In some circles, there have been growing demands from critics insisting that private parent-choice schools and programs, both residential therapeutic and emotional growth boarding schools, be regulated through licensing. One stated presumption is there is no oversight over these programs because they are unlicensed and unregulated. There also seems to be the presumption that with oversight, these programs will stop the perceived abusive and punitive methods that are claimed common. Another presumption is that lack of government or any other type of oversight is the rule, and that responsible programs are the exception.
I've always wondered exactly what programs these critics have in mind. True, there are some rogue operators who manage to get away with it for a time, despite being roundly condemned by legitimate professionals in the field, including responsible Educational Consultants and programs. Many have eventually been shut down by the authorities or otherwise forced to close their doors. I am aware of some who have settled in foreign countries to avoid any kind of oversight. (This doesn't include those who conscientiously follow US standards even when they are not forced to by foreign governments.) There are others I am aware of who take kids as a type of group home and claim their business license or permit (or some equivalent) is all that is necessary. But in my experience, these are the exceptions, the bad apples that any industry is plagued with. Apparently the critics believe that these rogue operations are the norm, thus the terms "unlicensed and unregulated." In their view, since the industry is "unlicensed and unregulated," federal legislation creating federal oversight is a vital necessity.
To answer the accusation that this industry is "unlicensed and unregulated," I went to the list of the top hundred schools and programs as viewed by the leading Independent Educational Consultants. These are the schools and programs found in my Parent Empowerment Handbook™, and are based on an annual survey among the leading Independent Educational Consultants. The last edition was published in early summer last year. These schools and programs are the ones with the best reputations. They are presumably the most often used for placement by professional Independent Educational Consultants and are leaders in our network. These schools and programs are at the heart of the industry that is being accused of being "unlicensed and unregulated."
Below is a list of those schools and programs that are licensed and regulated. I didn't include those only under the umbrella of a state's Children's Protective Service, or equivalent, with a mandate to intervene if any child in their jurisdiction is abused, which is a form of regulation. I also didn't include those who are just accredited for their academics, but that is also a form of regulation which includes a legal mandate in at least most states to report abuse if ever observed. In addition, I didn't include those that only have active parent activities, since a steady stream of parents and Educational Consultants through a facility is in itself an informal form of oversight. Finally, I did not include those who just have credentialed staff who have a legal responsibility to report unacceptable behavior, and also those who are members of professional organizations which also would have an interest in stopping abusive behavior they might become aware of. I did include those who are accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), because this is a designation that is difficult to obtain, and in many ways is the gold standard for competency, effectiveness and professionalism in healthcare organizations. As a result, I took a fairly narrow view of the question of how many of the programs were regulated with state oversight. The list of 100 schools and programs includes many wilderness programs and therapeutic boarding schools, as well as many residential treatment centers and mainstream type schools who take students transitioning from more highly structured schools and programs. The following are the schools and programs, as reported to us for the Handbook, from the 100 leaders in the private industry of residential parent-choice schools and programs, that have either some kind of state licensure or JCAHO accreditation, or both.
Adirondack Leadership Expeditions
Permit from New York Department of Health
JCAHO accredited, licensed by Arizona Department of Economic Security and Department of
Human Services as a Behavioral Healthcare Provider.
Aspen Achievement Academy
JCAHO accredited, licensed as an Outdoor Treatment Program by the Utah Department of
Licensed as a Residential Treatment Center in Utah
Boulder Creek Academy
Licensed by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare
JCAHO accredited, licensed as a Mental Health Program and an Alcohol and Drug Abuse
Program by the State of Oregon
Center for Change
Licensed by Connecticut
Copper Canyon Academy
Arizona Behavioral Health Services licensed.
Explorations Home Base
Licensed by Montana as a group home
Forest Heights Lodge
Licensed by the Connecticut Department of Children and Families
Gray Wolf Ranch
Licensed through Washington State Department of Health
Licensed by the State of Vermont
Hazelden Center For Youth & Families
Licensed and accredited by JCAHO, and Minnesota Department of Health
JCAHO and Montana State licensed
Licensed by the Utah Division of Licensure and JCAHO
King George School
Accredited by Vermont Department of Child and Family Services
The Learning Clinic
Licensed by the State of Connecticut Department of Children & Families
Logan River Academy
Licensed by the State of Utah Department of Human Services
JCAHO accredited and licensed by the Texas Department of Health
Mount Bachelor Academy
Licensed by Oregon Department of Health and Human Services
New Dominion School of Virginia
Licensed by the Commonwealth of Virginia with Interdepartmental Licensure and Certification
New Haven Female RTC
Licensed by Utah as a Residential Treatment Center and as an Addiction Treatment Center
New Leaf Academy
Licensed by the State of Oregon
Licensed as a "Children's Residential Care Facility" in Idaho
Provo Canyon School
JCAHO accredited, licensed by Utah Department of Human Services
Remuda Ranch Programs
JCAHO accredited, licensed by the State of Arizona
Licensed by the State of Utah
Licensed by Massachusetts Office of Child Care Services
Rogers Memorial Hospital
JCAHO accredited, licensed by Wisconsin as Psychiatric Hospital
San Cristobal Ranch Academy
Licensed in New Mexico as a Pharmaceutical Custodial Care Facility
Spring Ridge Academy
Licensed by the Arizona Department of Behavioral Health
Spruce Mountain Inn
Licensed in Vermont as a Therapeutic Community Residence
Licensed as a Residential Treatment Center in Maine, with Mental Health and Substance
Abuse Treatment certifications
SUWS Adolescent Program
Licensed in Idaho
SUWS Youth Program
Licensed in Idaho
SUWS of the Carolinas
Licensed in North Carolina
Three Springs of Duck River
Licensed Residential Child Care Facility in Tennessee
Three Springs - Paint Rock Valley
Licensed as an Outdoor Treatment Center by the Alabama Department of Youth Services
Valley View School
Licensed as Treatment Facility in Massachusetts
Villa Santa Maria
Licensed by New Mexico to provide Residential Treatment
Vista Adolescent Treatment Centers
JCAHO accredited, licensed by the Utah Department of Human Services
JCAHO accredited, Licensed by the Utah Department of Human Services
Out of the 100 leaders in the industry of private, parent-choice, therapeutic and emotional growth schools and programs, about half (45) have some kind of state licensure and/or JCAHO accreditation. Actually, the percentage would be higher because some of the leading programs are in Montana, which does not yet have comprehensive licensure but is developing it with the cooperation and help from these schools. The percentage would also be higher if we excluded those that are included in the top 100 who are primarily mainstream boarding schools, that just take graduates of more highly structured programs as a transition and make no claim to be therapeutic, thus not needing licensure.
So, where are these "unlicensed and unregulated" schools and programs we hear accusations about? Certainly not with the schools and programs we at Woodbury Reports and other professional Independent Educational Consultants primarily work with.
February 21, 2007
Thank you for the excellent article. This is the kind of factual information we need to counter the criticism.
Very informative article, but I disagree. I do not believe that a licensed program necessarily equals a good program. A license shows adequate facilities, adequate educational standards, and qualified staff. All theses standards do no necessarily add up to quality care. A licensing board is not present during normal day to day activities, and can provide no accountability after licensing. As a "critic" that Lon mentions, I don't believe that licensing is a solution to industry problems.
A legitimate point, but that wasn't the purpose of my essay. I was focusing on the claim that these were "unlicensed and unregulated" schools and programs and trying to point out that this accusation is only a sound bite with little factual basis. The question if they are "good" is a whole different discussion.
The National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (“NATSAP”) has completed its 2007 Annual Renewal of membership. We are pleased to announce that
76.3% of our members that serve children and adolescents are licensed. Ten unlicensed programs are based in Montana and these members are actively working with the Montana legislature on licensure and regulation in that state.
30% of these programs serving children and adolescents are accredited by the Association of Experiential Education, Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, Council on Accreditation or Joint Commission (JCAHO).
69.2% are accredited by an academic accreditation agency
Our members continue to work with their state to ensure appropriate legislation and regulation is in place.
I wanted to say thank you for writing this article.
I also applaud you for mentioning how difficult it is to obtain the JCAHO accreditation. As a company owner I felt that becoming accredited by an accreditation organization was extremely important for the overall quality assurance of our program. Although we are not accredited by JCAHO, we are accredited by CARF Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities which is also internationally recognized and very hard to obtain and retain. Being a small business, I was wondering if the benefits would outweigh the costs (it is expensive and takes a lot of time and dedication). Since our accreditation in 2004, I have found that becoming CARF accredited has had more benefits than what I expected. We have implemented an extensive outcomes management plan, avenues for improved quality assurance and the discipline of reviewing the overall company quarterly and yearly which has assisted us in maintaining a high level of service.
In conclusion, I appreciate you keeping this topic and this discussion going.