Therapeutic Boarding School?


New Member
Well, I have a decision to make. As you all may remember from previous posts my 14 1/2 year old son has snuck out repeatedly, taken our car at least 3 times in the middle of night joy riding with friends, admitted to smoking pot, has been kicked out of school (is currently in Alternative School).

His Dad has agreed to pay for him to go to a therapeutic boarding school. Now, I don't know if I can let go of him. I love to see him everyday and hear his voice, and see his smile, DESPITE, all of the drama and hijinks. I feel like I'm giving up on him if I send him, and feel like a failure. Not to mention I would constantly worry about him.

Thoughts on this Moms? Anyone gone this route before? Tim is also adopted and I DO NOT want him to feel abandoned.

Thanks everyone. hugs & best wishes.


Well-Known Member
Personally, if you guys can swing this, I would jump on it. A good therapeutic boarding school can be the best thing that will happen to your son. Do your research on the schools.

Of course you will miss him but you can visit. He isnt going to jail or worse which is a distinct possibility if he continues to joyride. This is a chance to turn him around and give him a chance at a better future. Dont look at it as sending him away, look at it as giving him opportunities. If he had cancer you would have him in a hospital so fast for treatment, this is no different.


New Member
Man, are you ever right on. His Dad and I had a very nasty divorce and custody fight. We have put our differences aside and he has agreed to pay for school. It is VERY costly! I do think it is the right thing. If I can find a good place within a 5 - 6 hour drive of home I will consider seriously.

Thanks, love, hugs

Dee R.

New Member
I don't think where our son is is considered a therapeutic boarding school but we have been more than pleased with it so far. He has been there since July and came home for a visit at Christmas for a week and it was the most pleasant week I have had since I can remember.


Well-Known Member
Susan...look into the struggling teens site listed on the homepage here. It belongs to lon woodbury who is an educational consultant and he has a ton of places listed. I know there are several places in GA.


Well-Known Member
Staff member
I agree with Janet. Jump on it! I wish that we had realized how much our difficult child needed help when she was still young enough to send to a Residential Treatment Center (RTC).

Getting your difficult child away from his current set of friends and influences is probably the single most effective thing you can do at this point.

You are lucky you have the resources to take action.



Well-Known Member
I, too, wish I had sought help for difficult child when he was really young. I wish I had gotten him away from the environment and friends he was associating with. By the time I got help, it was too late and he was already in a pattern. Good luck on finding the right place for your son.


New Member
As you can see from my signature, my girl spent many months at Residential Treatment Center (RTC) or therapeutic boarding school. From your post, it sounds like my girl's self destructive behavior was far worse than your son's.

I, too, worried about her feeling abandoned as I am the only parent figure she has. However, Residential Treatment Center (RTC) saved her life and gave her insight into herself. After fighting the program and being defiant for a long time, she woke up and began to work on her issues of loss and anger.

She is now a wonderful girl who is kind and loving, motivated to succeed, fun to be around and responsible and reliable. Sometimes, I still can't believe the transformation.

The cost of Residential Treatment Center (RTC) was extremely high and I took out a huge loan, but I considered it an investment. And the investment pays off every day now.

I hope you find the program that will help your son.


New Member
<font color="brown">if you guys are so blessed that this is an option for you then i'd say go for it.

please don't make the mistake of making location part of the equation. the most important factor needs to be how the TBS fits the needs of your son. visitation, etc., is something that can always be worked out. family therapy can always be done via telephone....and often is.

TBS can be a wonderful thing for families. do go to . they have forums like the ones here & last time i looked the people were very helpful.

kris </font>


New Member
I have to throw some water on all the enthusiasm about therapeutic boarding schools. Before you even THINK about this possibility, you need to ask yourself some questions.
On the 22nd you entered your first post about your son and received some excellent advice. All of the advice you were given involved making your home and vehicles more secure and seeking LOCAL professional help. Have you done any of these? Have you exhausted ALL local mental health resources to help your son? If not, do not send your son away to a facility. These places should only be used as an absolute last resort, after the parents and guardians have completely squeezed dry their community counselors, therapists and psychiatrists for help. I know what I'm talking about. We had to send one of our children to 3 different out-of-state facilities in 4 years. This was after being treated by numerous LOCAL therapists and psychiatrists, family therapy and 5 in-patient stays in a local psychiatric hospital over the course of 9 years. Despite hiring an ed consultant and doing a ton of research on our own, the psychiatric care our daughter received at these places was mediocre and the education was downright substandard. We wound up spending around $250,000 dollars over the course of 4 years. This included tuition, therapist and psychiatrists fees, airplane fares to and from, rental cars, hotels, meals, etc. etc.
In hindsight, we have come to the conclusion that we paid an exorbitant fee to keep our daughter physically restrained, fed, housed and barely educated. Yes, she was safe and unable to harm herself or others during those stays, but she gained very little else.


Active Member
I too have to say that there has to be some amount of buy-in from the child. My son has been in jail (twice), residential (twice), multiple school placements, multiple counselors, multiple medications. And...guess what? He is 21, has a son for whom he takes no responsibility, has no job, lives with pond scum and doesn't want any relationship with any family members.

Residential Treatment Center (RTC) is not the answer for everyone. However, like everyone else, it is the parents responsilibity to ensure the child is safe. Check out these places. Many are just looking for $$ from desperate parents.


New Member
Thanks again everyone. I had a major emotional breakdown over this last night. I was wishing so badly that my mother was alive - she was a straight shooter and would have said (I can hear her now) - DO NOT SEND THAT BOY AWAY. Everyone I know is telling me to send him, and send him NOW! But, ya know what? I am his mom, momma, mommie. He is my son. I am in no way blind to his behaviors. But I AM the one who knows him best. I know his heart. I know his head. And I have had this voice telling me NO NO NO for the last 3 days. I know Tim well enough to know that he would feel abandoned. Hell, I would feel abandoned. I couldn't live with myself. Tim and I are very close and I want to talk to him every day. At almost 15 years old he doesn't know if he wants to ride his skateboard or curl up with Mom on the couch and watch a movie.

His Dad (we've been divorced 10 years and the new wife is not very compassionate) really wanted this, and I drank the Kool Aid. After I had a cooling off period I realized that with patience, a lot of love, and tons of diligence, stick with-itness, encouraging him, talking him through things, I CAN DO THIS. And, I am not going to send my son. I have full legal and physical custody so his Dad can't do anything about my decision. Yeah, the wonderful Dad made sure I had "legal' custody - shows how much faith he has in his son.

God Blessed me with this little miracle. Ya see, I wanted to be a Mom all my life. I couldn't have children so we adopted this adorable little baby. I was in the delivery room when he was born. From a spiritual stand point, I beleive we all chose our parents, even adoptees. And I imagine that it takes some major planning on God's part and the souls of these little babies to find their way to us, as their parents. After all of the work he did to find me, I just can't send him away. I am still proud to be his Mother. And I want to be the best Mother I can be to my son. I am determined to make this work. If I have to totally change my way of living, move, sacrifice, whatever it takes.

Thanks for everybody's input. Advice is a wonderful thing; You take everything everyone says, process it, and it becomes a part of your decision. But only a part. Becuase the decision is ultimately yours, and was always there to begin with.


Well-Known Member

My daughter is 15 1/2. She is also adopted. Up until last year she was sneaking out of the house, hanging with her gangsta friends, going to bonfires, drinking and experimenting with drugs. She was cutting school, flunking her classes, hanging around our skate park all hours refusing to come home, running away from home and completely disrespectful to us. I was so close to looking for alternative living arrangements because nothing we were doing was working. My husband just about gave up and decided she was going to end up on the street.

I couldn't give up, and I couldn't send her away either. I finally convinced my husband that we had to involve the police and hold her responsible for her behavior. We began calling them when she ran away or wouldn't come home. I drove to houses where she was at with other kids drinking and called the police on them all. She had charges filed on her several times and finally was sent downtown on charges of stealing alcohol and drinking it from a friend's home and snorting adderall. None of the other parents would file charges on their child. But we were lucky, our juvenile officers were wonderful and they knew we were trying to help her and they wanted her to get help too.

When she appeared in court to answer the charges last May she was sent to juvenile detention for the weekend. That was the one thing that scared the heck out of her. We live in a middle class neighborhood and she has all the comforts that most teens would love. She was totally unprepared to have her freedom taken away along with all her possessions and to see what kind of people are in detention and what she would end up like if she continued.

She just wrote an essay for her English class that described how her life was out of control and how she decided to change it when she had gotten into a great deal of trouble. It made me cry.

My difficult child just got her temporary driver's license last week, an event we didnt think would ever happen. She is getting good grades and has a whole different group of friends. For almost 15 years I don't think she ever considered herself a real part of our family. In her essay she said that she decided to become part of her family again, and for the first time in her life I believe she really felt part of that family.

I don't know if it will work for you but if you live in an area where you think the police will help you, you may want to go and talk to the juvenile detective and see what they can do to help. We were lucky, they saw the potential in her and they went over and beyond what they had to to get her help. The hardest thingwe ever had to do was call the police on our child, and we realized it could have backfired, but we had nowhere else to turn.

I hope you can find some help for your son too. I knew if we had to send her away that she would just be convinced that she wasn't good enough for anyone to keep, ever.



Well-Known Member
Susan...I had completely forgotten that you hadnt tried other things first. By the time most of us get to the point of thinking about placement we have been thru years of therapy and testing. Of course I do see a huge difference in a residential treatment center and an emotional growth boarding school.

In my opinion, you should look into what you can find locally and start there. There is time to think about more drastic action later if you cant get this straightened out at home.


Even though you have made a decision, you will probably re-visit the pros and cons, so I'll add my .02.

I disagree with those who say exhaust EVERY community resource because during that time, especially in large high schools, bad things become habitual. I also agree with everyone whose points out you are fortunate to be able to consider this option.

My ex-difficult child went to an unlocked EGBS at 14. In his peer group, younger kids had better outcomes than older kids who were 17 at entry. You effectively have about 2 years to do something like this and then it will be beyond your control to choose his Tx.

In regard to picking schools: it is possible to get a good education and A LOT of therapy in an EGBS that is geared to a population that is academic and will participate in therapy. You have to be cleared headed about your child. I placed our artsy, bright, non-athletic ex-difficult child in an EGBS that was college prep AND therapeutic, had no team sports program--and also tolerated no violence. Most of the students were depressed, most were on medications and the consulting psychiatrist was the best psychiatrist ex-difficult child ever had. As far as abuse, I was really confident there was very low risk because parents could drop in any time without an appointment. Lack of access to your child is a very big red flag.

Ex-difficult child is also adopted and I was worried about him feeling rejected. It did not work out that way at all because there were three other adoptees in his peer group and the double identity formation of adopted adolescents was worked into therapy naturally. His EGBS also had a very strong family therapy component. Their aftercare was weak, but fortunately, we did not need their help afterwards.

Although ex-difficult child is the most "mainstream" successful kid in his peer group, others are doing well, too. Of the 6 Goths he was hanging out with at home at 14, only 2 graduated from h.s. This is in a h.s. with a 98% graduation rate--so keeping a child at home doesn't always work either.

Avoiding substance abuse is a big issue. At home or at EGBS, the kids with significant drug habits had the poorest outcomes.

I missed ex-difficult child every day he was gone but it it was the single best decision I ever made as a parent.

Best to you.



New Member
I just wanted to add some more of my story.

When my girl graduated from her program at Residential Treatment Center (RTC), she had to give a speech. In it, she thanked the therapist there, who happened to be a Mom of adopted girls, for saving her life. And she also said how thankful she was to me for sending her to Residential Treatment Center (RTC) so she could learn to change her life.

Change is a process, and for each person, what leads to the change is different. Those of us, whose teens have turned themselves around, have had different experiences that led to the same outcome.


Well-Known Member
Staff member
A wonderful book that I recommend highly is "Relief for Hurting Parents" by R.A. Buddy Scott.

One of his basic premises is that for a child that is already hanging out with bad influences and starting down the road toward substance abuse, the single most effective thing you can do is get your child away from those people.

He even advocates moving away so you child will get a fresh start. He tells stories of one parent moving away while the other parent stays in the home with the other children just to get the struggling child away from a bad situation.

Not everyone can go to that extreme of course. He also advocates sending the child away to live with relatives in other parts of the country. We considered that but really had no one to send our difficult child to that could handle her.

At the time, I wasn't a member of the board and didn't know about EGBS and Residential Treatment Center (RTC)'s. Looking back, I would have done it in a heartbeat.

Nancy's tough love worked with her daughter and I so admire what she did. I don't think that option would have worked for us because our daughter never took it to the level of running away or got caught drinking or using drugs. That's probably why it escaped our notice for so long. By the time things were really getting bad, she was 17 and pretty much past the point where a Residential Treatment Center (RTC) or EGBS would have been effective.

If you are going to do it, I would do it as soon as possible. Otherwise, peer influences will negate anything you try to do.



Former desparate mom
It was and still is the best choice I made for my son. He didn't get cured of his learning disabilities or his AS. His education wasn't better or worse than what he was getting locally. At the very least he wasn't kicked out(which he was from all private learning different schools). Truth be told his academics at that time were secondary.
The fact that it kept him from hurting himself and others was a BIG deal. Keeping him out of jail because of his rages was a BIG deal. His educational lag was something that could be made up with time.
My son was safe and he made more progress than he has since. My biggest regret was that he didn't go to a transition program. I do not now or ever believe love is enough. I believe love is the motivating force to seek help for our children.

If you don't feel he should be away from home, go with that but be clear that it will require you to assume the Residential Treatment Center (RTC) aspects in your own home. Much like what Nancy did. She loved her child too but she couldn't just go with that. She had to institute some method to turn things around.

We are the mommies to our kids and we love them too. Each of us have to do more than just love them.
Make a plan. Ask those who have had success with their own children what they did, how they did it and what was their lives like at home. There is no magic cure. Residential Treatment Center (RTC) isn't a cure. It's a treatment plan. All members learn to be effective is a matter of making a plan for intervention or doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.


Mine is just 17 and has been in my home about 6 mo of the past 4 yrs. He's been everywhere else, RTCs, hospitals, group homes, shelters, rehab, jail, etc, etc. I'm sorry you choose to view this as "sending him away". But that's your viewpoint. Mine, who is also adopted at birth, was not "sent away". He needed help that I could not provide. In fact, his first Residential Treatment Center (RTC) was in our community and I saw him at least 3 times a week. He could easily have earned the privilege to come home for the weekend. I could have talked to him every day. Can't think of a placement he's been in that I couldn't talk to him every day except for the first month or so in some places...oops... forgot jail but even then, in some he could call every day.

Is my son "cured"? Heavens no. As Fran said, there are neurological issues with my son that are there for life. But he is improved. The earlier a person gets into treatment the better the long term prognosis. I did not want to waste those years.

I have to agree with the others that at home, outpatient treatment is the first thing to try. That's assuming, of course, that he's not a danger to himself or others. Frankly, if he's joyriding while using or drunk, that ship has sailed. But again, it's your choice to take that risk with your child's, neighbors, friends, etc lives.... and that's not to mention your and your sons' futures. It only takes one accident, violent episode, drunken state. or whatever for anyone to end up in jail for life or indebted to someone else for life as a result of some lawsuit. Obviously, you are aware of your legal financial liability, does your state have criminal charges for parents based on the child's acts? I watched mine riding a bike drunk in rush hour traffic one time when he was 12 or 13 and thanked God that he and everyone who drove past him that afternoon got home safe. It was a miracle.

It is hard for those of us with no relevant professional training or experience to differentiate a psychological cause to our children's behavior vs a neurological, psychiatric or addiction cause. Genetics is a huge factor in this. Psychiatric and addiction issues are highly genetic. If you don't know at least 3 generations of genetics on both sides you don't know what you could be looking at genetically. Mine had 2 birthparent addicts. His chances of being an addict were over 75%. Addiction and psychiatric illness are also highly co-morbid (some say over 80% of addicts are mentally ill). Mine is undoubtedly an addict. The only person on this Earth who does not believe that is him. Did you know that it typically takes a minimum of 3 to 4 rehab stays till an addict begins to recover? Did you know that there is a strong correlation between long term successful recovery from addiction and the number and length of stays in rehab? Are you aware that you have less than 3 years to make an impact on your child's issues? At 18 he can and will refuse treatment and there's nothing you can do about it but beg.

I urge you to consider the reasons you are not putting your child into treatment. Is that because it's hard on you or because it's in his best interest? 5 or 10 years from now if he continues on this path will you be comfortable with the decision you are making now? There are a LOT of things to consider including the fact that you can always withdraw him from whatever program or school you put him in. For most of us the decision to put him into placement was not something that we did in a weekend or a week. It took months of facing reality.

Also, FYI mine is currently home and has no abandonment issues. I was at every family therapy session, case mgmt meeting, visitation, IEP mtg, court hearing, Dr appointment, etc, etc. (Almost every anyway, when my car died I had transportation issues and did these things by phone if possible.) He had my cell # and could call me whenever he wanted to talk to me. He was plenty angry that he wasn't home and always blamed me for that. But he has always been very clear, as I have, that he and I are totally bonded as parent and child. Same applies to his brothers, the bonding does not change by virtue of location.

I'll add a couple of things to your "job" of "straightening" him out at home.
1. You can't let anything slip by. There is never an excuse for disobeying rules or inappropriate behavior. You must be totally consistent. EVERY rule must be enforced at all times. The consequences MUST be enforced in every instance.
2. The rules must be clearly stated in writing. That includes every rule, curfews, kids allowed or not allowed, time limits, computer accessibility, language, yelling, homeworks handed in, no drugs of any kind, etc, etc. The consequences for infringement must also be in writing. Rewards for good behavior also in writing and not discretionary. Then back to #1 above.