Types of Homes for Troubled Teens

It can seem impossible to parent a troubled teen. Enrolling the difficult child in a professional, residential program may be the best option for the entire family. At these programs, teens receive individualized attention that may not be available at home.

Types of Residential Programs for Teens

Choosing a residential program for your teen can be a difficult decision. Fortunately, there is a wide variety of programs available. Asking the right questions and working with a counselor can help you find a program that is right for your teen.

Therapeutic Boarding School

In spite of the fact that boarding schools are often thought of as an alternative schooling option for wealthy families, this is not always the case. Teens dealing with issues such as drug abuse, mental health concerns, or behavioral disorders may attend therapeutic boarding schools. 

The following services are provided by these types of schools:

  • Care in a residential facility
  • Professional support for academics and emotional well-being
  • Class sizes are small
  • Plans for individualized education, mentoring, and therapy
  • It can be co-ed, all male, or all female

Academically accredited therapeutic boarding schools offer diplomas that colleges will recognize. A therapeutic boarding school usually requires students to stay one to two years, according to the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSP). According to Parent & Teen Resources, the monthly cost can range from $2,000 to $12,000 per month. 

Payment options vary from state to state and school to school, but some costs may be covered by insurance or by your local public school if they are not equipped to handle your child’s needs.

Group Homes for Troubled Teens

Exactly what it sounds like, a group home is a house occupied by a group of troubled youth. Youth are assisted in daily life by trained staff at all times, including:

  • Youth transportation to and from local schools
  • Maintaining close contact with school personnel
  • Teaching teens life skills as they are expected to help with household chores
  • Assisting with emotional needs
  • Regularly interacting with family members
  • Maintaining routines and enforcing disciplinary policies

As a transition from a higher level of care to regular home life, group homes are often used. A team of licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, and mental health counselors oversees the home and develops individualized care plans for each child. 

Non-profit organizations and government agencies can operate group homes. You can find a home near you by contacting your county or state Department of Child and Family Services.

Residential Treatment Facility

In a Residential Treatment Facility, or RTF, youth with severe mental health and behavioral concerns live in a live-in facility. In RTFs, psychiatric disorders, severe emotional disturbances, and extremely violent behavior are treated. 

The teens living in the facility will follow highly structured routines that include individualized treatment plans and full-time supervision.

RTFs are supervised by a mental health professional on-site and house anywhere from 11 to 50 residents, according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Coed RTFs are generally divided into male and female wings, keeping boys and girls apart. RTFs can also be all-male or all-female. 

According to Parent & Teen Resources, the average monthly cost can range from $4,000 to $12,000 per child. RTFs are listed by state on ResidentialTreatmentCenters.me. Both adult and youth programs are listed, so read each carefully.

Wilderness Therapy Program

Wilderness Therapy Programs, or Outdoor Behavioral Health Programs, involve teens living in the wild with peers and staff for an extended period of time. There are approximately four trained counselors per group of four to five teens in accredited programs. Participants are provided with a sleeping bag, food, water, and other necessary survival supplies. 

A typical Outdoor Behavioral Health Program is an 8 to 10 week journey that includes daily hikes that are physically demanding. Wilderness Therapy programs are priced between $300 and $495 per day on Parent & Teen Resources’ website.

In the same way Wilderness Therapy programs combine rigorous physical activities with natural elements, Working Ranches are another residential option for teens. Rather than hiking and camping, youth live on a ranch and help with chores.

Juvenile Detention Center

The appearance of a Detention Center is similar to that of a prison. While awaiting court hearings or trials, teens who have committed serious crimes are housed in juvenile detention centers. Besides protecting the family, the public is also protected from youth who may pose a threat to public safety. 

Teens also benefit from the center’s safe, restricted environment, which often includes rehabilitative and therapeutic activities.

Even though the living quarters and daily life can be similar to those in jail, modern Juvenile Detention Centers screen residents to determine their emotional, physical, and educational needs. Detention centers are moving away from punishment-based systems and taking a more rehabilitative approach, according to the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange.

Boot Camp

Similar to military boot camps, Teen Boot Camps are sometimes called “shock incarceration.” Teen boot camps use strict rules, schedules, and immediate punishments such as push-ups to correct problem behavior. 

The cost of a teen boot camp can range from $5,000 to $10,000, according to Family First Aid. A typical boot camp stay is three to six months, according to Scientific American. Youth will participate in the following activities during boot camp:

  • Work on a daily basis
  • Exercise
  • Ceremonies and drills
  • Classes for education
  • Counseling in groups

How to Choose a Facility

There are so many types of residential facilities that it can be difficult to choose the right one for your child. When exploring your options, keep the following in mind:

  • Be aware of your child’s medical, physical, emotional, mental, social, and educational needs.
  • Ensure that the program is accredited by a professional organization.
  • Take into account how the program will affect the teen’s education.
  • Make sure the website of the program is professional and informative.
  • When interviewing potential programs, ask a lot of questions.
  • Ensure that any associated costs are covered by your insurance company.

A trusted mental health professional or your primary care physician can recommend a program that is right for your family. There is also a great feature in the Trouble Teens Directory that allows you to search for programs by state.

Home Away From Home for Troubled Youth

In a residential program, teens can get the help they need for behavioral issues, mental health concerns, and drug abuse. A residential alternative for troubled youth can offer trained professional help paired with individualized attention and care, something that is not always possible in the family home. 

Every residential facility for teens in crisis aims to help them return home to their families.

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