and secrets inside are major factors in the self-destructive behaviors that resulted in their placement in a school or program.

The goal of quality schools and programs is help their students deal with these self-destructive secrets by getting them out in the open. The purpose is not to publicize what the secrets are, but to help the student better understand him or herself and why they are having problems. Once these secrets are out in the open they lose their former power, and with proper treatment the students learn more positive ways of reacting to situations, how to make better friends, and how to be successful, etc.

To help their students become more open and honest, it is vital for the school and its staff to practice what they preach. To be effective, the school or program and its staff must be positive role models. A school or program that tells its students to be open and honest, but is not open or honest in how it markets its program for example, or makes promises it can not keep to prospective parents, is opening the door for students and parents to rightly accuse that school or program of hypocrisy, and the effectiveness of that school or program is minimized.

In my opinion, one of the most objectionable practices some schools or programs do in secret are called "Finders Fees," or "Referral Fees." I refer to this as "Cash for kids." What this means is that a school or program gives cash to a referral source for referring a child to their school or program. These agreements are usually secret, that is the parents of the referred child do not know that the program paid somebody for the referral of their child, or if they do know, they do not understand the implications. Since many quality schools and programs refuse to participate in this practice, these referrals are made more on the basis of what is good for the referrers pocketbook, than what is best for the child.

Oftentimes, websites that base their business on Finders Fees are also what I like to call anonymous sites. This means there is no staff page, nor any indication on the site of the people behind the site. It is thus impossible for the parent to know who they might be working with, or what experience or credentials they have. It boils down to a "Trust me" situation, which, when it comes to advice for placement for their children, or actual residential placement, is very scary. It is legitimate to question why a website is keeping the names of the people behind the site secret, and it is also valid to ask what other secrets the site may be hiding.

To address this growing problem of anonymous websites, Woodbury Reports is modifying its policy. We will not accept advertising that refers to an anonymous website, nor publish Visit Reports or New Perspectives on resources that maintain anonymous sites that offer no indication of the people behind those sites.

We understand several schools and programs have hired web construction firms with a greater competence in the Internet than an understanding of the ethics of this industry. In the rush of putting up a website a staff page may be simply overlooked, or these website designers may advise a school or and program that a staff page is unnecessary. Based on these considerations, we are offering to build a staff page for all of our advertisers who need it and send it to their webmaster at no cost. We will also be glad to work with any other resource we might be writing about to help them take the secret out of their anonymous website.

The credibility of this network of private parent-choice residential schools and programs depends on its ability to be open and honest about who they are and what they do. We hope that our policy change will help the people working in this field to maintain that openness and honesty.

Parents of course will make the difference. If parents choose to work with only those professionals that have a website that is open and honest about who they are, then parents will have a better chance of working with legitimate professionals.

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