Oct 24, 2008, 13:21

by Lon Woodbury

As I write this (mid-October), virtually all the media is talking about is the economy. Our attention is riveted on the wild ride of the Stock Market, the freeze in credit and a crisis in the housing market, along with government and private efforts to solve our problems. Even coverage of the Presidential and Congressional campaigns emphasizes what the candidates are proposing to "fix" the problems in our economy.

This concern over the economic crisis and how it will impact the network of private residential parent-choice schools and programs for struggling teens has been a major topic of conversation among professionals in this field all year. Some have expressed the fear that the network is dying, while others point to declining enrollments, partly due to parents feeling the economic pinch. These fears have been fed and magnified by notices of several well known and respected programs closing, with many fearing there are many more closures coming.

The positive side is that, despite all this, there have been some new startups this year. Incredibly, despite all the economic doom and gloom talk starting in January, a few visionaries are confident they can be successful in establishing a program that works with struggling teens in this economy. To get a quick feel for what the true picture is regarding closures and startups, I asked our Market Analyst, Candace Bynum, to research a list of each with the hope that some specifics will provide a clearer picture of what is really happening in this network. Both of the following lists are limited to residential programs for struggling teens that are private and open to working directly with parents in making a placement decision (parent-choice). Every effort was made to ensure accuracy, but please let me know if there are any errors or overlooked programs.

11--Programs closed in 2008
Achievement Valley Ranch Tennessee -- 2002 July
Manuia Plantation Samoa -- 2007 April
Transitions Texas Solacium 2005 July
Choteau Youth Ranch Montana -- 2002 July
Mission Mountain Montana -- 1989 August
Betton House Pennsylvania Family Foundation 2005 August
Willow Creek Utah Second Nature 2005 September
New Dominion Maryland Three Springs 1981 September
Duck River Tennessee Three Springs 1990 October
Excel Academy Texas CRC 1997 October
New Horizons Maine -- 2001 October

15--Programs opened in 2008
Cramer Creek  Montana  SLE  January 
Schrom Home Care  Idaho  --  January 
Renovo Boys Academy  Missouri  Proficio  March 
New Directions  Florida  --  April 
Vantage Point & Momentum  Utah  Aspiro  May 
Elements Wilderness  Utah  --  May 
Shelterwood  Colorado  --  May 
Ponca Pines  Nebraska  Uta Halee Girls Village  July 
My Choice  Samoa  Coral Reef  August 
Becket House at Warren  New Hampshire  Becket Family of Services  August 
Grace House  Montana  --  August 
Red Hill Academy  California  --  September 
Austin Sendero Eating Disorder  Texas  CRC  September 
Wingate Wilderness  Utah  --  September 
Center for Change Las Vegas  Nevada  Center for Change  October 

The most obvious generalization from these two lists is that the private residential network for struggling teens is holding its own. Despite the economic downturn, this network is not dying. It might be changing as old models, approaches and well known leaders fade away to be replaced by new models, approaches and new leaders, but residential programs for struggling teens based on parent-choice remain a dynamic and significant part of residential schools and programs for teens with problems.

Another aspect to keep in mind is the context of how many private parent-choice residential schools and programs there are. Woodbury Reports works from a growing list that was about 650 residential programs last Spring which we have been able to find from around the country that fit the definition of being private, residential, parent-choice for struggling teens. The list of closures above represents just two percents of the total. That some of them are well known and have been around for several years just magnifies the emotional impact of their closing. That they are being replaced by lesser known new programs seems to be the reality. Some of these new programs will probably become well known in the future.

It seems that the number of residential schools and programs for struggling teens from which parents can choose is still a dynamic force and this trend is holding its own. Although all professionals in this field should be cautious and concerned about developments in the economy, so far it appears pressing the Panic Button would be an overreaction.

To discuss this directly with Lon, go to his blog at


October 28, 2008

As is usually the case, very good and optimistic essay Lon. Thanks. In these hard times, it is even more imperative that we reach troubled teens and turn them into self confident and responsible young adults who leave these programs with the self confidence, attitude and academic skills to compete and become tomorrow's leaders. Our public schools create an environment that cause there to be so many "struggling teens" and we all know that the public schools at large have caused a great deal of trouble in this country over the past few decades as schools have become worse and worse no matter how much money the government throws at the very problems that government intervention caused to begin with.

If any parent has the wherewithall to send their child to a reputable private program recommended by Lon Woodbury or other reputable educational consultants, please do it. You will be glad you did, and you will have shown that you are a responsible parent, and your child is very likely to grow up and become self sufficient and emotionally sound, as these programs undo the emotional and other damage done to children as they are processed through the government-mill schools, and, their academic needs go unmet or even acknowledged as a problem to the government schools.

Until we return to the Old Days when schools were schools and communities were in charge of the schools located in their communities where their children live and play, any parent would do well to get their children out of most public schools and send them to some nurturing environment where their emotional development does not get hampered and destroyed by the practices that are employed in many public schools. If your child happens to live in some very rural place where the school is small and located in the community, you may be one of the lucky few who can send your child off to school with a pretty good idea that your child is receiving the same teachings at school as the families of the community share. I know of one such school which I hope is still as good as it was 10 to 15 years ago, and that was Suches School located in a mountain valley in a little community called Suches, Georgia. At one point, this little moutain valley school was one of the top schools in the whole state of Georgia with one of the smallest budgets. It is about quality and not quantity. Private, parent-choice schools are a great place for your child. If your child is already experiencing a nightmarish time at public school, do not expect that the situation will improve there. If you can, get them out, and use one of these schools recommended by professionals such as Lon Woodbury.

Thanks and Happy Trails

M. Jerome Ennis, MAed in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

October 27, 2008

Thanks for this article! It helps to give factual information in response to the questions that come to me from friends, professionals and families who are wondering "how are things going?" in your business. My husband and I continue to operate Cherokee Creek mirroring your sage advice...being cautiously concerned about the economy but not ready to hit any panic buttons.

Beth Black, President
Cherokee Creek Boys School

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