Feedback - Residential Treatment/Therapeutic Boarding Schools

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by DadFirst, Jan 20, 2010.


Do you think Residential Treatment Center (RTC)/Residential Treatment Facility (RTF) is a viable/good option?

Poll closed Feb 19, 2010.
  1. Yes

  2. No

  3. Depends

Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. DadFirst

    DadFirst New Member

    This is my first post - referred by a member as an excellent place with a wealth of information. Thanks to all that participate!

    I have a 14 yo difficult child who I'm seriously considering sending to an Residential Treatment Center (RTC)/TBS and am seeking feedback from anyone who has "been there, done that" or knows someone who has. I know it is a huge and very expensive decision and want to make certain I'm doing the right thing for myself and especially for my difficult child. I also know there are quite a few terrible programs out there and I am being very thorough in my research. I have ruled out wilderness and other shorter term or punitive (break em down, build em back up) types of programs. I feel like I have no alternatives at this point and I guess I'm really looking for confirmation that yes, SOME programs are effective. I know many are not. If you want to stop reading here and share your experience, that would be great, if you want more details, read on.

    We noticed behavioral issues very early on and started trying counseling when he was about 5 or 6 and cycled back through a few times with no results. As he approached puberty, his tantrums grew more excessive and eventually led to significant property destruction in our home and the rage, disrespect and defiance many of you are familiar with. At this point he refused any counseling or even to acknowledge there was a problem. All we could do was educate ourselves as much as possible, attend parent-coaching and try to help him ourselves.

    During a rage episode in the spring, he kicked down a good portion of our 6' wooden fence, smashed out my windshield, cut up my license plate with hedge trimmers, severed the water main to our house, punched numerous dents into our cars, etc. When he finally calmed down hours later, he locked and barricaded himself in his bedroom for the next 3 days, only coming out to eat and use the bathroom. As this led to about his 8th consecutive day of missing school, I knew he needed more help than I could provide. I contacted the sheriff for help. With three officers standing in his room, he agreed to go with me for a psychiatric assessment. Fortunately, one of the officers followed us. When we arrived at the psychiatric hospital for youth he went bizerk and was finally restrained, baker acted and admitted.

    He was diagnosed with ODD (obviously), Mood Disorder not otherwise specified (a polite way of saying bi-polar) and severe anxiety. He began medication immediately and was released about 4 days later. Wow, were we relieved and exited about the difference in his behavior. He hugged us regularly, told he loved us, listened to (most) of what we said and acted like a typical teen. He even seemed to manage anger and frustration like a pro.

    About a month ago it all began to unravel with school skipping, no attempt to do his school work, hanging with the wrong kids. I caught him shooting out our street light with a pellet gun and after I tried to take it away from him (he's now bigger than I am), he took a shot in my direction. Then, we find out he and 2 other boys committed some property crimes. When confronted he didn't think it was a big deal and didn't understand why we were upset. As a consequence, we told him he lost his privileges and off he went like the bad 'ol days. He punched a hole in the wall for starters and just kept going. When the sheriff arrived, he ran. When they finally caught him he just cursed at them continuously. When we picked him up from his night at juvi, he said "that wasn't as bad as the hospital and I don't care if I go back." Within an hour, he posted his experience on his web page since he was so proud of it.

    Since then, he has refused to cooperate with us or listen to us entirely. He does what he wants, when he wants. We have taken away all privileges except food and he knows how to earn them back but refuses. I guess he's thinking we used our last deterrent, going to jail (juvi), and we have no ammunition left. Unfortunately, I feel like he may be right. I have no idea what else we can do so we are considering a 6-12 month placement at a caring, professionally staffed, reputable Residential Treatment Center (RTC).

    I'd like to name the Residential Treatment Center (RTC) we are focusing on to see if any of you know anything about it, but I'm not sure if that may be against the forum rules.

    Thank you for any feedback you can provide!
  2. Lothlorien

    Lothlorien Active Member Staff Member

    Hi There! Welcome!

    Sorry to say I can't help you out, regarding the Residential Treatment Center (RTC)/boarding schools, but there are some here that may be able to offer opinions.

    No, that would be against board rules and thank you for respecting the forum by asking first.

    Anyway, welcome to the forum.
  3. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator


    Although medically stable, my son was academically underachieving, socially withdrawn and therapy resistant. He attended a wilderness program in Georgia for 8 weeks last summer and has been in an Residential Treatment Center (RTC) in Utah since the end of August. Although it was undeniably the most painful decision we have ever made as parents, we have never second-guessed our decision. Our son is making steady progress, and we're optimistic about his prognosis for the first time in years.

    You are free to use our PM (personal messaging) system to ask specific members about specific programs, but our board rules do not allow the public discussion of specific facilities.

    Good luck with your decision.
  4. GoingNorth

    GoingNorth Crazy Cat Lady

    There used to be a website called 'strugglingkids' that had a lot of good resources and support for folks seeking/dealing with this decision.

    Perhaps someone with more current info can post and tell you if this resource is still available or if not, what others are.
  5. timer lady

    timer lady Queen of Hearts

    Welcome DadFirst! Residential &/or therapeutic boarding is a very viable resource especially if your difficult child is unstable, verbally or physically aggressive, & if the family is under such great stress because difficult child takes all time & energy from everyone.

    My tweedles have each been in residential 3 or 4 times each. It's been our safety net.

    A child not only needs time to get used to his medications, he/she also needs to learn new coping & life skills after medications are at the optimum. Many of these negative behaviors are so ingrained that our kids don't know the proper way to handle anger, frustration, anxiety, even love & happiness.

    That's where Residential Treatment Center (RTC) comes into play ~ at least for us.

    The tweedles have had several stays at Residential Treatment Center (RTC) - for them it wasn't a one hit wonder sort of thing.

    Good luck with your decision & keep us informed.
  6. CrazyinVA

    CrazyinVA Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Residential Treatment Center (RTC) saved my daughter's life (Youngest). It stopped her manipulative suicide attempts cold. It probably saved my life, as well.. my sanity, anyway. However ... it was not a "magic bullet" for her. She was there four months, came back, and the very first day of school afer being back, she was caught smoking pot in the parking lot. Downhill from there with drinking binges and running away, until she turned 18 and dropped out of school.. then got pregnant and that was when she turned her life around.

    There are many success stories, however. It really depends on your child, the extent of their illness, and their investment in their own change, as well as on the Residential Treatment Center (RTC) and the staff and doctors. I loved the Residential Treatment Center (RTC) where my daughter went, no complaints there .. she made her choices when she came out. I only share this story because I try to caution parents that it's not necessarily a "miracle cure." It is, however, vitally important to try the Residential Treatment Center (RTC) step if you can, for the sake of your difficult child, your other children, and yourself.
  7. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    Onyxx has not been in Residential Treatment Center (RTC) yet but we are doing this. We love her, but it's the ONLY option we really have left. Discipline, taking away privileges, and even juvie don't have any effect. She will do what she wants to do and the rest of the world can go hang.

    She is more than capable of behaving properly. She just doesn't want to.

    Given that she's awaiting hearings for two felonies and a misdemeanor right now (assault, theft of drugs (which she took), and curfew violation), she's going to end up either doing time in juvie or doing time in an Residential Treatment Center (RTC). At least with an Residential Treatment Center (RTC) she'll get help.

    When the current "grounding" is over next week it should be interesting to see what happens when she finds out she is never getting her cell phone back.
  8. JJJ

    JJJ Active Member

    Residential Treatment Center (RTC) is a very viable option. Kanga has been in Residential Treatment Center (RTC) almost two years and has only assaulted staff twice. At home, she'd assault us twice a day!

    It sounds like his medications are not right. Every time he does something violent, call and have him admitted to the psychiatric hospital. Fight for him to stay there while they adjust his medications. See if they have an Intensive Outpatient Program he can transition to before returning to school.

    Since it sounds like medication management is going to be a huge part of his treatment, you might want to look for an Residential Treatment Center (RTC) with a psychiatrist that sees the kids AT LEAST weekly. Kanga's first Residential Treatment Center (RTC) had a psychiatrist on campus every day and he say the kids twice a week. Her current Residential Treatment Center (RTC) has a psychiatrist that sees the girls once every 1-2 months.

    Will your insurance cover any of the Residential Treatment Center (RTC)? Another option is to work with your school district, they may fund it (rare but can happen if he is violent at school).
  9. DadFirst

    DadFirst New Member


    I think the medications are at least close enough for now because prior to medications, he'd rage once or twice a month, sometimes twice a week. He'd also go into a depressive state for days at a time quite frequently. Since medications and subsequent tweaking, he's raged once in 6 months and no noticeable, extended depressive state.

    The behavioral/motivational/educational/law breaking issues are our biggest concern at this point. It's been tremendously stressful on the family and appears to recently be further affecting doodlebug.

    The good news of the day is I spoke earlier to a therapist who has had his daughter in the program we are considering and works with several other families and kids that are there now or who have been in the past. My LW and I are going to meet with him tomorrow for a more thorough discussion. He totally confirmed my choice in programs. After literally months of research, it was so nice to hear from someone who has been there done that.

    If anyone is currently undergoing the same research process, contact me personally and I'll be happy to send you my research notes on dozens and dozens of programs. Of course, they're specific to my difficult child and his needs and may not be at all appropriate for yours. But, they could also save you a boatload of time.

    by the way, how do you put a picture in your header instead of your signature?
  10. Red Chief

    Red Chief New Member

    Welcome Dadfirst,
    I don't have anything to add about residential programs that hasn't been already said.
    I just wanted to comment on a line in your sig: " DadFirst, Husband second (are my priorities misaligned?)"
    Dude, no way are your priorities misaligned. I think that is the way it should be.
    When I first met my wife, she was a single mother. She told me that her child (easy child) is the most important thing in her life, and that I would always come second. If I didn't like it, then I needed to leave. Of course I didn't. And now that I have a child of my own (difficult child) I totally see what she means. My child comes before my wife, just like she comes before me in wife's eyes. I feel that the #1 job in a marriage with kids is to raise your kids the best you can, and to do anything you can for them...even if it makes wife mad.
  11. dadside

    dadside New Member

    Between a few and several weeks ago, I read exactly the same posting (same consideration of Residential Treatment Center (RTC) placement because of tantrums beginning in the pre-teen years, property damage, refused counseling, kicking fence down, pellet gun episode etc. etc.) on another site. I appreciate the importance of careful research, but at some point a decision must be made. The shooting incident would have dramatically accelerated my decision!

    My comments:
    *There really are many excellent wilderness programs that are not at all punitive. I'd agree that nothing short-term would be effective on its own for what you described, but in some cases it could be a valuable beginning.
    *I'd not recommend any time-limited program for your difficult child. Rather, any program/treatment ought to last as long as it takes. The program considered ought to be able to make a good estimate, but really shouldn't promise more than best effort. And certainly don't do just part of any program.
    *If you do place him somewhere other than a state-run facility (including “jail”), it should have a substantial psychiatric/psychological program component and staff. Very few of the programs, facilities usually found on an internet search (or identified by a specialty consultant) will have that.
  12. DadFirst

    DadFirst New Member

    Dadside, I appreciate your response and your comments. And yes, you read pretty much the same post on another site from me using pretty much the same user name. On that site I received fewer responses in 3 weeks than I have on this one in 24 hours. Being a member of this site, you surely understand the magnitude of this decision and how important it is to get it right. There is not only the huge financial burden to consider but also the fact that there are so many bad programs out there and so little information readily available as to the success of the good ones. My Gift from God is exactly that, and I hope everyone in the same position as I am in takes whatever time is neccesary to make certain their decision is the right one. Anyone that makes that decision in a few weeks or less is likely more concerned with getting a problem out of the house than doing what is best for their difficult child. I have been seeking information and trying to figure out what to do for many years now and have moved forward on many well researched ideas. I consider the feedback I receive from this forum to be another valuable resource as I once again move forward when the time is right.
  13. slsh

    slsh member since 1999

    Hi Dad - I think the only thing I would add is that there are no guarantees with- an Residential Treatment Center (RTC). I would gently caution against going into this with a fixed time frame in your mind of how long his stay would be. I would also caution against expecting a miraculous turn around when he does come home. A very wise woman on this board said many years ago that if you place a difficult child in an Residential Treatment Center (RTC), you are still going to be getting a difficult child home - hopefully a kid who can function more appropriately and who has better coping skills and tools to use, but a difficult child nonetheless.

    You sound like you have researched this step extensively. At the end of the day, my advice to any parent is to follow your gut. You know your child best and you know what he is capable of, both good and bad. We can only make the very best possible choice that we are able to.

    I can't answer your poll question. ;) Obviously, with- my son in 4 placements and out of our home a full half of his childhood, at some point we decided Residential Treatment Center (RTC) was a viable option. And the good ones were very very good. So far, the outcome has been less than stellar but there are a lot of variables in there, most of them having to do with my son's noncompliance and distorted thought processes. I'm in a state of reflection right now about woulda/shoulda/coulda's in terms of the choices we made with him. Logically, our hands were tied. The level of violence he perpetrated not only on myself and our home, but most importantly on his siblings, really made Residential Treatment Center (RTC) unavoidable. But... I'm still reflecting on it. Hopefully someday I'll be able to make some sense out of it all.

    A therapist told us when my son was 8 that he wouldn't change his behaviors until it became too expensive for him to continue them. It made sense - still does. What none of us expected was his capacity for misery and his dogged insistence that he would do things his way, that rules didn't/don't apply to him.

    So I guess I'm saying, absolutely, do what you think is best for you son, what has the most potential to help him learn to make better choices, teach him strategies so he can learn to function with and accommodate his mood disorder so that he can lead as successful a life as he chooses, but also know that there are no guarantees.
  14. slsh

    slsh member since 1999

    Oh, and to get the picture by your name, click on User CP in upper left part of screen, then click on "Edit Avatar" under Settings & Options. ;)
  15. ebonyqueen209

    ebonyqueen209 New Member

    I am curious to some of you all as to ask, did your local authorities try to remove and/or place your youth in some type of residential facility?? I live in CA and once the youth are so harmful and violent they will place in juvenile hall and then possible group home placement.
  16. DadFirst

    DadFirst New Member

    In my case, difficult child is a reasonably well behaved child outside of the home and the only contact he has had with the law was when they were called during a rage of property destruction within the home. Fortunately, his violence is limited to our property and has never involved personal violence.
  17. Star*

    Star* call 911


    My son is now 19 - and currently living with us (long LONG story)

    I'll try to condense this for you if you think any of this would help your situation let me know.

    Age 5 - State psychiatric hospital -3 months (went after neighbor boy with a scythe screaming I'll kill you) for looking in our dog door and wanting to play with him and another boy in our den. We couldn't get him calmed down after 3 hours of yelling, screaming, trashing the house, breaking things. Got to hospital ER and after waiting 3 hours? He trashed the waiting room, tried to beat up 2 security cops, trashed an ER room and was finally handcuffed to a bed. Transported in handcuffs to psychiatric hospital in a K-9 van due to lack of police vehicles. Put on medications.

    From there?
    County Mental health - suspended from 3rd grade for fighting and knocking a child out cold. Several more incidents of behavior, I lost my 1st job he was suspended, I tried to work out of my house. Put into alternative school, several more incidents at school - suspension - I lost my 2nd job. 40k a year with car, expense acct. He went back to psychiatric hospital for a 2 month stay. medications tweaked.

    From there we were able to get into an organization for the most severely disturbed children in the state of SC. They were supposed to be the bestof the best and help with resources, financial aid, counselors, psychiatrists. In some ways it did help to have their backing and knowledge. Most of the time I educated them, from things I learned here, and research I did on line in my own state. After that what I would tell you is I was told my son was getting help, what we got for the next 10 years was basically that my son was warehoused. Kept out of everyone's way - learned nothing, did not get a diploma, and got an education of an unsavory sort from children who had no parents, if they did have parents they certainly didn't care or were way worse off than us. It was few and far between that we met other parents on "parent's" night that were involved - in ten,eleven years maybe three other couples.

    So after seven psychiatric hospitals,(purposeful) ten locked Residential Treatment Center (RTC) stays,(worthless) four group homes,(worthless) wrap services ( ABSOLUTELY worthless), therapists (worthless), respite with trained weekend people (really helpful), psychiatrists (worthless) and and one foster care*(don't even get me started) Department of Juvenile Justice,(in my son's words - like Residential Treatment Center (RTC) but more like day care) county jail twice (in my son's words -not so bad), probation (in my son's words - this is the worst thing in my life), and felony charges(this keeps him straight believe it or not-the thought of 6 years in state prison not so fun), and one VERY GOOD family psychologist that we saw twice a week for over six years (EXCELLENT EXCELLENT EXCELLENT)? If we had to do it over again? I would tell you first that we did the best we could with what we knew. That said -

    If I knew then what I know now?
    I would have fought harder against the policies of the alternative school and made them do their job. Residential Treatment Center (RTC) would have never been something that lasted more than 3 months ever. Why? Because that would have been three months our entire family spent away from our phenominal psychologist. Out of all the medications (sixty five by the way) the Residential Treatment Center (RTC)'s, the hospitals, the therapists that came and went - OMG and there were tons - this profession has a higher turn over rate than just about any job market I've ever seen. Which means about the time your kid GETS to know a person and opens up? BANG -----they leave and the kid has to start all over with someone new, telling their story over and over? Eventually these kids just clam up and stop talking. Can't blame them. After talking to therapist after therapist about my abuse with my ex? I got tired of telling every new person that came into our county mental health. So I quit talking. It was counter productive, frustrating and you start thinking - "Am I so unimportant that no one cares?" Oh sure - they tell the kids "I have talked to the new psychiatrist about your case." WELL HECK - thanks for telling them about me....HIPPA prevents that." and they shut down. Kids don't want to talk about it over and over and over. Neither do abused adults.

    So my thoughts after 15 years of having one of the most difficult children most "professionals" has ever dealt with - He's been kicked out of several of those Residential Treatment Center (RTC)'s....:faint: I would tell you Staff there? Not much training. IF you ask? They lie. Their turnover very high too. Think about it - who really wants to deal with that? No one - you don't.

    I think what our kids and us as parents can use more than anything is a break so we can go to work.....and the kids to school. A place for the kids to GO to school and know they aren't going to get kicked out - and a place for them to go when they can't handle it. Something to do at night when they are done with school to keep them busy - that does NOT involve us - and a break on the weekends.

    Dude did best with a big brother person on the weekends. When one was available? ANd he had a shadow at school? Went to counseling it wasn't great but it was family-dooable. Also WE (parents) had to LEARN how to be his parents. That was key to living with a kid like this. YOu think....AH I can live with this kid IF he would .........and that thinking will get you no where. Rethinking ......How can I communicate effectively so that I can get this kid to? retraining YOUR thought patterns is WAY easier and lots less frustrating....yet we fight that every day. WHY? Patterns....we just think our kids should do XXX ......we never think about changing ourselves and how we react. Easier to teach ourselves effective communication to get results than it is to get water from a rock. Works quicker too.

    You are welcome to pick my brain - Dudes pretty open about his experiences too. He's mostly over being sent off his whole life. He knows we did it to help. I thought at the time it did. At one point one place wouldn't let us see him for 10 months. We talked but it was horrible. Never again......but what did I know? I just loved my kid and would and DID do anything to help.

    Hope this helps you.
    Best of luck.
  18. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    This exactly reflects the situation my family was in when we decided to opt for an Residential Treatment Center (RTC) for our difficult child. He was 17, on a disastrous cocktail of medications, unstable, manic, and having regular run-ins with the law.

    We put difficult child in an emergency respite program for the summer, and then transitioned him into a permanent Adult Assisted Living program once he turned 18.

    In the years that difficult child has been in an Residential Treatment Center (RTC), he has grown and developed tremendously. He really is a different person. That said, we have also come to realize that this may be permanent. With difficult child's impairments, he is unlikely to ever be able to live independently. The facility he's in provides as much independence as he can handle, combined with the 24/7 support he needs in order to function. It's such a relief to know that he's safe, happy, and productive.

  19. dadside

    dadside New Member

    "Reasonably well behaved" and "he ... committed some property crimes" don't seem to go well together, so it seems things are getting worse.

    Apparently the property crimes, shooting, and other "unraveling" seem to roughly coincide with "hanging with the wrong kids". That is a big flag suggesting drug abuse, with the source being the "wrong kids". Until that is addressed nothing will be effective to help your son ... and the longer the drug use, the harder and longer it takes to overcome.

    Reflecting on others' posts, your son might well benefit first from some residential anti-drug + detox program, then from a potentially short (possibly as little as 3 months or so - but still subject to achieving agreed goals) stay in an appropriate Residential Treatment Center (RTC) (with strong psychiatric staff), followed by time in a well-supervised boarding school (not specifically therapeutic) with a mentoring/big brother program. Unfortunately there is no magic solution.

    If you do settle on a particular Residential Treatment Center (RTC)/TBS to do it all, so to speak, you would benefit from visiting it and discussing things before committing your son's attendance.
  20. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    This could be Onyxx, too. She's good - and that is when you have to watch out.