Boarding Schools

Boarding Schools For Troubled Youth

What are Boarding Schools?

Many people have asked us, what are boarding schools? In this article we will discuss specifically what boarding schools for troubled youth are. There are several different types of boarding schools, but almost all boarding schools have the students reside on campus and provide academics to those individuals. Keep reading to learn more about boarding school options for troubled youth, military boarding schools, all-girls or all-boys boarding schools, and more.

What are the different types of Boarding Schools?

College-Preparatory Boarding Schools – these schools specialize in preparing students for college or more likely university. A college-preparatory boarding school is good for students whose goal is to achieve academic superiority. Classes tend to be typically smaller than public schools. College-preparatory boarding schools are not appropriate for students who struggle with drugs or alcohol or have emotional or behavioral problems and thus would not be a good option for troubled youth. College-prep boarding schools typically have a traditional academic school year. Some college-prep boarding schools specialize in different areas such as:

  • All-boys or all-girls boarding schools – more boarding schools are moving away from the single sex boarding schools, but there are still several out there. These schools are good for students who do not want the opposite sex distraction.
  • Military boarding schools – these boarding schools add the military structure while preparing students for college. See Military Schools.
  • Creative Arts Boarding Schools – these boarding schools teach and prepare students for specialized careers such as musicians, actors, creative writers, and dancers. These schools are good for students who are artistically inclined and who plan to attend a specialized college, university, or music conservatory.
  • Christian Boarding Schools – these boarding schools include a religious component to their schooling. These schools are good for students who want to make sure that religion is part of their life while at school.

Junior Boarding Schools – these boarding schools are for student who are in 8th grade or lower. Some junior boarding schools do provide living acommodations while others, especially for younger elementary school aged children, may be strictly a day school that doesn not keep kids over night. A junior boarding school may take troubled youth or youth that need some specific direction. With focused curriculum and 24 hour a day supervision, these schools are designed to help boys and girls learn and grown not only academically but also socially and emotionally. At a junior boarding school children will learn responsibility and learn how to make good choices.

Therapeutic Boarding Schools – also known as Residential Treatment Centers – these boarding schools add a therapy component. Therapeutic boarding schools are designed specifically to provide structure, discipline, and supervision for toubled youth dealing with substance abuse issues, learning difficulties, or behavioral problems that keep them from leading a normal, productive life. As with any boarding school, potential candidates and their families will want to research the school and staff in-depth to find out if the school is accreditated and if the teacher and staff are certified to other the kind of care and/or treatment that will be required by the troubled youth.

Specialty Boarding Schools – also known as Behavior Modification Schools – These schools specialize in students who are having emotional and behavioral problems and having a difficult time in a traditional school setting, but do not necessarily require therapy. These schools are typically long term and have a major emphasis on character building for troubled teens. Specialty boarding schools are usually year-round schools. Speciality boarding schools can also be any boarding school that has a major area of focus religion, arts, military, or any other special interest.

How much do Boarding Schools cost?

Boarding schools costs range from under $2,000 to over $6,000 a month. Because most boarding schools include academics, they qualify for educational loans like those offered from PrepGATE or SalleMae. Some boarding schools may offer financial aid, scholarships, or other tuition assistance programs. Boarding school costs are going to vary a great deal depending on the type of program they offer.

Physical Problems

Teen Drug Abuse

Teen drug abuse has been declining in the United States for the last decade, but several drugs remain a dangerous problem for many teens. Parents and other adults should know the signs of teen drug abuse so they can get help for teens who have a problem with drug use and abuse.

By the time they reach their teens, many young people already know someone who uses drugs. Some kids feel pressure to use drugs like alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana as early as 3rd grade. More kids are introduced to drugs during adolescence, or the junior high or middle school years. The percentage teen drug abuse increases through the high school years and into young adulthood.

  • Over 30 percent of 8th graders have used alcohol, and by 12th grade 66 percent of teens have used alcohol.
  • Teen Smoking: 3 percent of 8th graders smoke tobacco.
  • About 10 percent of 8th graders have used marijuana. About 25 percent of 10th graders and over 30 percent of 12th graders have used marijuana.
  • 10 percent of teens in 12th grade have abused prescription drugs. On average, 2,500 teens abuse a prescription drug for the first time every day. 

Since these teen drug abuse statistics were posted, new statistics were released for the year 2012. See how the 2012 statistics compare:

  • 3.6 percent of 8th graders have used alcohol, and by 12th grade only 28.1 percent of teens have reported getting drunk in the last month.
  • Teen Smoking: In 1996, 49% of 8th graders tried cigarettes, by 2012 only 16% had done so,  However, teen smoking of flavored cigars and Hookahs has significantly increased.
  • About 6.5 percent of 8th graders have used marijuana. About 17 percent of 10th graders and over 22.9 percent of 12th graders have used marijuana in the last month.
  • 14.8 percent of teens in 12th grade have abused prescription drugs.

The use of most drugs among teens is declining. In the last decade these numbers have gone down from almost 47 percent of 8th graders using alcohol, 10 percent smoking cigarettes, and about 12 percent using marijuana. Cocaine use declined in the 1990s from its peak in the 1980s, but it has remained steady since that time. Still, about a quarter of students say that drugs are available to them at school.

The exception to the downward or steady trend of drug use among teens is the teen prescription drug abuse, especially prescription painkillers, which has been rising in recent years. In the last decade treatment for teen prescription drug addiction has increased 300 percent. Many teens have a misperception about prescription drugs, believing that they are safe because they can be obtained legally. Prescription drugs are easy to get from medicine cabinets at home or at family or friends’ houses, meaning that many teens can abuse prescription drugs for free. Also, parents sometimes give their children another family member’s prescription painkillers without realizing the potential dangerous side effects and addiction that can occur.

Teen Drug Use Statistics show the most common drugs abused by teens are, in descending order:

  • Alcohol Abuse
  • Marijuana
  • Prescription drugs (opiates)
  • Stimulants like meth and ecstasy
  • Sedatives and tranquilizers
  • Crack Cocaine
  • Hallucinogens like LSD (acid) or PCP
  • Inhalants
  • Steroids
  • Heroin 

The drugs that are abused most commonly – alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drugs – may be appealing to teens because they think there is no risk involved in using them. Unfortunately, the use of any of these drugs during the teen years can have serious long-term consequences on a teen’s physical and mental wellbeing. A teen’s brain is still developing, so using any drugs during the teen years can cause problems with the teen’s growth, development, and long term health. Also, using these drugs lowers teens’ inhibitions, which can lead to other dangerous choices like driving under the influence or having unprotected sex.

Because teen drug use dangerous, parents should be aware of signs that their teen may be abusing drugs. Signs that a teen may be using drugs include:

  • Having drugs or drug paraphernalia
  • Medications or alcohol missing from your home or the home of family members or friends
  • A change in friends, or hanging out with friends who use drugs
  • Red or glassy eyes, or dilated pupils
  • Slow, slurred speech or talking unusually fast and jumping from subject to subject
  • A dramatic change in appearance
  • Lack of concern with appearance or hygiene
  • Unexplained change in weight
  • Change in performance at school or learning problems
  • Lying or acting sneaking
  • Not caring about risks, consequences, or the future
  • Being disrespectful or aggressive toward family members or family rules and values
  • Showing signs of depression or withdrawal
  • Defensiveness when questioned about activities or drug use
  • Losing interest in favorite activities 

Also, teens who are using or abusing drugs often need money to continue their drug use, though you may not be aware of their money problems. Some signs that teens may be seeking money for drugs include:

  • Valuables missing from your home
  • Your teen having unexplained money or valuables
  • Getting in trouble with the law – or teen violence
  • Stealing money or drugs
  • Borrowing money
  • Always being out of money even if they have an allowance or a job 

It is best to start talking to your teens about teen drug use before they have a problem, but if you think your teen is using drugs, it’s important to talk to them right away. Teens need help to overcome their teen drug abuse.

Programs For Troubled Teens

Finding The Right Treatment Program

Finding the right treatment program is critical to the success of your teen’s recovery. For severe cases of defiance, drug use, or behavior disorders we recommend gathering resources and meeting with your local therapist. Gather as much information as possible using the web, friends, family, or church groups. We’ve never heard that any one was too prepared. Read on to learn more about what questions to ask and information to research to find the best treatment program for your struggling teen.

Through the process of gathering information please keep in mind that there is no such thing as a quick fix to these problems. Your teen’s behavior problems didn’t happen overnight and it won’t be fixed overnight. Some residential treatment centers or teen help boarding schools have average stay lengths of 12 months or more. This ensures a lasting change in the troubled teen behavior, not just a temporary fix that will only last until the teen gets back into his/her regular environment.

There are several things to keep in mind if you are considering teen help schools or treatment centers:

  • Will the school or program provide my teen the proper therapy, if needed? If your teen is already meeting with a therapists you may want his/her therapist to talk with the potential therapist to make sure he/she will be able to help your teen with the specific issues that are going on. Along with this, find out how long the therapist has been practicing, what type of training/education, and other qualifications the therapist has to help troubled youth and if possible have your teen meet with the therapist to ensure that they are a good fit. The success of the therapy can be influenced by the kind of rapport the therapist and patient are able to establish.
  • Is the teen help treatment center licensed (specialty boarding schools are typically not required to hold licensing as they don’t provide therapy)? Making sure they are licensed tells you that they are meeting certain established guidelines for acceptable discipline and treatment of your teen. There are many horror stories of teen treatment programs that have reportedly abused teens in their programs. Find out as much information as possible about how long they have been in business, how many complaints of abuse have been reported, etc. Check to see if the business is licensed through the state or Department of Health and Human Services.  Find out about living conditions, diet and nutrition, and the environment they will be exposed to. There are several independent, non-profit organizations that do accreditation for mental health programs and providers, some of these include: the Joint Commission (JACHO), the Council on Accreditation (COA), and the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). Check with these organizations to see if the teen help programs you are interested in are listed with them.
  • Does the treatment program or specialty school have an aftercare/follow up program? If so, for how long after successful completion? Finding a program that will help your teen transition back to his/her home, school, and regular environment is a big part of preventing relapse. For many teens it is easy to make big changes in a controlled environment but when they go back to the same setting and friends they were around before it is hard for them to maintain those changes. Some programs offer services to help the teen make that transition without falling back into old habits and problems.
  • Is the staff properly licensed/trained? We talked about this a little before regarding therapy but it is a good idea to know what kind of emergency medical training the staff has, what kind of teaching credentials the educators have, and what kind of background checks are done on all employees of the facility to ensure they are not hiring people with a history of violence and/or abuse. You need to know that your teen will be protected and helped in a safe environment.
  • It is always recommended to walk through the teen help facility before placement. If you can’t do it – try to send someone in your place. If you are able to tour the facility, visit as many areas as possible. See where the teens sleep, eat, spend their free time. Even tour the kitchen facility to make sure it is clean, well stocked, and suitable for the number of people housed at the facility. Check out the shower facilities to make sure they are clean and provide adequate safety and privacy. Find out how bullying is prevented and handled – on the occasion that it does occur.
  • Once you find a facility that you feel is a good choice for you and your teen, always ask for references from other parents who have made the same decision. Find out the pros and cons. How long their teen was there, how long the teen has been out of the program, and how successful they felt the recovery was. Ask about any complaints they, or their teen, have about how he/she was treated and the overall success of the program. You may also want to find out what type of communication you will have with your teen while in the program. Will you be allowed to see or talk to your teen? What about email, texting, regular mail, or other forms of communication. It is comforting to be able to talk to your teen from time to time to make sure their basic needs are being met and that they are not being mistreated. Remember, they may not be “happy” but as long as they are not being mistreated, they are likely doing okay. Making hard chances is bound to cause some discomfort and unhappiness but there is no excuse for abuse. Also find out if there were any promises made that did not happen, make sure the program is offering what they say they are.
  • Does the teen help school or treatment center have verified statistics showing that they are experienced in helping troubled teens? Don’t just take their word for it. Find out about outside 3rd party services that have reviewed the program and verified the success stories. It is easy to make up statistics or fake testimonials that sound good but having the facts to support those statistics is another thing.

As you can see, finding the right treatment program for your troubled teen is not a quick, simple process. It is going to take some time and research. But remember you are investing a lot of money and making a life-changing decision that can have life-long effects for your teen. Simply choosing the one treatment program closest to home or cheapest in price is not likely to provide the best results. Having done all the research and checking will help you rest assured that you have made the right choice even when your teen is saying he/she hates you and you have ruined his/her life. When you are confident in the choice you make you will have the strength to endure the hard times knowing the end result will be worth it!

Boot Camps

The Juvenile Boot Camp Debate

The use of the term “teen boot camp” is still being debated. The media tend to focus on the “in your face” element of teen boot camps — the element that professionals who work with teens like the least.

Dr. MacKenzie, who has been studying adult boot camps since 1987, holds that defining the term “boot camp” has been a major issue and remains one. Her 1991 survey of adult boot camps (MacKenzie and Souryal, 1991) found some common boot camp characteristics, including:

1. A military-style environment.
2. Separation of boot camp participants from regular prison inmates when they are housed in collocated facilities.
3. The participants’ perception that boot camp is an alternative to a longer term of confinement.
4. Some hard labor.

The most noteworthy finding from Dr. MacKenzie’s survey, however, was that boot camp programs differ widely, particularly with regard to the amount of time participants spend in therapeutic activity and in the aftercare they are provided.

The definition of teen boot camps given by OJP in its Fiscal Year 1995 Corrections Boot Camp Initiative: Violent Offender Incarceration Grant Program includes the following elements:

1. Participation by nonviolent offenders only (to free up space in traditional facilities for violent felony offenders, i.e., those who have used dangerous weapons against another person, caused death or serious bodily injury, or committed serious sex offenses).
2. A residential stay of 6 months or less.
3. A structured schedule stressing discipline, physical training, and work.
4. Participation by juveniles in appropriate education opportunities, job training, and substance abuse counseling or treatment.
5. Provision of aftercare services that are coordinated with the program that is provided during the period of confinement.

In the 90s the military-style boot camps became popular. Several daytime talk shows like Dr. Phil showed uniformed men yelling at and intimidating teens and adolescents into behaving in the way they wanted them to. The problem with this type of boot camp is that the teen was learning to behave in a particular fashion when in a controlling and intimidating environment. They were not learning how to make good decisions in the environment they would return to upon leaving the camp. Because the scope of this type of boot camp was so limited, long-term change in the participants was often very limited. Coercing a teen to behave through fear and intimidation is not likely to change any core beliefs or teach them any life skills that will help them in the daily challenges they will face outside of the program.

Too many parents think that a boot camp will be a quick fix for negative behavior patterns that have developed over months or even years. Unless, or until, the juvenile learns to cope with and make consistent good choices in their regular environment, lasting changes are not likely to occur. Most of these behaviors have developed overtime as a method of adapting to and coping with life. Adolescence is, arguably, one of the most difficult times in a person’s life. Along with new types of responsibility and freedom comes many choices about behavior, friends, priorities, values, and how one will spend his/her free time. Most teens start looking to peers or role-models outside of their home and can be greatly influenced by these people. If a teen starts to identify with the “wrong crowd” and finds the belonging they are seeking they will likely follow the actions and behaviors of that crowd, even if it doesn’t coincide with the values and lifestyle they were raised with.

For parents that feel like their teen is out of control and don’t know where to turn for help, boot camp is one option; but remember that until the underlying concerns and issues the teen is dealing with are addressed, long-term change is unlikely. A good place to start is by simply talking to your teen. Try to understand the emotions and fears that are driving the undesired behavior and ask them if they are ready to make a change. Often the teen wants out but doesn’t know how to make the change. If they know they have the help, love, and support of a parent or trusted individual they can make radical change, without a boot camp or other program. If your teen does open up to you, be sure and follow through with the support they need. This may require changing schools, spending more time talking and listening to your teen to help them learn basic choice and accountability and decision making skills that will help him/her achieve desired results. Bad behavior is most often a cry for attention, providing adequate time and attention may be all that is needed. Consult with a therapist for professional counsel on what is the best option for the troubled teen in your life.

Residential Treatment Centers

Youth Program Life

Academics at the featured youth programs:
All students can earn high school credit while at these youth programs. Most of these youth programs are accredited by the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges. Students are evaluated upon entrance to the youth program and then placed in an ambitious course of study. In order for the student to earn credit for a class and move to the next course at the youth program, each class must be passed at a level of 80% or better. Credits will transfer to any college, university, and local high school. Students can also earn a diploma directly from the youth program.

On and off grounds activities provide a proper balance of recreation, exercise, learning, personal development, and social opportunities. Initially all activities are on grounds. Over a period of time, students earn the privilege of participating in off grounds activities near the youth program. All of the youth programs are located where there are a variety of activities.

Behavior Modification-
High standards exist at all these youth programs. Inappropriate behavior at the youth program is confronted, given consequences, and redirected, while appropriate behavior is reinforced and rewarded. The Programs offer tight supervision around the clock. Each student follows a vigorous daily schedule and a firm set of rules at the youth program. A merit system is used at each youth program requiring each student to earn their status and privileges. As students advance, each level offers additional privileges motivating the student to work harder. The youth program becomes the testing ground to ascertain each student’s level of commitment toward changing past behavior.

Personal/Emotional Development-
At the youth program students participate daily in tightly-integrated Emotional Growth and Personal Development Courses. These courses effectively utilize resources such as: professional audio and video tapes, selective reading material, and daily progress review sessions. During these sessions, students begin to learn what is and what isn’t working in their lives and how to make necessary changes.

Student Seminars-
Students participate in a series of seminars specifically designed for each of these youth programs. While the student is completing their seminars, the parents are invited to parent seminars. Then students and parents are invited to attend effective Parent/Child Workshops. These are designed to assist each family in rebuilding the family unit and become the foundation for the After-Care Program.

Misconceptions of these youth programs-
These youth programs often get confused with “tough love” options such as teen boot camps, juvenile boot camps, military schools, and wilderness programs. These specialty boarding schools and treatment centers are effective in helping troubled teens with behavior and conduct disorders. We do not promote youth boot camps, juvenile boot camps, military schools, or wilderness programs as they have not been proven to be as effective as these treatment centers and boarding schools.

Parenting Articles

Parent Contracts

Set Rules in Your House with Parent Teen/Child Contracts

Have you ever heard your kid say, “How come I’m grounded? I didn’t know I couldn’t…”? Have you grounded your kid to hear them say “Two Weeks?!?! You never said I would be grounded for TWO WEEKS!” Wouldn’t it be nice to just have it all in writing? But who wants to spend all that time trying to figure out what you should write, what is acceptable, what should the consequences be?

Well, we recommend a site that has just that. has Parent-Teen Contracts that we feel cover all the basics. Family Values Worksheet and Parent Contracts cover: Dating, Driving, Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking, Dress, School, Privileges, Chores, and more. There are nine complete contracts and a Family Values worksheet to help establish and make known your family’s values. There is even a sample of consequences given in categories.

The parent child contracts are really easy to use, you decide what category the consequence is, put it in the appropriate place, sign and date and voila, you have child behavior contracts between you and your kid. There are a couple of places that have bulleted lists to fill out, one is the dress code. The other is in the dating contract. This allows you to be specific in what is allowed and not allowed.

The parent teen contracts help eliminate any gray areas. Everyone knows the rules; everyone knows the consequences. How nice would it be to not have those brain numbing disagreements that solve nothing but raise your blood pressure to near fatal degrees? Can you imagine the peace you could have with the structure created by having the contracts in place?

The child behavior contracts cost $19.95 for the whole package. We recommend that you visit to learn more about the parent teen/child contracts. Make life easier on yourself.

Includes: Teen Dating Contract, Teen Driving Contract, Child Behavior Contracts, Chores Chart, Drug and Alcohol Use worksheet, and more!

Parenting Articles

Positive Parenting

Positive parenting is a parenting strategy that focuses on encouraging and building good behaviors by being involved in children’s and teens’ lives. Though positive parenting can’t solve every problem with a troubled teen, it may be able to offset some of the negative factors in a teen’s life and help parents intervene when their teen has a problem.

Positive parenting is about being involved in teen’s lives and encouraging their positive traits while giving them room to grow and helping them develop the self discipline to avoid negative behaviors. Positive parenting techniques may vary somewhat depending on a family’s situation, but some of the general principles include:

  • Tell your teen you love them and find something positive to say about them every day. Teens respond better to positive statements than negative ones, and most teens will start to act more positively if their parents focus on the positive.
  • Talk to teens every day about things that are going on in their lives. Don’t interrogate your troubled teen, but have a conversation with him or her. Allow teens to have their own opinions, but tell them if you are concerned about something.
  • Talk to teens directly about sensitive topics like sex, drugs, alcohol, violence in the media, depression, and suicide. Tell teens what your values and concerns are about these topics, and ask them if they have any questions. Teens listen to their parents’ opinions when making choices, and should feel like they can talk to their parents if they have a question or concern.
  • Set rules that are clear and consistent and establish fair consequences for breaking the rules, like losing driving privileges for a week if the teen breaks curfew. Be consistent in enforcing the consequences when teens break the rules. Avoid using harsh verbal or physical punishments as consequences. Explain the reasons for your rules, and let teens help come up with the rules and consequences.
  • When correcting negative behavior, don’t criticize or belittle your teen. Instead, focus on what the problem is and why you are concerned about it, and involve the teen in finding a solution.
  • Don’t over-schedule your lives; make sure both you and your teen have some time to relax, and give your teen the opportunity to make his or her own decisions about activities and interests.
  • Take an interest in your struggling teen’s interests and encourage them in their positive activities.
  • Get to know your teen’s friends. Don’t forbid teens from seeing friends you don’t like, but tell your teen why you’re concerned about that person.
  • Try to eat at least one meal together as a family without the TV or other media. This encourages families to talk and to develop healthier eating habits, and has been shown to reduce negative behaviors in teens.
  • Try to have realistic expectations; not every teen gets straight As or excels at sports. Focus on appreciating the person your teen is and helping them appreciate their own good qualities as well.
  • Find things you can do with teens that you both enjoy, even if it’s something simple like watching a favorite movie or going for a walk.
  • Give teens reasonable responsibilities around the house so they feel involved with the family and have a sense of responsibility.
  • Don’t make comparisons between your teen and anyone else, especially not siblings.
  • Set a good example of the kind of behavior you expect from your struggling teen, including getting help if there’s a problem you can’t handle on your own. 

Remember that even with positive parenting techniques, teens may still make choices their parents don’t like, and some parents may still need outside help from professionals to deal with teens’ problems. By using positive parenting, however, parents can have more impact on the choices their teens make, and may be better able to spot problems that their teens need help with.

Positive Parenting Tips Sources:

Nemours Foundation, KidsHealth, Positive Parenting, “9 Steps to More Effective Parenting” [online]
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Child Development, “Positive Parenting Tips” [online]