Teen Wilderness Programs
These types of programs are usually short term. They seem to have a definite impact on the teen. Typically the teen while in the program sincerely feels the need to change and may even admit that he or she needs to change their behaviors. In most cases education consultants will recommend a wilderness to prepare a teen for a long term placement. Usually the wilderness placement alone is not long enough to make lasting changes in the teen’s life. Again short term is a great place to start but usually needs to be followed up by something longer in length. Some programs include a wilderness component into their regular program.
Some have more rustic type living for teens that first come into a program, and then with appropriate choices they move into nicer living conditions. Wilderness programs are usually not academically accredited, because of their short duration. There are usually some credits available that would correspond to time in spent out in nature, but it is not a given that they will be accepted. For this reason timing is an important factor involved with this type of placement.
If you are taking a teen out of school and sending them to a Wilderness Program, they will fall further behind in school. In most cases the teen is not applying themselves in school anyway so this is not a huge factor. But in the case where the teen is still doing well in school, this should be taken into consideration. If academics are still important to them and you put them in an impossible to catch up situation, you will have to deal with other issues. They can include lowering of self esteem for being held back or just failing classes, and the teen having to explain where they have been upon their return to school. While some teens will find it cool to having been taken away for a while, there are others that will be embarrassed for having to explain their absence.
Other considerations of Wilderness Programs are the elements themselves, and the ability of teens to run away. While the majority of programs have things well planned out there have been cases where teens have been able to overpower staff, and run from their camping spot. This is less likely to happen in a set location. The elements of course there is now way to plan on how they will cooperate. There is always the danger of extreme weather conditions, and the problems encompassed therein.
On the other hand Wilderness Programs have had a place in overall plan for years, and there are definite benefits from having a teen get back to basics in this way. As you know there is something to be said about being out in nature. There is a tendency in this setting to have more quiet time to reflect on what is really important, and what course they are on. Quiet time around the campfire at night is almost a spiritual experience and a great time for teaching a tired youth.
Some schools offer what is called a summer program. They are varied and sometimes useful if you would like to have your teen away from negative influences for the summer months. If both parents work it is one way to assure that your teen will be monitored during the day. Summer programs vary just like regular boarding schools, and specialty programs vary. Summer programs can be like a summer camp atmosphere, or more like a military atmosphere. Usually they fill up early and you will have to begin to make reservations early in the year to secure a placement in one of them. The supervision is different at each location, and the structure is also varied.
It would be useful to know what the daily schedule is, and if the program offers education. Most of the teens in need of supervision are also in need of make-up work in school. Some locations offer education as part of their program. This is particularly helpful if your teen has fallen behind in school. You can accomplish both supervision and education if you select carefully. Usually 3 month summer programs are helpful if the teen is not real defiant. Some summer programs will tolerate misbehavior and some will be lest lenient, some will send a teen home at the first sign of trouble and others will let small things slide.
If they are to send your teen home they may keep what is remaining in your account. It is always good to make sure that you understand the financial consequences of an early termination from any program. There are some programs that will keep the tuition even if the teen has only been there a short while. Their logic is that they had to schedule staff to be there, and may have turned someone away for the season, thus feeling justified for keeping the money. Summer Programs can be a good option, but like any placement should be well researched before the decision is made. Even though it is a short term plan it will have long lasting effects on the teen’s behavior down the road. This is particularly true if the teen is unwilling to go and has to be escorted.
For example if you should decide later that the teen needs to be placed again, they will be more combative, and more likely to run away than the first time they were taken. This like other shorter term programs will not replace the long term program that has proven to be the most successful.