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Warning: Reasons to Avoid Boot Camps for Troubled Teens

June 1, 2015

Reasons to Avoid Boot Camp for Teens

Military camp. Community-based “diversion” program. Brat camp. Boot camp. Wilderness camp. Behavior modification program. You may have heard of some of these programs that help “troubled” teens, but do they work? 

When a child’s behavior gets out of hand, many parents feel like it’s necessary for a more structured and firm environment to whip teens into shape and change their negative behavior. However, numerous studies have proven that the outcome of sending a child to boot camp, wilderness camp, or military school, etc. can be disastrous. 

What Are Boot Camps?

Boot camps, also commonly called “diversion” programs, are usually mandated by courts as an alternative to jail for disruptive teens. Often, parents or guardians send their child to these facilities as a last resort to change their teen’s behavioral, emotional, and/or substance abuse problems. 

Many caretakers believe that this rigid, military- or authoritarian-style of treatment is needed to get teens to change their ill-wanted behaviors. Although several programs tout that they have high success rates, most outcomes prove to be negative. 

While some of these programs may have worked for some teens, there is overwhelming evidence that these facilities do more harm than good. Below are the top three reasons why you shouldn’t send your teen to boot camp:

1) Lack of Accreditation

While many of these troubled teen camps advertise that they have professional staff members with years of experience who treat attendees respectfully and with a genuine concern for care, it couldn’t be further from the truth. 

These facilities neglect to tell parents and guardians that teen boot camps are not federally regulated, which means there is no accountability if things go wrong. Also, several states do not require staff background checks; therefore, many facilities have a lack of highly trained individuals who have worked with adolescents. 

Public facilities may have some regulation, yet many privately run boot camps have little to no regulation. Anyone can get hired on staff, including and very frequently, those with a history of domestic violence and past sexual abuse. 

2) Severe Abuse

It’s no surprise that facilities that are not regulated or have little to no oversight usually have more incidents of abuse. There have been thousands of allegations of harsh and inhumane treatment such as:

  • Going long periods without food or water (starvation, deyhdration)
  • Physical Abuse (electro-shock, beatings, choking, tasing)
  • Psychological Abuse (solitary confinement, humiliation)
  • Sexual Abuse (molestation, rape)
  • Verbal Abuse (shaming, degrading) 

In the most extreme cases, there have been several fatalities over the past few decades. According to the United States Government Accountability Office, many of these deaths have stemmed from abuse including dehydration, internal bleeding, hyperthermia, heat stroke, severed artery, massive head trauma and suicide by hanging.

3) Lack of Training

Many parents think it’s a great idea for their child to have a stern, military-style form of punishment. However, what many do not realize is that their choice to send their child to boot camp often limits them from taking legal action if something does go wrong. 

These facilities generally have a limited purpose power of attorney so without being aware of it, parents or guardians often sign documents that give the facility temporary custody of their child for the duration of the program. Many adolescents are literally handed over to the mercy of staff members who have little professional experience in dealing with their behavioral disorders. 

Without much training, a one-size-fits-all therapeutic approach is taken for teens with multiple issues. These issues can range from borderline personality disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder, to Asperger’s syndrome or substance abuse. One-size-fits-all treatment for these disorders often worsens the problems in teens and other issues can develop.

So, How Do I Get Proper Treatment for My Teen? 

Avoid teen boot camps this summer. As a parent or guardian you may be wondering, “Well, what’s a safe place to send my teen this summer?” If your child has a substance abuse issue and/or a mental health disorder, the best place to seek help from is a reputable teen treatment center that is both accredited by the Joint Commission and a state-licensed facility.

These facilities will have a highly trained, board-certified staff with tailored programs that focus on your teen’s specific issues and offer a variety of therapeutic programs. They are also likely to have programs that assist with continuing education and life skills training. These programs will help your child get back on track for the next school year or prepare for college. At a teen treatment center, your teen will receive the proper care and treatment he or she deserves in a safe and well-supervised environment.

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