Teen Help - Tranquility Bay
By: J. Garth Swartley
On November 21, 1997, my then 15-year-old daughter Rachael entered the
Teen Help program at Tranquility Bay, Jamaica. My wife and I placed her into this program due to behavior problems such
as running away (six times), flunking school, being sexually active, experimentation with drugs and alcohol,
truancy and continued involvement with the police. This placement came after exhausting all other methods of helping
her, including extensive counseling.
After the fifth time Rachael ran away, she expressed a desire to leave our
family and be placed in a foster home, due to what she described as excessively prohibitive rules. She was determined to
do her own thing, no matter whom it hurt or how it affected her future. It was at this point my wife and I decided the only way we could
help our daughter was with residential treatment at Tranquility Bay.
Rachael was at Tranquility Bay until December 13, 1998, completed all
four of the Teen Help Tasks seminars, staffed four seminars and achieved Level 5 of the program. My wife and
I also attended two of the adult seminars (Discovery and Focus) in February and March of 1998 respectively. We found the
Tasks seminars to be very rewarding. These seminars created, in my opinion, a safe environment for introspection of our personal
emotions, beliefs and behavior patterns.
Rachael's experience at Tranquility Bay and the Tasks seminars have had a profound
affect on her. As a result of the Teen Help program, Rachael has shed the hard core image she once embraced and is now open
and loving toward us. She is honest, grateful, polite, accountable for her behavior and demonstrates a degree of integrity not common
in a teenager. In school, Rachael was failing four subjects and had a D in a fifth subject when she left for Tranquility
Bay. Today she has a 3.25 GPA, is actually enjoying high school and has plans for college. Before Rachael went to Tranquility
Bay, she would scream at us and stomp off to her room or threaten to run away whenever we tried to discuss family rules or her behavior.
Today, we can rationally discuss rules and issues with Rachael in an adult manner.
Rachael had no idea why her life was in turmoil or why she was behaving
the way she was before going to Tranquility Bay. Today she understands why she was behaving the way she did, how her behavior
was ruining her life and how to make healthy choices for herself. Rachael had virtually no self-esteem before going to Tranquility
Bay. Today she has an extremely high degree of self-esteem.
While it is still early for me to be absolutely certain these changes will be
long term, I believe in my heart that they will be just that. As a parent, there is no doubt in my mind that the changes are genuine.
We have also acquired the tools and techniques necessary to assure Rachael's continued success. While there are no guarantees
that Rachael's experience will prevent her from making mistakes in the future, we all are extremely optimistic.
I personally visited Tranquility Bay on three occasions, two of them with
my wife and one time with my wife and 13 year old son. We always had unrestricted access to all areas of the facility. We found
that while not opulent, the facility was neat, clean and more than adequate for the student's needs. The staff was always very attentive,
caring and willing to accommodate us. They were also very caring and loving toward my daughter. I never witnessed a student being
mistreated or abused in any way. Rachael also reports that the staff never abused her during her more than one-year stay there.
According to Rachael and from what I witnessed, the staff was "no nonsense" concerning student's behavior, but not abusive.
Additionally, from my understanding, the conditions and procedures at Tranquility
Bay are basically the same at all of the facilities run by Teen Help and the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs (WWASP)
including Paradise Cove, Spring Creek Lodge, Casa By The Sea, Cross Creek Manor and Carolina Springs.
Of course, there were some things we were not 100% satisfied with. The communication
between WWASP/Teen Help was not always timely or clear. There were some incidental costs that came as somewhat of a surprise. And
obviously, the conditions in a third world country are not on the same level as in the states. However, these complaints are minor and
frankly, I do not believe there is a perfect program out there anywhere.
In conclusion, I am extremely grateful for Teen Help and Tranquility Bay. The
journey was not an easy one for Rachael or my family. In fact, it was the toughest thing we have ever experienced. However,
this program has given me back my daughter, given my daughter a new and positive start on life and restored my family. I applaud
and support any parent who has the courage to take this difficult step with their troubled teen. It is the ultimate expression of their
J. Garth Swartley