Seven schools for troubled teens
For parents who can afford them, these schools can help steer kids toward success.
By Katherine Ellison
From trauma to recovery
Say your teenager has skidded off the college-bound track, and you’re worried about everything from substance-abuse issues and inappropriate sexual activity to behavior problems and emotional struggles. If you’ve reached the stressed-out point of considering a boarding school designed to help turn your child’s life around, you may feel like you’re all alone.
You shouldn’t. The U.S. demand for these schools has grown rapidly in recent years and is now higher than ever. Cliff Brownstein, the executive director of the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP), estimates that between college-prep facilities and shorter-term treatment centers and wilderness programs, there are at least 500 "therapeutic" facilities for youths nationwide, with as many as 20,000 students enrolled. (NATSAP’s membership includes 170 accredited programs.) Most specialize in treating youths whose behavior is sabotaging their school career and relationships.
The options range from highly structured residential treatment centers (for adolescents with serious psychological issues), to outdoor therapeutic programs designed for short-term interventions, to therapeutic boarding schools intended mostly for promising kids struggling with mild emotional and learning issues or traumatic events such as a divorce or move.
These private-run programs are costly, with the average boarding school tuition ranging from $5,000 to $9,000 per month, although financial aid is often available. The quality can vary dramatically as well, so it’s important to choose with care, despite how hard this can be when your family is in crisis.
“Educational consultants can help sort out the options, but they aren’t always necessary,” notes Newsday journalist Dave Marcus, the author of What It Takes to Pull Me Through, about four struggling teens at the Academy at Swift River in Massachusetts. “With some time on the Internet and phone, anyone can find families who have had experience with these places, and most families are glad to discuss the positives and negatives.” A good starting point is strugglingteens.com, a website run by an educational consulting firm, which offers an extensive list of specialized schools.
Based on his research, Marcus has assembled this short list of boarding schools he thinks do a particularly good job of helping kids get back on track:
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