Help save the children from abusive homes and schooling, bring the people who control this before the courts to face the punishment they so much deserve.


Teen Boot Camp Survival Story & Reality Check

I Survived Being Sent, and Then Running Away. Many Have Not

It was just after turning 14, over 15 years ago, when I was awoken early one morning by my mother, soon to see a man standing in the doorway to my bedroom. Living with my single mom and sister this was a very unusual thing to see.

What came next was I was told it was time to go, and I saw my mother had packed a backpack already. I went willingly not having any idea what was to come, or knowing that I would never again see this apartment I called ‘home’.

He brought me to the airport, and we flew to Las Vegas where I was handed off to another man who brought me to a car that had a boy my age in handcuffs in the backseat. He apparently had tried to run away, though clearly they had caught him.

We were brought to a little trailer that appeared to be in the middle of the desert in a town called “St. George”. Once arriving there we were handed hours worth of tests to take that included an IQ test as well as what I believe was a psychiatric evaluation.

Soon after we were blindfolded and driven way out into the desert to join a small group consisting of other, very dirty, kids. It was 54 days later when I eventually graduated and was handed over to my family. During those 54 days I lived on oats, rice, lentils, powdered milk, raisins, sunflower seeds and salty soup cubes. I saw a girl collapse from heat exhaustion. I got to know what it was like to have a period without any sort of pad/tampon or even clean underwear to change into, while being the only female, camper or counselor around. I experienced my contacts with no solution but keeping them instead in my dirty water bottle each night. I experienced a lot more than this, but the important thing is that I survived, and I’m alive today to tell you about it. My experience took place in 1995.

2000 in Bend, OR a boy died while being restrained.

2003 in Utah a boy died of hypothermia, the fifth youth to die in a Utah wilderness therapy program, staff thought he was ‘faking it’.

2005 in Cleveland, GA a boy died after being denied his inhaler because counselors (since fired) didn’t see the need.

2006 in Tallahasse, FL a boy died after being beaten less than two days into his stay at a boot camp.

2006 in Texas a boy died, the fifth since 1988 being restrained in this program which at the time included 19 facilities in 8 states.

2007 in Chad, TN a boy dies from strangulation in a facility that was one of 110 facilities owned by the same company. He was placed in the facility by the Philadelphia Department of Human Services.

2009 in Ohio a girl dies during restraint by choking on her own vomit in a Catholic Charities run facility.

If you follow any of those links you will see there are many many more stories like this and I have only selected a few of them here.

After graduating from the boot camp I went to, I was sent to a residential treatment center in Bend, OR that I was told would be me home for a month as a transition to ‘normal’ life. A month went by and I was told it would be 2.5 years. During my month there I saw that it was a scary place to be, that the kids there were brainwashed and taught to behave in a very strange and cult like way. I made the decision to and successfully did run away two months after arriving. I then spent time on the streets, did more drugs than I ever had beforehand, and straightened up before becoming an adult and graduated from a top design university.

It turned out that my instincts about this not being a good place to be were true, when I saw an article that the school was closed after investigations of child abuse, and that a child had, just three years after I left, died (it was ruled a suicide) outside of the facility.

Please don’t send your kids away, find resources closer to home and work with them to resolve whatever is going on. Wraparound programs are evidence based and have a much higher success rate for example. Maia Szalavitz has written an amazing expose about how the industry is tearing apart families and abusing children called “Help at Any Cost" which I also recommend to any parent even considering this as a last resort option.

Cafety -
Wikipedia -
Psychiatric News -


Link to original aricle:

Brainwashing parents: “Expect your teen to be mad at you, and tell you how awful it is, how the staff mistreats them, their roommates are ax murderers and if you really wanted to help them you would bring them home. Expect the manipulating and guilt tripping…”

"…If they begin to rant on you, it has been advised to do what they call “shut the door”. Let them know you are behind the program, and if they continue talking in this way you will have to hang up the phone. (assuming it is a phone conversation) Save this rant for family therapy."

This makes me so mad, they are pretty much telling parents not to believe their own children. It’s from this troubled teen blog, I’d the web address so as not to promote the site. Why “save this rant” for family therapy? So the therapist can continue the brainwashing on both the child and parent?

The whole thing reads to like it’s indoctrinating parents into the abuse, like explaining they may not have contact with their kid for four weeks, or this doozy: “While your child is in treatment, it will never feel right.”

I know it’s the same old program drivel, but….ugh.


Here is the full text from the post so no one has to give them traffic:

First Weeks Teen Residential Treatment or Therapeutic Boarding School

June 11, 2008 · 1 comment

in Adolescent Residential Treatment Centers


 First, Adolescent Residential Treatment is not a Mental Hospital or Correctional Institution. They are dealing with teens that may be experiencing emotional and/or behavioral difficulties and because of these difficulties are not able to function what is commonly thought of as normal teenage behavior. They may be harming themselves or others but are NOT criminals or have significant mental problems. This is not Teen Boot Camp. So that you know they cannot take the teenager out of your son or daughter

Once you have made the decision your child would benefit from this sort of program, what happens once they leave home or arrive? Since I am not the teen I really don’t know but I can give you my version as a parent.

  1. If you did not personally take your child to the facility or had an escort service they call you to let you know your teen has arrived.
  2. You teen is assigned a unit (can be 8 – 12 kids) and a therapist. The therapist assignment can be the most important aspect of the program.  From my experience, the therapist can make or break the experience for your family and the teen. Sometimes whoever helped with placement knows the therapists and will make a recommendation on behalf of teen and the issues.
  3. Next is letting go – This can be the most difficult part of the program for parents, trusting the program and your decision. Like most parents before treatment, your life is chaotic with your teen at home and trying to manage the situation. Now, this responsibility has been delegated and letting go can be harder than you think.
  4. Most programs do not allow you to have any contact with your teen until they have settled (a bit) into the program and the routine. This can be a minimum of two weeks or take as long as four weeks, it really is up to your teen.  All programs have levels and on arrival it is some form of an introductory level. They can go in any direction from the introductory level (don’t be surprised if it is down).
  5. Now your teen has settled in a bit (notice I say a bit). Most facilities will then set up a time for weekly phone calls. Usually it is about 20 minutes a week, it could be one 20 minute call a week or two 10 minute calls a week. Depending on the facility these calls can be monitored for appropriate behavior by your teen. Our first call may have been with the therapist and our teen.
  6. Expect your teen to be mad at you,  and tell you how awful it is, how the staff mistreats them, their roommates are ax murderers and if you really wanted to help them you would bring them home. Expect the manipulating and guilt tripping. If they begin to rant on you, it has been advised to do what they call “shut the door”.  Let them know you are behind the program, and if they continue talking in this way you will have to hang up the phone. (assuming it is a phone conversation) Save this rant for family therapy.
  7. By now the therapist should have introduced themselves and evaluated your teen (along with the many other professionals). A family therapy time will be set up. This is usually a conference call with the parents, therapist, your teen and can be either weekly or bi-weekly.
  8. This list is simplified, but something to take note; A facility does not have to keep your teen, once they are placed. So don’t think just because they got accepted it is a done deal. I have been in a situation where they made us move our teen. Sometimes that can be tougher than placing them for the first time. Some facilities have what they call a parent coordinator; for first time or new families this role can be very comforting. The therapists are busy people and cannot always deal with parent questions and concerns. Lastly, letting go can really make the difference between your relationship with the facility and your teens recovery.
  9. While your child is in treatment, it will never feel right.  Expect to have bad days and worse days, but when you see your son or daughter making positive changes the rewards can be great.
  10. I can’t just have 9 points, so believe in your decision and take care of yourself while they are away,  they won’t be there forever and one day they will come home.)

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Dee November 9, 2009 at 10:57 am

How do I handle friends and relatives that are not supportive of our decision to place our son in a RTC? One relative in particular ignores my phone calls and refused to talk to me. How to I respond to this without sounding defensive or starting “war”? Thanks!


4 Red Flags of Fraudulent Troubled Teen Programs

1. Families with ‘troubled teens’ often have other issues that need to be fixed.

Any therapy that excuses parents and blames the child may be a fraud.

2. Any program that tries to rush you into making a placement decision, may be a fraud.

Programs will say things like “When a parent has to make a placement decision in a hurry …” in pitching their program. That is a sign that they are more interested in making the sale, than in assisting the parent in making the correct decision.

3. Any referral service that tries to get you to ignore the financial impact of your decision, is probably a fraud.

Ed Con Artists and referral sources often try to work on your guilt or ego to convince you that more expensive is better. They will never tell you that the best solution to a family system program is most like a community resource that is relatively inexpensive or free. Instead, the Ed Con Artist will try to talk you into maxing out your credit cards or taking a second mortgage on your house to ‘show your love’ for your child. Do not fall for this obvious scam.

If they say things like “The most expensive residential school or program is the one that doesn’t work. ” watch out. There is no scientific evidence that residential schools or programs work. There is substantial evidence that they do not.

4. Any troubled teen program that advises you to ignore your child’s complaints about abuse or injury because your child is trying to ‘manipulate’ you, is a potentially abusive program.


Boot camp video #2


Adults verbally assault a kid to make him say “I love you sergeant”. Again, footage like this is rare as most ‘troubled teen’ facilities do not allow documentation of the abuse. I don’t understand the point of this exercise, what benefit to the child is this?

Watch both videos here:

More info here:

One of the men in the video was arrested earlier this year for trying to extort money from a family. He demanded $100 as a down payment to enroll their daughter in his boot camp or he would bring her to a juvenile detention facility for truancy.