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Teen Boot Camp Questions

By: Nancy Sander

Imagine being a teen, could you be shocked by the injustice of boot camps for teens? Teens feel injustice deeply, some more deeply than others do. Their responses to life experiences always seem to be a pattern of extremes. You will have a fight on your hands about going to live at a boot camp.

For nearly all of the last 10 years there have rarely been any empty beds in many long-term rehabilitation centers for juvenile offenders, especially for those that treat youth with illegal substance charges. Any empty beds were due to a lack of funding, rather than a lack of a youth to fill the beds. There constantly seems to be an abundance of teens with severe troubles.

In decades past, discussions of boot camps for teens were generally unheard of with the exception of the US Army. Though many families and even some court systems 'sent' troubled youth to the military to 'straighten them out.' 'Boot camps' became somewhat unpopular during the Vietnam War with the growing unpopularity of this war. Sometimes movies depicted parents threatening their unmanageable kids with a boot camp or a military school.

This is not a list of boot camps for teens. The statements herein are from 15 years of professional experience with juvenile offenders. By continuing to read, you will find criteria by which to make a reasonable decision regarding a solution for the difficulties your teen is experiencing. No one can make this important decision for you with the possible exception of the legal system. Your control is likely limited by your choices. Put your stress in a box in the closet; open your mind and your heart. You will find this material useful in your decision making process.

The operating costs for boot camps for teens and other similar programs are considerable. It can cost an individual entering one of these programs thousands of dollars per month. Often before the family has made a decision, the courts have stepped in. The taxpayers are then left paying the bill. To pay the cost of treatment many programs will offer a reduction in the fees based on a sliding scale according to the income of the parents. Other payment options include family insurance, Medicaid in Illinois, and the court potentially accepting the cost of treatment.

Many institutions operate on the principles and even the values of a military school, rehabilitation center, behavioral school, prison, or one of the boot camps for teens. All are acting to reform the teen's behaviors. Habitation in one of these programs is regularly a forced habitation. Your teen will not voluntarily choose this action unless it is the least offensive option at the time, they are desperate, or both. Some court systems use this tactic to persuade the youth to enter voluntarily. Many families or legal jurisdictions have sent youths to boot camps. This keeps the youth physically safe and usually free from re-offending for a time.

The success of these institutions and programs is often dependent upon the stability of the teen and the willingness to look at and change behaviors on the part of the teen and the parents. Teens have the enviable ability to fake a positive attitude, dramatize a negative one, and even fake the intent of their behavior change. This can make the determination of the effectiveness of boot camps for teens difficult.

Some programs based within the walls of a hospital can run for a few days or a few weeks. These often involve drug detoxification and mental health exploration. Most actual boot camps for teens are a long-term consideration. Consult the data you collect, you will find that the longer a teen receives treatment, the higher the odds for successful completion of the program and sustained long-term change. This is one of the top reasons to consider having your child attend one of the boots camps for teens.

You have already started to do your homework on this subject. If there has been no success with other means for behavioral change, take what you have discovered and ask more questions. Compile a list of criteria by which you will judge potential institutions. Finally, get 3 to 5 organization names, include boot camps for teens, behavioral school, and any programs that might fit the family's needs. Contact the Intake or Management Departments. Talk to a knowledgeable person on the telephone. Schedule a tour of these facilities in person. Your list of institutions will grow and shrink as you gather more following.

Ask for statistics in the following areas at a minimum:
1) Completion outcomes
2) Projected success 6 months after treatment
3) Accidents in the last 12 months, both injuries and fatalities
4) Population size, population size in relation to successful completions
5) Group sizes
6) Serious illnesses, include those resulting in death
7) Number of complaints in the last 12 months
8) Copy of organization policies
9) Suicide rates for the last 2 years, and
10) Runaway numbers for the last 12 months.

Spend some time at the facility to observe and visit with some of the staff. Take all this information and use it to make a final decision. Depending on the professional opinion, these programs are either very effective or a complete waste of time and money. It is for the parents and the teen to make a final decision, together if possible, regarding the efficacy of choosing boot camps for teens as a solution to the current problems.


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