There is a wide variety of options out there, some excellent, some misleading and possibly dangerous. As a professional who visits each of these programs, sometimes many times, I see what no parent can ever see. I am plugged into the “underground chatter” about programs and hear the pros and cons that often never reach the unsuspecting parent. By selecting the wrong program yourself, you can actually end up wasting valuable resources.
That can be a very tricky question. If your child is getting closer to the age of 18, there is usually more pressure to act quickly, especially if the behaviors have escalated. If you have exhausted the local community mental health resources; if your child has suddenly refused to go to their therapist; if you have other children at home that are being negatively impacted by the problem; if you feel as though you are always walking on eggshells- there is probably a pretty good reason to start considering this as an option. .
Depending on the type of placement that is deemed most appropriate for your child, it can be anywhere from 6-8 weeks for a short term wilderness program, and up to a year and a half for a therapeutic boarding school. Keep in mind that most candidates for a residential setting did not go off track in six to eight weeks and it will most likely take longer than that to get them back on the right path.
This is an ongoing issue with parents who finally come to the decision that something must be done. I tell all my clients that the most important aspect of the placement, aside from safety, is the appropriateness of the fit of the program. In some cases, being out of a child’s comfort zone far from home and in unfamiliar surroundings is the very thing that is indicated.
Most loving parents worry about this issue. When children are struggling/failing, they are more likely to lash out at their parents; when children are succeeding, they often find that their parents become their greatest supporters. Everyone needs to feel some success, so once a child starts to feel good about himself/herself, they are more open to feeling good about his/her parents as well.
When I first started my business, about 10 percent of my clientele had adopted children. Currently, it is approximately 35%, which is about the same percentage of adopted children found in many of these programs. The adopted young people that I see come with a whole host of issues that their loving parents never even considered, including attachment issues. Parents are often too guilt-ridden to even consider a residential placement as an option, yet realize, on some level, that the situation at home is simply not working. Choosing to address your child’s issues rather than putting your own guilt first is the beginning of getting help for your family.
Most of the programs take very little insurance; however, individual policies may have some limited coverage. If a policy does have some coverage, it is usually for the therapeutic sessions only and not the residential cost, which can usually be the bulk of the expense.
I am more than willing to speak together or separately with each party to explain the process. However, custody issues can often trip up a placement. It is best to look over your custody agreements and discuss this with your spouse prior to initiating treatment.
Of course, every parent would prefer to give a child the option to go willingly to a program. Unfortunately, in some instances, that child is ill-equipped to make that decision. Due to risky behavior and poor choices, your child may have to look to you to make that decision for him/her. In that situation, there are some options that we could consider, and I will be happy to discuss them with you should that be needed.
At the heart of many of parents’ decisions to place a child in a residential program is this very question. Only you can decide whether addressing issues openly in a safe, therapeutic residential environment is a good idea for your child. Very few parents make this decision easily, however, it is comforting to know that there are good options available for parents who decide to choose this route.