Boot Camps for Troubled Teens

For some troubled teens, time away from home is just the thing to change negative behavior. In some cases desperate parents turn to boot camps as a means of reforming challenging teens. Before you elect to send your teen off to one of these places in hopes of him returning home a whole new child, consider the effectiveness of these programs and make sure that the boot camp approach is appropriate for you and your child.

Boot Camp Roots

Juvenile boot camps date back over 20 years. The first juvenile boot camp was in Orleans Parish, Louisiana, and was opened in 1985, reports the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Due to the seeming success and popularity of this camp, other camps were soon to follow. Currently 10 states house juvenile boot camps within their borders

Boot Camp Appeal

Many parents who turn to boot camps feel like they are at their wits end. These parents see boot camps as their last resort for dealing with a teen who seems beyond control. By turning to a boot camp option, parents can temporarily put the task of tending to their troubled teen’s needs into professional hands. Many parents hope that this responsibility relinquishment will result in a correction of their teen’s troubles. This option also appeals to parents who see part of the problems their teen has as coming from association with friends, so sending their teen to boot camp temporarily remove them from their current circle of friends.

Effectiveness of Approach

While some parents swear by the boot camp approach, some studies have shown that they actually are not effective in the long run. As a University of California–Davis study found, the effects of teen boot camps are temporary at best. This study found that once teens return from these camps, they often fall right back into their same destructive patterns because these camps fail to deal with the issues that caused the problems in the first place.

What to Look For

Not all boot camps are created equal. As the University of California–Davis study found, the boot camps that do prove effective are ones that don’t just punish, but also deal with the underlying issues that lead to these problems. Camps with built in counseling programs as well as a highly structured course of treatment prove most effective.

Boot Camp Warning

If you elect to go the boot camp route, take care to check out the reputation of the camp. Check with your state Department of Justice to ensure that the camp is registered. Also, look into the history of the camp to make sure it’s not a fly-by-night operation, ensuring that you are putting your kids in good hands.



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