Tough Love Hurts

In a new report, the Government Accountability Office cites "thousands of allegations of abuse, some of which involved death," in "residential treatment programs" for "troubled youth." The report was released yesterday at a House hearing where the parents of Aaron Bacon, a teenager who died at a Utah boot camp in 1994, testified. According to The New York Times, "His parents said they saw Northstar as a place that would distance Aaron from negative influences at his high school, where he had begun dabbling in drugs." The staff there starved him, forced him on long hikes, and beat him, according to the GAO, "from the top of his head to the tip of his toes." Northstar's owner and four employees pleaded guilty to negligent homicide in 1994, but none served any time in prison.

While Northstar was shut down, other abusive "tough love" programs continue to operate, as Maia Szalavitz showed in an appalling reason exposé earlier this year. In addition to criminally negligent managers and incompetent or sadistic staff members, lax state regulators and excessively trusting parents bear a share of the blame for this situation. But as Szalavitz's piece makes clear, the problem would not be nearly as big or as persistent were it not for the anti-drug hysteria that drives panicked parents to send their children to places like Northstar. Aaron Bacon is no longer "dabbling in drugs," and in that sense, I suppose, his "treatment" was a success.

In follow-ups to her reason feature, Szalavitz has noted Mitt Romney's ties to "tough love" camps and highlighted attempts to squelch criticism of such programs. Her book Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids is available here.

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  • ||

    There's also, iirc, a scandal just waiting to come out about Mitt Romney and some of his backers financing camps like this in Florida and other states.

  • Jennifer||

    I still cannot understand why such places are even legal.

  • Episiarch||

    I still cannot understand why such places are even legal.

    Because they are for the children.

  • ||

    I still cannot understand why such places are even legal.

    Mostly because the victims, er, patients, are minors with no real means of recourse.

  • ||

    You know, the heap of shit that can rightly be credited to 'anti-drug hysteria' is mighty damn deep.

  • ||

    I still cannot understand why such places are even legal.

    Mostly because Americans would rather spend $2 to punish somebody instead of $1 to help them.

    Our society is kind of cruel, really.

  • ||

    You know, the heap of shit that can rightly be credited to 'anti-drug hysteria' is mighty damn deep.

    Yeah, like almost everything according to those around here. Funny how that is...

  • ||

    If you want to use "tough love" on your children, the way to do it is NOT to turn them over to people who don't love them.

    If you decide to send your kid to one of these places -- especially now, after so many have been shut down for abuse -- you are not only a failure as a parent, but a failure as a human being.

    If Terry's "Libertarian Militia" were set up to liberate kids from these places, I'd be tempted to sign on.

  • Jennifer||

    Mostly because the victims, er, patients, are minors with no real means of recourse.

    It can't be as simple as that. You still can't rape, rob or otherwise assault a minor. And at a time where anti-child abuse laws are so strict that parents in some locales can go to jail simply for giving a kid a couple of light swats on the bottom, how the HELL are these torture camps allowed to slide through?

  • ||

    I've been watching the trial in the death of the fourteen-year-old.

    The testimony is appalling.

  • ||

    Jennifer,
    because they're anti-drug and supported by a number of "community leader" types.

  • ||

    You have to remember that everything done in these camps is nominally "treatment" for whatever happens to be bugging their parents or the authorities, whether it's dabbling in drugs or, for girls, having sex. Any protest about conditions can be brushed aside as resistance or manipulation by these kids who were such pains in the ass they were sent there.

    I used to volunteer for a youth/runaway hotline, and we got phone calls all the time from parents at the end of their ropes dealing with their teenaged kids. Society puts parents in a really tough spot-it's damn well close to impossible to control what teenagers do all the time, and yet parents are held liable. Some of the kids have serious mental or emtional issues that would be better dealt with in other manners, but I think some kids would be better served by being cut loose before they were 18. If they want to have an adult's freedom to do whatever they want, they should have an adult's responsibility to feed and clothe themselves.

  • Jennifer||

    I actually wonder if this isn't a case where the "free market" should be kept out of it. Have troubled-youth facilities run by the state, rather than by private companies with a financial incentive to lock kids up, so they can make a profit. Otherwise, you run into the same problems as you do with privately owned and operated prisons. There should not be any financial incentive to take away a person's freedom, whether you say it's for the person's own good or for the good of society as a whole.

  • ||

    @Jennifer

    It can't be as simple as that. You still can't rape, rob or otherwise assault a minor.

    Yeah, but you usually can't rape, rob and otherwise assault a minor with the consent of their parents and the authorities. The kids usually aren't sophisticated enough to realize they have a recourse, and to the extent that they have one the staff will usually scare them out of using it by assuring them the judge will consign them to an even worse situation (which is entirely possible). And even if he gets out, where's he gonna go if his parents won't take him home?

    I was in one of those places as a kid - believe me, they know how to stack the deck against you.

  • ||

    One thing I'm reminded of here is the general libertarian attitude of "other people's kids are not my concern" and the constant mockery of doing anything "for the children".

    Then, when we get kids who are so alienated and angry that sending them to a boot camp to be physically abused starts to seem like a good idea, we'll all sit around and wonder what went wrong.

    At some point, you gotta put 2 and 2 together.

  • Abdul||

    I used to work in a wilderness therapy camp for emotionally disturbed adolescents. My program was good, and for the most part the kids appreciated the help we gave them. We shouldn't be so hasty to judge all programs the same way.

    I read both the GAO report and Szalavitz's book. The GAO report focuses on 10 cases which resulted in death over a 14 year period. There's no mention of whether that represents a higher risk ratio then similarly situated youth outside of wilderness camps. I'd bet more kids have drowned on school field trips to amusement parks over the same time.

    For the most part, most of the deaths occurred in shady, fly-by-night operations. However, they also pick a few weird circumstances where kids might have died had they been attending ordinary public or private schools. In one case, a girl died of heat stroke complicated by drug-induced dehydration because she had taken methamphetamines without the staff's knowledge. In another case, a girl died when she ran ahead of the group and fell off a cliff. Hard to see how either death is the staff's fault.

    The rush to judgment of all wilderness therapy programs based on a small sample that includes only the worst examples of abuse is a little unfair.

  • VM||

    Abdul - is that the camp in New Hampshire?

  • ||

    I actually wonder if this isn't a case where the "free market" should be kept out of it. Have troubled-youth facilities run by the state, rather than by private companies with a financial incentive to lock kids up, so they can make a profit.

    Nice idea - unfortunately one of the threats the private facilities use is that if you "drop a slip" (petition a court for release), the judge will likely send you to a state facility (which have a well-earned reputation for being even worse).

    Out of the frying pan, into the fire.

  • Abdul||

    VM,

    The organization, Eckerd Youth Alternatives, has 17 camps, one of which is in New Hampshire. I didn't work at that one.

  • Jennifer||

    In another case, a girl died when she ran ahead of the group and fell off a cliff. Hard to see how either death is the staff's fault.

    Hmm. "This child is suffering psychological problems so severe she has to be locked up for her own good. How can we cure her? I know! Let's have her march through dangerous wilderness with features like super-steep cliffs! What could possibly go wrong?"

  • VM||

    Thanks Abdul!

  • ||

    I have to agree with Abdul. My brother went to a program first in Costa Rica that got shut down due to messy allegations concerning divorced parents, and then of his own volition, continued and completed the program in an associated school in Montana.

    What is at stake for many of the young adults is not the issue of drug abuse but rather destructive behavior, and inability to listen to one's self, others and the inability to communicate rationally and effectively. These sorts of things combined with strong-headed, explosive, and combative personalities can be difficult for anyone to deal with.

    I don't really know what to say about issues of abuse, lax parenting and the like but my family had an overall good experience.

  • Abdul||

    Hmm. "This child is suffering psychological problems so severe she has to be locked up for her own good. How can we cure her? I know! Let's have her march through dangerous wilderness with features like super-steep cliffs! What could possibly go wrong?"

    What alternative do you propose? Something more restrictive so she couldn't run at all? One of the advantages of wilderness programs, when they're well run, is that they provide more freedom than alterantive programs like mental institutions or juvenile hall.

    The girl ran ahead of the group in an area with cliffs. She was reckless. Sometimes reckless behavior leads to injury regardless of whether its in a wilderness program or not.

  • ||

    Have troubled-youth facilities run by the state, rather than by private companies with a financial incentive to lock kids up, so they can make a profit.

    I dunno that this will solve anything.

    Here in Cook County, for example, the Juvenile detention centers are being investigated for similar types of treatment. Allegation consisted of :"left unprotected from violent attacks by other youths, physically and verbally abused by cruel guards, locked in their rooms for days often for violating petty rules, and forced to live in overcrowded conditions complete with rats and cockroaches".

    Now granted that's a bit different than these boot camps, but I suspect the same people running the Detention centers are gonna be running the state run boot camps.

    So it seems to me that whether nor not they are run by the government or the private sector, the problems will most likely remain the same.

  • ||

    What alternative do you propose?

    Maybe not letting people who are known to be a risk to themselves roam free near cliffs?

    The girl ran ahead of the group in an area with cliffs. She was reckless. Sometimes reckless behavior leads to injury regardless of whether its in a wilderness program or not.

    The girls was the responsibility of the supervisors. There should have been enough that a child wouldn't be able to get too far if she did try and run.

    You know who is reckless?? The people who are supposed to watch out for these kids but let one get away, knowing full well that the girl has a history of self-destructive behavior.

  • Jennifer||

    I never realized that forced physical exertion was the cure for what mentally ails you, either. How many miles must you be forced to march to overcome the urge to smoke a joint, for example? How many pounds must you carry in a backpack to overcome excessive shyness?

    I'm imagining myself in such a situation: "I don't like hiking through the wilderness. I'd rather sit in the shade and read a book." I wonder what punishments I'd face in such a situation? I mean, wanting to read a book in lieu of re-enacting Bataan is clearly unhealthy, self-destructive behavior.

  • ||

    One thing I'm reminded of here is the general libertarian attitude of "other people's kids are not my concern" and the constant mockery of doing anything "for the children".

    Then, when we get kids who are so alienated and angry that sending them to a boot camp to be physically abused starts to seem like a good idea, we'll all sit around and wonder what went wrong.

    At some point, you gotta put 2 and 2 together.


    Nice effort Dan! You might be on to something if all the "for the children" laws and policies we mock suddenly ceased as a result of said mocking.

  • Abdul||

    Chicago Tom,

    The girls was the responsibility of the supervisors. There should have been enough that a child wouldn't be able to get too far if she did try and run.

    It's sad, but at 15, you have to take a little responsbility for yourself in regard to cliffs.

    You're proposing more restrictive alternatives without justification. The child-staff ratio was 4 to 1. That's better than most programs in or out of the wilderness. In fairness to your argument, the program apparently got dinged by state investigators for not having 3 staff members (1 in front, 1 behind, and 1 in the middle of the group) as was their typical policy. But I'm not sure that would have solved the problem if the girls just decided to bolt.

    You also seem to assume that the girl intentionally ran off the cliff. The girl had a history of violence and defiance, not self-destructive behavior and not mental retardation. The report doesn't mention if she was running away, attempting suicide, or just running for the heck of it.

    Most people--including kids with behavior problems--don't run off cliffs because of common sense. That's a safe assumption. She ran ahead of the group with 2 other girls, neither of which was hurt. Presumably, they were a little more careful about where they ran.

  • ||

    Adbul,

    While everything you're saying may be true, you can understand the staff not getting the benefit of the doubt when one of their charges wind up dead?

  • Jennifer||

    Although there's never been a case of schizophrenia or clinical depression cured by forced physical exertion, you know what it IS good for? Breaking a kid's spirit. Remember, children: the way to be mentally healthy is to shut the fuck up and do as you're told, after you've been taken away from your friends, branded mentally ill and locked up without benefit of a trial or even being charged with a crime. You say you don't want to march ten miles on a hot summer day? Shut the fuck up and march, sicko. You say you're thirsty and want a drink? Shut up and march; you're not thirsty unless the staff says you're thirsty. You don't have permission to be thirsty.

    You know what, Abdul? That kid who took meth still wouldn't have died of dehydration if she'd been allowed to drink water when she asked for it. But letting kids drink water whenever they think they're thirsty is bad for their psychological health, right?

  • ||

    Jennifer,

    I take issue with the fact that you think that the wilderness programs' goal is to break an adolescent's spirit through forced physical exertion. The idea is to take the person out of their comfortable, enabling surroundings, using alternately isolated and group time in order to reflect on relationships, past decisions and choices made and to become aware of one's self and your effect on others.

  • Abdul||

    Jennifer,

    The program I worked in, and most other programs, required us to give kids food, water, access to bathrooms within a reasonable time of such requests. Nothing in the report suggests the girl was not given water when she asked for it. The coroner ruled the death an accident, so your assertion "That kid who took meth still wouldn't have died of dehydration if she'd been allowed to drink water when she asked for it" is without merit.

  • Abdul||

    David,

    Absolutely. When kids die, there should be an investigation. And there was.

    but kids die in schools, amusement parks, malls, and no one suggests shutting them all down. (Except Action Park in NJ. Miss that place.)

  • Jennifer||

    The idea is to take the person out of their comfortable, enabling surroundings, using alternately isolated and group time in order to reflect on relationships, past decisions and choices made and to become aware of one's self and your effect on others.

    Ah, so the way to be mentally healthy is to be uncomfortable, and either be forced into isolation or forced to associate with groups you'd rather not associate with. And the forced marches and other activities are--what? To make sure the kid doesn't catch Teh Fat?

    So I ask again: what punishment would I have received had I said "I don't want to march in the heat, I'd rather read a book?" Perhaps I should take a moment to reflect upon what effect my book-reading would have on others: hmm. It would really piss off a staff member who expects to be obeyed without question, wouldn't it? Ooooh, can't have that.

  • ||

    It's sad, but at 15, you have to take a little responsbility for yourself in regard to cliffs.

    No Abdul. When you are an "emotionally disturbed" 15 year old left in the care of this wilderness group, the wilderness group has to take most of the responsibility for what occurred. They are taking on patient who they know to be potentially irrational and self destructive. They were negligent if they put those kids in a situation where they could get away and hurt themselves.

    Abdul you can bend over backwards all you want to defend the group, but the bottom line is that when a child that is "emotionally disturbed", is in your care, and something bad happens to that child it is your fault.

    When your business is to take in "emotionally disturbed adolescents" you don't get to hide behind the "these kids should be accountable for their actions" canard. If they were responsible with their actions they wouldn't be there in the first place.

  • ||

    Absolutely. When kids die, there should be an investigation. And there was.

    Fair enough, but it is possible to have done everything right procedurally and still leave people with cause for concern.

    but kids die in schools, amusement parks, malls, and no one suggests shutting them all down. (Except Action Park in NJ. Miss that place.)

    I miss the alpine slide. The possibility of grinding of huge patches of skin only heightened the experience.

  • Jennifer||

    Abdul and Bridget are also conveniently overlooking the fact that many of these kids should have been there in the first place. They're not all drug addicts stealing to support their habits; they're also kids branded drug addicts because their parents found out they took a puff off a joint at a party.

    So Bridget and Abdul: in the case of a kid who doesn't actually have any problems, would you consider the possibility that incarceration in these places, and forced compliance with their forced-physical-exertion programs, might actually do more harm than had the kid been left alone in the first place?

    Even assuming the kids needed to be there, I'm still waiting to hear how forced marches and other forced physical exertion is supposed to cure mental problems.

  • Bridget||

    First, I might be wrong, but I think that there is a long history associated with using nature or man vs. environment as a platform to reflecting on human choice and volition.

    You are right, the activities and marches are in effect forced because it is not the child's choice to be in that environment. This may sound really hokey, but I also think that the intention of hiking and camping in the wilderness is for the person to get in touch with their true needs and wants. Like, are they really hungry, or are they just bitching? Are they really tired or do they just want some more attention? Maybe through this, they become more aware of how they are acting out? I don't know, I can't claim to speak for everybody.

    About you wanting to read a book instead, I don't know what punishment you would have received. While reading really wouldn't hurt someone else, it could also be a way of pointedly avoiding a situation or confrontation. There are also different rules associated with different programs, so things like reading or free time might be built into the privileges you gain as you "work on" the issues you have.

  • Scooby||

    The coroner ruled the death an accident...

    Was the medical examiner a certain Dr. Hayne from Mississippi, by any chance?

  • Bridget||

    Jennifer,

    I don't really have a problem with drugs, especially smoking a joint as cause for sending a child to a wilderness program. If that was something a parent did, it would speak to other problems with parenting and personal attitudes towards drugs that isn't really the issue I see at stake.

    I can't really speak to a situation where that would happen, as I don't have the experience. I do know that the program my brother was involved in was not just a "ship-em-off" sort of thing. All family members were active participants in self-reflection programs that tried to identify how and why the parents (and family) came to the point where they thought they needed outside help.

  • Jennifer||

    I don't know what punishment you would have received. While reading really wouldn't hurt someone else, it could also be a way of pointedly avoiding a situation or confrontation. There are also different rules associated with different programs, so things like reading or free time might be built into the privileges you gain as you "work on" the issues you have.

    Ah, so the way to be mentally healthy is to be told that being allowed to read a book is a "privilege" you have to earn. And pretty much anything could be a way of "potentially avoiding a situation or confrontation." Which is bad, because situations must never, ever be avoided, and confrontations should never be avoided either (unless they're confrontations with the staff, who must be obeyed without question).

    And what if I have no issues in the first place, but merely a hysterical parent who assumes I'm an alcoholic because my 15-year-old self tried a few sips of beer at a party? I'm guessing that if I said "I don't need to be here" that would be further proof I do.

    So the way to be mentally healthy is to admit to mental problems you don't have, right? I mean, in addition to being isolated from your friends, and shutting the fuck up and doing as you're told.

    And always remember: healthy adolescents never, ever rebel or test limits. If an adolescent does this, there is no way in hell she'll grow out of it on her own, so she needs to be locked up and sent on forced marches.

  • Jennifer||

    By the way, has there ever been a situation where a kid was sent to one of these camps, and the camp said "He doesn't need to be here, he's just a regular kid, so we're sending him back home?"

    I'd bet my next paycheck the answer is "no."

  • ||

    Was the medical examiner a certain Dr. Hayne from Mississippi, by any chance?

    Not if "accident" was the ruling.

  • Bridget||

    Jennifer,

    Those are not the things that I said. I am sorry that it was construed that way but I don't really know how to have a conversation with you about this.

    I am probably on your side more than you think.

    Anyway, I should ask my brother to come and comment. I really can't speak to the experience inside the camps because I wasn't there.

  • Jennifer||

    Those are not the things that I said.

    No, but I'm curious as to what other conclusions can be drawn from them.

  • ||

    @Jennifer

    I'm guessing that if I said "I don't need to be here" that would be further proof I do.

    Got that one right...

    By the way, has there ever been a situation where a kid was sent to one of these camps, and the camp said "He doesn't need to be here, he's just a regular kid, so we're sending him back home?"

    I'd bet my next paycheck the answer is "no."


    2 for 2....

  • Jennifer||

    Anybody willing to take me up on my bet? I could really use the money.

  • Jennifer||

    Bridget? Abdul? Here's your chance to prove the veracity of these camps and make a few hundred bucks in the process.

  • Bridget||

    I think there a number of issues here that are getting mixed up.

    There is the issue with parents who are hysterical, naive, lax, uninformed, lazy, authoritarian, whatever you want to call them. While unfortunate, I have to say as a libertarian, shouldn't we give them the ability to make their own parenting choices?

    That seeps into issues of personal responsibility, maturity and legal ability for adolescents. At what age can we confidently say teens can make their own decisions? Personally, I would like this to be a personal decision, not a legal one, but unfortunately for me that is not how we treat youth.

    I would hope that programs address issues of parental hysteria and unnecessary involvement in them, but I don't know how that works so I can't say. I wish I could take you up on your bet but I have to decline!

    And finally the issue of drug use, which is messily involved in all of this, which I once again see as a personal choice.

    Hope that helps.

  • ||

    I'm guessing that if I said "I don't need to be here" that would be further proof I do.

    Two Lessons Learned Early In Life...

    1.) Never admit anything to a cop.

    2.) Never deny anything to a therapist.

    Either one will get you into more trouble than you already are....

  • Jennifer||

    There is the issue with parents who are hysterical, naive, lax, uninformed, lazy, authoritarian, whatever you want to call them. While unfortunate, I have to say as a libertarian, shouldn't we give them the ability to make their own parenting choices?

    So if a Muslim wants to cut off his daughter's clitoris, you're saying the libertarian thing to do is allow it? No; children have rights as well.

    Still waiting to hear of a camp--just one--that evaluated a kid and concluded he didn't need to be there.

  • Abdul||

    Bridget? Abdul? Here's your chance to prove the veracity of these camps and make a few hundred bucks in the process.

    I can't speak for every program. My program was a non-profit, and unlike most of the programs in the GAO report, didn't get money from parents or private insurance. We had less financial incentive, therefore, to keep untroubled youth.

    In my experience, we requested that one kid be withdrawn by his parents because he seemed to have no real issues. Kids who made their program goals quickly were accelerated out of the program. In several cases, we transferred kids to more appropriate settings because their problems weren't of the sort we handled (e.g. sexually abusive behaviors).

    You can keep your money, however. You'll probably need it when your boss asks you do complete some task and you tell her that you'd prefer to read a book under a tree instead.

  • Jennifer||

    You can keep your money, however. You'll probably need it when your boss asks you do complete some task and you tell her that you'd prefer to read a book under a tree instead.

    I don't think you understand that my job is a voluntary one. I chose to take it, and upon doing so I voluntarily agreed to abide by my boss' rules and perform certain tasks. If I decide I don't like those rules or don't want to perform, I am free to leave my job at any time I wish.

    If the kids in those camps are also free to leave whenever they wish, then and only then will your analogy hold.

  • ||

    Jennifer- Although I think your complete dismissal of wilderness-type programs may be a bit hasty, (it may also be spot on. There doesn't seem to be enough evidence to say) I've also spent some time in the hands of people bound and determined to help me, whether I needed it or not. You and Pig Mannix are right: saying that you don't have a problem means that you are in denial. And no, no one is ever sent home for being normal.
    Also: In a conflict between parents or other authority figures, the kid is always wrong. This is true even if the parent thinks smoking a single joint equals a raging heroin addiction.

    Likewise, society's standards are always right. Conformity is the safest action.
    Questions are a burden, and the staff doesn't like that.
    Above all, the message is this: Obey. Conform. A still tongue makes a happy life, and everything is ok if you love Big Brother.

    Am I overstating my case? Maybe a little. Not much, though.

  • ||

    Notice the use of terms like "appropriate settings." You may also hear about "concerns" or "issues" and "work." But most of all, you'll hear 'appropriate.' This is the word most beloved of therapy types, because it means whatever they want it to mean.

  • ||

    IMHO these camps are the result of a fascination and worship of the military system to straighten kids out and a belief that the wilderness holds some magical way for a troubled kid to reach an enlightened approach to life. I think these are well intentioned, but stupid.

    Each teen has to be reached individually, one size don't fit all.

    Something that is missing in this thread. I can't supply links, but Mel Sembler, of Straight Inc., is closely aligned with Mitt Romney and this needs to be broadcast as far and wide as possible.

  • Abdul||

    If the kids in those camps are also free to leave whenever they wish, then and only then will your analogy hold.

    It kind of holds. The program I worked for was quasi-voluntary. You volunteered in, but you couldn't volunteer out (sort of like the army). I saw several kids come to the camp but refuse to sign the paperwork at the last minute. They left that day. If they had signed it, they wouldn't have been able to leave until we or their parents approved it.

    But you seem to be arguing two adverse positions. At one point, you think the kids should have freedom to do as they wish (hike or read). At another point, you suggest that some of the kids shouldn't be allowed to walk near steep cliffs or any other dangerous condition.

  • ||

    By the way, has there ever been a situation where a kid was sent to one of these camps, and the camp said "He doesn't need to be here, he's just a regular kid, so we're sending him back home?"

    I'd bet my next paycheck the answer is "no."


    Anybody willing to take me up on my bet? I could really use the money.

    Still waiting to hear of a camp--just one--that evaluated a kid and concluded he didn't need to be there.

    Give me a few minutes, Jennifer, while I consult my extensive files on America's residential treatment programs, which contains tons of personal information on the people enrolled.

    Of course, since your bet is that the answer is "no", I'll take you up on it. Since I win if the answer is "yes", "maybe", or "nobody knows".

  • VM||

    hier is Eckerd's web site.

    Admissions Criteria
    Our year-round outdoor therapeutic treatment programs serve youth

    1. who have shown significant difficulty functioning in social, family and/or school environments, and
    2. whose emotional and behavior problems have been unresponsive to treatment involving a less intensive level of care.

    Admissions are evaluated according to these guidelines, but also on a case-by-case basis:

    * 10 to 17 years of age (10 - 18 in Deer Lodge, TN)
    * Evidence of ability to benefit from peer and/or adult relationships
    * Capacity to relate to the concept of "cause and effect"
    * Demonstrated behavioral problems of such magnitude that continuation in the home environment is no longer a feasible or practical option unless significant intervention takes place



    if you guys wanna find out, contact Eckerd...
    ECKERD YOUTH ALTERNATIVES, INC. • 100 Starcrest Drive, P.O. Box 7450, Clearwater, FL 33758-7450
    Tel 727-461-2990 • 1-800-554-HELP (4357) • Fax 727-442-5911

    hier is a link to more such places. contact away.

    hier is the admissions page to a camp in Arizona.

    At least one adult (parent, guardian or sponsor) must commit to participate in: two-hour parent orientation, 12-hour parent seminar, one-hour weekly family counseling session (in person or via telephone) and their student's Dawn Star Walking (three-days/two-nights on the trail) at the completion of the program.



    (note: this is not an endorsement nor a rejection of these camps or of these methods)

  • ||

    I can't supply links, but Mel Sembler, of Straight Inc., is closely aligned with Mitt Romney and this needs to be broadcast as far and wide as possible.



    Indeed! The Romney/Sembler connection was explored in Reason back in June.

  • ||

    VM-The criteria contain a lot of those vague words I mentioned. What is "significant difficulty"? I suspect the definition is flexible enough to accommodate the desires of the folks who run the camp.
    Evidence of ability to benefit from peer and/or adult relationships Apart from people with severe autism, is there anyone who this doesn't describe?
    Demonstrated behavioral problems of such magnitude that continuation in the home environment is no longer a feasible or practical option unless significant intervention takes place
    Sounds good, except that "feasible" and "practical" are also vague enough to border on meaninglessness.
    whose emotional and behavior problems have been unresponsive to treatment involving a less intensive level of care.
    Perhaps this means that inmates (err...patients) must be referred by a real shrink. Perhaps it means that a meeting with a guidance counselor in school will do the trick. Perhaps real shrinks also have an interest in ensuring that everyone is diagnosed with something.

  • VM||

    there might be induced demand from "real shrinks". Dunno.

    Nor do I know how the language that appears vague to us is viewed by professionals (e.g., a word in my field (econ), "rational" has different meanings out there), so I can't comment on that, either.

    The "evidence..." is probably in context of whatever vague language is above.

    Again, I dunno.

    I do see a value in mental health, but I cannot speak to the value/harm of these types of institutions.

    but there's the info. We could probably find out these things, including whether a child would screen out of the process.

  • Abdul||

    Captain Chaos,

    Different camps in the Eckerd system have different entrance criteria depending on state law and other factors. Some are court ordered, some are school referrals, some are mental health referrals. A few camps do even take parent referrals if the parent pays for it, although those cases were always a tiny minority.

    While there's a lot of concern that kids are being referred just for being kids, or for minor experimenting with drugs, I only saw that in one case (and, as I mentioend above, he was sent home). There were a few more cases where the main problems in the kids' life were the parents, and the kids would have been able to cope in any environment outside of their own homes. In one case, we helped an older kid (16) get emancipated from his folks.

  • VM||

    oh - the irony (apologies if already mentioned)

    plus, if you're from the Midwest, also a very very different Northstar

    DanT: "and, as I mentioned above, he was sent home)" - per Abdul, you win the bet.

  • ||

    I do see a value in mental health, but I cannot speak to the value/harm of these types of institutions.

    The problem there is, not many of the kids are diagnosed with any real kind of mental illness (depression, schizophrenia, bi-polar) or been convicted of committing a crime. Most of them are diagnosed as having "behavior disorders", that is, basically, they've managed to piss off somebody in authority.

    In most cases, if these people were adults, these institutions would never be able to get their grubby meat-hooks on them in the first place.

  • ||

    Abdul-I'm surprised and pleased to hear about the emancipation. Of course, I can't judge all inpatient type treatment programs (whether hospital-based or otherwise). I do speak from experience when I say that there are kids in those places who have no need to be there, and that power can be and is abused in at least some cases.
    There's also no small amount of trauma involved in being placed in a residential facility. The feeling of powerlessness, of being trapped, and of betrayal are powerful and can leave scars. (20 years later, I still have nightmares involving incarceration. And I was in a relatively nice place.)

    Honest question: what evidence is there that these sorts of camps are effective? Meta-analysis would be ideal.

  • VM||

    gotcha. thanks!

  • ||

    Most of them are diagnosed as having "behavior disorders", that is, basically, they've managed to piss off somebody in authority.
    Well said, Pig Mannix. Although depression can be and sometimes is used as a catch-all term for "acts in a way we don't like."

  • ||

    The feeling of powerlessness, of being trapped, and of betrayal are powerful and can leave scars. (20 years later, I still have nightmares involving incarceration. And I was in a relatively nice place.)

    Honest question: what evidence is there that these sorts of camps are effective? Meta-analysis would be ideal.


    Well, they're good for one thing, anyway - converting lefty-hippie kids into flaming libertarian adults. ;-)

  • Abdul||

    Honest question: what evidence is there that these sorts of camps are effective? Meta-analysis would be ideal.

    Clemson Univ did a study years ago on EYA and found that in one year after camp, kids had low recidivism rates (compared to juvie halls and the like) and better grades. That's the only study I know of.

  • ||

    "But as Szalavitz's piece makes clear, the problem would not be nearly as big or as persistent were it not for the anti-drug hysteria that drives panicked parents to send their children to places like Northstar."

    Amen.

    I had some perfectly sane, drug abusing friends who were all pressed into the same tough love kiddie rehab--they all came out whacked.

    It was like they joined a cult.

    ""His parents said they saw Northstar as a place that would distance Aaron from negative influences at his high school, where he had begun dabbling in drugs."

    That one always gets me. If I wanted to send my kids somewhere to get them away from kids who do drugs, why would I send them to a residential treatment program populated with nothing but kids who do drugs?

  • Scooby||

    Similar to Ken, all my friends who went to rehab (mostly for pot) ended up coming home and getting into pills, and toot, and acid, and smack. That's what happens when you send kids (especially those who aren't addicts) off to be surrounded by those with real problems. It's drug school in the same way that prison is crime school.

  • M||

    I don't think you understand that my job is a voluntary one. I chose to take it, and upon doing so I voluntarily agreed to abide by my boss' rules and perform certain tasks. If I decide I don't like those rules or don't want to perform, I am free to leave my job at any time I wish.



    Jennifer, we all respect freedom of expression here, and your highly intelligent comments are often a major a draw. But in the absence of compelling force, there are boundaries - conventions, customs, mores to be voluntarily observed in the name of honor - that need to be respected, and I am obliged to make an example of you. You must not - repeat not - appropriate Dat T.'s tropes without attribution. That's unbecoming, infra dig, it confuses those less agile than you. Please. "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"

    As you were.

  • ||

    Abdul, THE STAFF KNEW THAT THE GIRL HAD TAKEN METHAMPHETAMINE AND SHE WAS TAKEN OUT TO THE DESERT AND IGNORED WHEN SHE SHOWED CLEAR SIGNS OF HYPERTHERMIA AND DEHYDRATION.

    Anyone who has taken drugs 101 knows that methamphetamine often kills by overheating. You clearly didn't read the GAO report, nor listen to the testimony of her parents. Programs don't pay out huge settlements when there isn't any wrong-doing.

    And btw, the program where that happened was Catherine Freer, which has one of the best reputations in the industry-- and three recent deaths!!!!

  • ||

    The absolute most horrendous death of a teen occured in Florida.

    Google the death of Omar Paisley who died as the result of a ruptured appendix after lying in his own vomit and excrement for 3 days.

  • Maia Szalavitz||

    Btw, to the person who asked if there have been studies... the Eckerd study was uncontrolled, so it doesn't count.

    The studies of "boot camp" programs have unequivocally found them ineffective-- Justice Department did a meta-analysis.

    Studies of confrontation and humiliation tactics used by most of these programs have found unequivocally that they are either ineffective or harmful-- see William White and Bill Miller in The Counselor, for review of the research on them in the addictions.

    An NIH consensus statement found "Programs that seek to prevent violence [and other "health risking" behaviors] through fear and tough treatment do not work …and there is some evidence that they may make the problem worse rather than simply not working…Such evidence as there is offers no reason to believe that group detention centers, boot camps, and other "get tough" programs do anything more than provide an opportunity for delinquent youth to amplify negative effects on each other." That is from the draft version of the statement, the final version was a bit more watered down but made the same point.

    No one has ever done a decently-designed controlled study of a "kind, gentle" wilderness program-- so we don't know if that works. But since parents have no way of knowing whether they will get kind and gentle or tough when they send a kid (parents are told the program is kind or rough depending on what the staff thinks they want to hear), it's moot.

  • Ochressandro Rettinger||

    I think this is a place where the free market should be allowed to reign. I think a lot of the problems kids face these days stem from the bad influence of other children, enforced conformity, and a monotonous environment. I imagine a lot of "children" (adolescents, really) misbehave because they are physically adults and are, instead, treated as children.

    I think there's a lot of room for a program which got kids out and away from their standard environment and gave them the opportunity to be responsible for themselves.

    Of course, significant physical coercion is unlikely to have a positive result. On the other hand, if they weren't at these camps, they'd be forced to go to school.

    I think we need to present these young people with more options. Some of them will choose a better path.

  • ||

    @ Ken Shultz
    "It was like they joined a cult."

    It wasn't "like" they joined a cult. They DID join a cult.

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