[Kristie is the daughter of Woodbury Reports publisher, Lon Woodbury and his wife Denise. Her presence at Woodbury Reports is a demonstration of the positive relationship that has evolved since she has returned from the special purpose programs she attended in 1993-1994.]
A student doing research for a school paper recently interviewed me regarding the role of a parent consultant, also referred to as an educational consultant. She asked some great questions and I felt my answers might interest others.
What are the main responsibilities/duties of a parent consultant/educator?
In our business, parents hire consultants to place their teen into a school or program that will address the issues the child is having. Since we are hired by the parents, our main responsibility is to work for the parents, not for any school or program. Other responsibilities include getting background information on each student from as many sources as necessary to "get to know" the child. Then we research the people and aspects of the different schools and programs to determine an appropriate placement. The main questions we attempt to answer are: What is the student going through, and when did things start going downhill? What are his/her issues or behaviors? A consultant is an advocate for the family, and it is similar to hiring a lawyer to go to court with you to represent your best interests.
What personal qualities are necessary to be successful in this career?
Ethical practices are very important. We work for parents of struggling teens, and if we are not ethical, how can we ask the students we’re placing to learn, let alone believe in, ethical practices or become responsible adults? Another helpful quality Woodbury Reports offers is that we have experience in both being the parent of a troubled teenager and as a student who has attended schools/programs in the private pay network. Being able to relate with parents as parents, or as a graduate, helps them to connect with you and feel they are not alone at this time in their life.
What type of degree/s leads to this career?
Many of the educational consultants we work with have a Masters Degree. Several may be LPCC (Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor), LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists), M.A. (Master of Arts) or PhD, generally in education or Psychology with some educational background. Several consultants today have actually worked previously in the private network of schools and programs and have moved on to consult for parents.
How much education is required?
There are no education requirements to become an educational consultant. Educational consultants work more on a life-experience and competency basis. “Track record” qualifies the consultant. If however, the consultant wants to join such associations as the Independent Educational Consultant Association (IECA), they must fulfill certain requirements. Guidelines for membership are on the IECA’s website at www.iecaonline.com. Consultants can fulfill other certifications, for example, becoming a Certified Educational Planner (CEP) or a member of the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP).
What types of classes will you have to take?
I personally will become a certified teacher for grades 9-12, so my background will include education along with life experiences. I am currently a referral assistant, but will eventually transition to a full fledged consultant with a degree in education. Most of the "classes" I need are real life experiences, such as visiting schools and programs, doing fieldwork and research, and paying attention to the "happenings" around the network, in addition to learning better communication skills by talking with parents, professionals, and schools/programs.
How long will you expect to be in school/ training for this career?
I started my training in 1999. Training is an ongoing process no matter what field you go into, but officially, I will continue as a referral assistant until I can prove to a veteran educational consultant that I am qualified.
What is the employment outlook for this career? (How likely am I to get a job in this field?)
It depends on how serious you are about this field. It is an easy field to claim, i.e. tell people you are an educational consultant and you could essentially be one. Your reputation relies on your professionalism, your successes, your failures...
What is the average starting salary?
I can't really answer this one. Prices for consultants range from $1000 - 5000 per consultation.
How much could you make if you stayed in the profession until you retire?
It depends on many factors... how much you charge per consultation, how ethical you are, how many parents you help each year... how known you become and your reputation... it could even depend on which "firm" you work for (if you decided to work for a group of associates.) The potential is there to make a lot of money, but for me it's more about helping the families and working to get the kids back on-track to grow into responsible adults.
What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of this career?
One of the disadvantages of talking with parents of struggling teens is that sometimes it is hard to separate yourself from their situation. For example, when parents are in crisis, we do everything in our power to help them; we feel their hurt and their pain but sometimes we aren’t able to provide the help they need. Sometimes parents are angry when they call, but they are resistant to the reality that they may be part of the problem. Some parents insist their student needs a military boot camp for punishment for their behaviors, when all they really need is an emotional growth wilderness program. It's a tough call. Another disadvantage is that parents are leery about trusting professionals if they have previous experience with misdiagnoses regarding their child. This often leads the parents to doubt other professional recommendations. I consider it an advantage when a parent consultant develops an emotional empathy with the family to understand the dynamics necessary to advise the parents and help the child. By developing this empathy, it increases my awareness and my ability to evaluate their situations. A second advantage of working as a parent consultant is getting the chance to visit the different schools and programs to see the diverse options for helping families firsthand. However, the biggest advantage to me is that I could essentially save the lives of many teenagers.
In my experience as a “struggling teen” that needed an intervention and rebelled against it, I wasn’t consciously aware that my life was going downhill and I would possibly drop out of high school within the next year. I knew I was fighting with my parents and had a potential life of crime ahead of me, but my self-confidence was so low that I didn't care. I was angry, I put myself in compromising situations, and I followed the lead of some negative people. To me, it was about doing whatever I wanted, but at the same time, I was crying out for attention and someone to help me figure out who I was. I needed to gain self-confidence to move forward in a positive way. My parents helped me get the help I needed to turn my life around. This experience helped motivate me to become a consultant so I can reach out to the parents of struggling teens. In my mind, the children of today are the adults of tomorrow. They will run this country and many aspects of the entire world, and we need them to be mature, responsible leaders. Helping children find themselves and the lessons they’ve missed will do just that.