By Craig Rogers
Troubled Teen Programs have been helping kids for decades. Schools for troubled teens have been restoring troubled teens and their families in powerful ways for quite some time now. Everyday there are more and more “troubled teens” in need of help. The “Troubled Teen Industry” is growing leaps and bounds. New Troubled Teen Schools are popping up daily, and now parents have more choices to choose from. However, with every good thing comes a little bad. Many of these new programs are not providing professional services. As a parent seeking a school for your troubled teen you need to be aware of these “bad apples”. You need to steer completely away from the programs that abuse students. Please read the following list of “red flags” (warning list). If any school practices these procedures then perhaps you should be looking at a different school or program for your troubled teen.
Warning Signs of Potentially Abusive Facilities (Modified from ISAC’s list of warning signs)
The facility is not licensed.
Verbal and/or written communication between the child and his parents, siblings, grandparents, etc. is prohibited, restricted.
The program requests/demands/recommends that they have legal custody of children.
The program requires that children live in foster or "host" homes instead of allowing them to reside with their parents.
The child or parent or forbidden from discussing the daily happenings at the facility. Often this policy is called "confidentiality."
The child is denied access to a telephone.
Phone calls between children and parents are monitored.
The program uses confrontational therapy.
Parents must fulfill requirements of the facility before being permitted to visit their own children.
The facility is located outside the jurisdiction of the United States.
Children are restrained or otherwise physically prevented from leaving the facility.
The staff includes former students/clients of the facility.
Staff members claim that self-injury or cutting/carving on ones body is normal behavior for a child in treatment.
Parents are not allowed to remain with their child during the entire intake/entry process.
The program inflicts physical punishments on children such as exercising for extended periods of time, bizarre cleaning rituals (ie scrubbing floors with a toothbrush) or food restrictions
The program uses humiliation to "break them down."
The program forces children to remain in solitary confinement/isolation/time-out for an unspecified amount of time.
Reading materials are prohibited or severely limited.
The facility does not have a clearly visible sign outside the building or descriptions of their location are vague.
The facility claims to modify behavior, yet has no licensed therapists on staff.
A licensed doctor or registered nurse is not present at any time during normal operating hours.
Current clients/students participate in the intake/entry process.
Staff members offer to help parents obtain a court order forcing the child into, or keeping the child in, the facility.
Children are observed while bathing, dressing, or using the toilet on any level of the program.
The facility claims to treat drug abuse, but does not conduct a drug screen prior to entry Staff members must "approve" family members, siblings, friends, or employment.
Children are not afforded an education in accordance with state requirements.
Children are denied medications that have been prescribed by an MD.
Staff members, admissions personnel, referrers, etc. make statements indicating that "your child will die without" the program.
Children escort/supervise other children.
Children have to "earn" the "right" to speak during group/therapy sessions.
Children are denied outside activities on any level/phase.
Staff members must approve the withdrawal of children from the facility.
The facility expects total and unquestioned support of parents.
Children on any level/phase are forbidden to speak to other children in the facility.