Therapeutic Schools – How to Make the Right Decision
At Meyer Education and Family Services, we oftentimes meet with parents who anguish over the decision to have their child leave their home and get the help they need. No parent wants their child to leave, yet at times it can be clear that staying at home is hurting the child, the parent(s) and the rest of the family.
We have a number of questions we ask families to consider when determining the need for a placement.
- Is the problematic behavior an incident or a pattern?
In general, incidents do not warrant a placement, patterns do. A child who is consistently defiant, and has resisted all attempts to alter his or her behavior is demonstrating a pattern. A child who sneaks out one night to go see his girlfriend is probably not in need of a placement.
- Is the problematic behavior dominating most family interaction?
When a child is struggling, their difficulties can dominate a family. Meals, conversation and general interaction become monopolized by the struggle. This is where the child’s issue becomes a family system issue. If the behavior is contained to the child, he or she may not need an out of home placement.
- Have all reasonable avenues at home been exhausted?
This can mean different things to each family. One family may have more resources or patience than another, yet typically parents will try out-patient therapy, home contracts, tutors and a myriad of community systems before they consider an out of home placement.
- Would you as parents feel a sense of relief if you knew your child were safe away from his or her environment?
This is a very hard question to answer because guilt, mixed in with feelings of relief can mask your true emotions. Every parent who has had to place his or her child feels some guilt. This is natural, but we cannot let our guilt cloud how we really feel.
- Is your stress level higher than it has ever been?
We live in a stressful world. With that stated, a struggling child is an enormous stressor. One common denominator for all parents who are ready for an out of home placement is a sense that they do not know where they stop and their child begins. They take on the stress of the child, themselves and the family. This is unhealthy and can be dangerous.
We ask these questions of families to try and give them some concrete ways to determine what their family needs. We believe that placement in a therapeutic boarding school, wilderness program or residential treatment center can be beneficial to the entire family. Making this decision should be deliberate, thoughtful and based on careful analysis and thoughtful dialog. Meyer Education and Family Services can help you make the best decision for your family’s future.