Sunday, March 27, 2011

Teen Help Programs: Red River Academy, Horizon Academy, etc...Be on ALERT

My experiences with WWASPS

If you read my personal Blogs, most know my story.  From the time my daughter turned 14 and started giving me a handful of troubles, to finding a so-called  teen-help program that make me a lot of promises.  Not only were the promises broken, my daughter endured abuse both physically (being placed in a box for 17 hours), sleeping in sewage and other indescribable things - forced me into starting a crusade (as some have put it) to let parents that are desperate know more about this big business of "teen help".

Here we are - almost a decade later, and the program that harmed my daughter (did I mention I defeated them in a jury trial?) is finally closed.  Carolina Springs Academy also known recently as Magnolia Christian School (both affiliated with WWASPS) closed their doors.  Hopefully it is for good.  However, that didn't stop the owners, Lichfield brothers, from going abroad.

The recent news from The Tico Times: Child Welfare Office closes yet another teen reform center 
is yet another example that someone is not paying attention.  Parents are not doing their due diligence before placing a teen in a program.

Although we had a very bad experience, it doesn't mean that quality schools and programs are not needed.  Many teens are in distress- parents are at their wit's end and they need options.  Safe and qualified options.  Which is why I created Parents' Universal Resource Experts - a website to help educate you.  It offers questions to ask, helpful hints and much more when looking for programs.  The number one thing you don't want to do - is leave our country!

Although many may think this is about selling my book, Wit's End!, or my story - I challenge you to read it and I promise you will find things you never knew about these types of specialty programs.  Learn your rights.  Learn about transports - they are not all bad, but you need to know who is licensed and insured and who isn't.  Who is about making this trip go smoothly and who is about just getting paid.

Be an educated parent - don't get scammed, get your teen the help they need and do your due diligence.

Do you think you need an Educational Consultant?  It is likely you don't need to spend this extra money - parents know what is best for their individual teen.  My experiences with Educational Consultants is questionable at best.

Try not to get sucked into short term programs like Wilderness, or punitive like Boot Camps - in the long run - they are short term programs with short term results.  In many situations of parents I have spoken with, the teen ends up with more anger and resentment that is targeted at the person that sent them there.  With Wilderness Program, it can be a false sense of recovery.  Usually they recommend a treatment center following the $15-20K you just spent... Start and finish at the same place.... teens need consistency.

Here are a list of alleged WWASPS facilities and their marketing arms as of 3/26/11:

Academy of Ivy Ridge, NY (CLOSED)
Bell Academy, CA (CLOSED)
Canyon View Park, MT
Camas Ranch, MT
Carolina Springs Academy, SC (License revoked, re-opened as Magnolia Hills Christian)
Casa By the Sea, Mexico (CLOSED)
Cross Creek Programs, UT (Cross Creek Center and Cross Creek Manor)
Darrington Academy, GA (CLOSED)
**Discovery - Mexico (see below)
El Dorado, Costa Rica - 90 Day Boot Camp
Help My Teen, UT (Adolescent Services Adolescent Placement) Promotes and markets these programs.
Gulf Coast Academy, MS (CLOSED)
Horizon Academy, NV
Jane Hawley - Lifelines Family Services
Kathy Allred - Lifelines Sales Representative
Lisa Irvin - Helpmyteen and Teens in Crisis (Will use Lisa Irvine at times too)
Lifelines Family Services, UT (Promotes and markets these programs) Jane Hawley
Magnolia Christian School, SC - formerly Carolina Springs Academy (RE-OPENING 2011)
Mark Peterson - Teen Help Sales Representative
Majestic Ranch, UT
MENTOR School, Costa Rica (CLOSED as of 3/25/11)
Midwest Academy, IA (Brian Viafanua, formerly the Director of Paradise Cove as shown on Primetime, is the current Director here)
Parent Teen Guide - Promotes and markets these programs
Pillars of Hope, Costa Rica
Pine View Christian Academy, (Borders FL, AL, MS)
Reality Trek, UT
Red River Academy, LA (Borders TX)
Respect Academy, NV
Royal Gorge Academy, CO (CLOSED)
Sherri Schwartzman - Lifelines Sales Representative
Sky View Academy, NV (allegedly closed?)
Spring Creek Lodge, MT (CLOSED) Rumors they have re-opened in another location of MT.
Sunset Bay Academy, CA
Teen Help, UT (Promotes and markets these programs)
Teens In Crisis - Lisa Irvin
Tranquility Bay, Jamaica
Sunset Bay Academy, Oceanside, CA - rumors of short term program there

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Troubled Teens: Do You Need an Educational Consultant?

As a parent, you know your teen best.
Over and over again I will hear from parents that are either considering hiring an Educational Consultant, or have hired one.

What is an Educational Consultant? (EC)  They are an individual that may or may not have qualifications to help you place your troubled teen into a treatment center.  Years ago, EC's were mainly used for parents that needed help in finding the right colleges for their teens, help with their applications etc.

As our world turned, the need for help in the troubled teen industry grew.  It became a new outlet for EC's to make money.  As the Internet was growing, more and more parents and teens were able to do all their college searches online - and get information at their finger tips. 

Well, the Internet has expanded again - with the help of Facebook, Blogs, forums etc more parents are able to do their searches for residential therapy without the help and extra fees of an EC.  However, it is difficult to decide what is best for your teenager or what online information is true, false or fabricated.

As a parent of a troubled teen, I went through all these motions.  From the EC to the Internet scams - I hit it all.  My story is not a happy one, however it is one that thousands of families have learned from.

I ended up with a program that did more harm than good, and with that, followed years of litigation and my strong desire to find out what this "big business of teen help" is all about.

For over a decade I have made it my mission - I have seen and visited many good, bad and ugly programs.  But what I have heard over and over again is the EC Shuffle which is just as disturbing as finding a bad program.

Almost every family I spoke with that hired an EC were given the same advice - Wilderness - then we will see - and of course, by the fourth week of Wilderness they are telling the parents - we need to go to step two - a residential boarding school..... So this teen that thought he was leaving to go home within 6-8 weeks now finds out he is going to yet another program.

He/she will have to start all over again with their issues, new program, new staff and more feelings of abandonment all over again.

EC's have told parents that Wilderness will help break their teen down to be better prepared for a therapeutic boarding school - but correct me if I am wrong, isn't our teen already broken?  Why are we looking for help?

Either way, it is just very disheartening that when parents are at their weakest moment they believe what they hear from what they assume are experts. 

Full Disclosure:  I am not against Wilderness programs, many teens have a wonderful experience, but many parents can't afford them - and please don't regret it.  There are some good EC's out there - like every business, you need to do your due diligence.

At the end of the day, you need to find what is best for your teen, as a parent you are capable of making these choices.  You may just need some sound guidance - visit and you will find lists of questions, hints in searching and much more.

I just believe enough is enough when it comes to this EC Shuffle....

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Treatment for Troubled Teens: Wilderness Programs - Falses sense of help?

For the many people that know me, they know I don't believe in Wilderness programs, nor do I advocate for short term programs.  This doesn't mean there aren't reputable Wilderness programs in our country.  There are, however chances are very good, after your teen attends one - within the first 30 days, the program will tell you it is likely you will need to go on to a residential therapy program.  Which means....

  • More money
  • Another trip
  • Another therapist
  • Another schedule
  • Etc....
Back to the first one - the costs are exuberant for Wilderness, and to combine it with another at least $50K for a boarding school is simply out of the equation for many families.

I am writing this information today for two reasons.  One, I have received several calls this week alone by parents that fell for the Wilderness road.  Now they are out of money and need  a program, but the funding is no where to be found.  What do you do?  Their teen is back to the streets - smoking the dope and failing in school. (Let's also remember most Wilderness programs don't offer academics).

One thing these at-risk teens need is consistency.  Usually for the past several months, even years they have been spiraling out of control, driving down a negative path with a negative peer group.

Going to Wilderness is a great experience - they get to vent to their counselor, talk about their feelings and dig deep inside.  They even get a new appreciation of sleeping in their bed or a bed.  They are also knowing that once they just get through these next 6-8-10 weeks - they are home free.

Now, you tell them they are not home free - they are going to the "next step" - a longer term program.  Now they have to get over the disappointment, anger, resentment and most of all, they have to start all over again with a new therapist - a new staff and a new setting.  Sigh.....

Of course this is the case for the families that can afford that next step.  If they can't - some will be facing a probation officer or public defender within a few months.  Solid changes and "lasting" changes cannot be made within 6-8-10 weeks.

This is way an average successful program is 6-9-12 months (not weeks).  On the same note, you don't want programs that are taking your teen completely out of the family for more than 18-24 months - that is not emotionally healthy.  It can contribute to abandonment issues -which can backfire.

Do you want to learn more?  Visit and find out about resources and options for troubled teens

Are Wilderness program worth it?  It is my opinion of after a decade of talking with thousands of family - no, they simply are not worth it.  That doesn't mean families they aren't useful to some people, but from the many I have spoken with - they do have good experiences however know that it is step they didn't really need.  Of course, we all are different.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Therapy Isn't Working: What is the next step?

Going to therapy seems to be the first step parents take when they realize their tween or teen is starting to go down a negative path.

It is important to find a therapist that specialize with adolescents - one that understands the "teen talk".

But what happens when therapy isn't working?  What happens when your teens starts to manipulate the therapist?  What happens when the therapist believes it is time for the next step?

It is time to look for a boarding school, one that offers the support your teen needs both emotionally and academically.  It is important to understand, although education is absolutely a necessity, you have to realize that the teens needs to be emotionally balanced in order to do well at anything.

This doesn't mean you look at programs that don't offer academics, such as many Wilderness programs, parents need to keep 3 major issues in their mind.

  1. Academic's/Education
  2. Clinical/Therapy
  3. Enrichment Programs/Extra-Curriculum Activities
Don't skimp on any of the above.  You will first be stung by the sticker shock - then you need to take this search seriously.  There are state funded programs through your local United Way, as well as programs that offer financial help in accordance to your income.  It just takes time and diligence to find exactly what fits your families needs.

Learn more at - There is more to residential therapy than what you find online.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Teen Obesity: 10 Frightening Fact About Childhood Obesity

What snacks are your kids eating?
There’s really no questioning it: childhood obesity is a problem. Many have labeled it as an epidemic. In the past, the term “obesity” has only been associated with adults, but this idea has changed, as cases of child obesity are increasing every day. Studies show that childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years — The Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that obesity among children from the ages of 6 to 11 years has increased from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.8% in 2008, and that obesity among adolescents from the ages of 12 to 19 years increased from 5% in 1980 to 18.1% in 2008 (and these statistics are now 3 years old).

More often than not, obesity is the result of a flawed lifestyle, where the number of calories consumed far outweighs the number of calories expended. Although genetics can be a factor, it is more and more common now for children to be obese or overweight because of environmental and behavioral factors. With nearly 25 million children affected by it today, the bottom line is that obesity is a threat to our children. These 10 frightening facts illuminate just how dangerous and costly childhood obesity is.
  1. Only 2% of kids in the U.S. eat healthy: Based on diet specifications established by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), only 2% of children in the United States have a healthy diet. It can be easy to dismiss statistics when so many numbers are thrown at you at once. Don’t be fooled. This means that 98% of American children eat unhealthy meals every day. This is a staggering number. In a survey of American high school seniors, only 3 out of every 10 report eating vegetables “nearly” every day. Of the vegetables consumed in the United States, one-fourth are in the form of french fries or potato chips. We hate to say it, but vegetables fried in grease hardly count as your daily dose of vegetables (even though they taste oh so good). Vegetables aside, soft-drink consumption has increased 300% in the last 20 years. 300%! To give us all a little perspective, one 16 ounce serving of regular Coke has 194 calories and 54 grams of sugar. That’s bad.
  2. Fast food consumption is rising: One of the primary contributing factors to obesity in both adults and children is fast food consumption. We all know that fast food is bad for us and yet we continue to eat it. Fast food can be easier and even cheaper when time and money are both scarce. However, the more fast food children consume, the further we get from remedying the epidemic of child obesity. In a survey of high school students, the average teenager in the United States eats fast food twice a week. Eating fast food at a young age develops the habit of eating fast food as an adult. Studies show that low income families are more likely to eat fast food than higher income families. Even more alarming, a study done of 200 neighborhoods reported that there were three times as many supermarkets in wealthy neighborhoods as there were in poor neighborhoods, leaving fast food restaurants as the most convenient option for many low income families.
  3. About 25% of kids don’t do any physical activity: When we think of being a kid, we think of running and playing tag or going t-ball practice. In movies and television shows little kids seem to be constantly running around and playing. Our idealized conception of childhood as a time of playful activity is what makes the following statistic so shocking: one in every four children does not participate in any free-time physical activity. What?! This means that one-fourth of all children under the age of 10 are not running and playing tag or hide-and-seek. No chasing each other on the playground? No climbing trees or jumping rope? More and more kids are spending their free time doing stationary activities. Furthermore, the importance of activity for children is going unnoticed as physical education classes are cut because of lowering school budgets. 92% of elementary schools do not have daily P.E. classes year-round and less than a quarter of high school students take a P.E. class once a day.
  4. Kids spend up to 5 hours daily watching TV: To further the problem, in addition to physical education classes being cut, children are spending more time pursuing sedentary activities. According to The Clinton Foundation, a typical American youth spends approximately 4 to 5 hours a day watching TV, using the computer or playing video games. It’s no real surprise that television watching is closely correlated to childhood obesity. After all, there is no way a child can burn the calories he or she consumed that day if nearly all of their leisure time is spent sitting in front of a television. Several studies indicate that television viewing should be regarded as an important contributing factor to childhood obesity. Among kids ages 12 to 17, the prevalence of obesity increased by 2% for each hour of television viewed, even after considering variables such as prior weight, race, and socio-economic status.
  5. Obese children make poor students: There is growing evidence indicating that children who eat well and lead an active lifestyle perform better academically. It’s not hard to believe that a healthy body makes a healthy mind. As discussed by the organization Action for Healthy Kids, a recent study of 5,000 children established a relationship between diet quality and academic performance. The lower the quality of diet, the lower a person performs academically. Research shows that regular physical activity aids in cognitive and academic development in kids between the ages of 7 and 11. Furthermore, overweight children miss 4 times more school than a child of normal weight does. So, on top of the fact that poor diet and low activity levels make it more difficult to perform cognitive functions, obese children are also missing valuable time in the classroom because of their obesity. If kids aren’t in school and performing to the best of their ability, then they can’t learn and flourish.
  6. The risk for heart disease jumps: Cardiovascular Disease technically refers to any disease involving the heart or blood vessels. However, generally the term is used to refer to atherosclerosis, which is a condition that develops when plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. This buildup inhibits blood flow, potentially causing heart attack or stroke. Now you’re thinking, “wait, weren’t we talking about child obesity here?” Most people consider stroke and heart attack adult concerns. However, in a population-based sample of children ages 5 to 17, 70% of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. High levels of cholesterol and high blood pressure are two of the main risk factors for the development of heart disease. Most obese children have high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, or both. The primary way to manage cardiovascular disease is with diet and lifestyle intervention.
  7. Half of diabetic children are overweight: Type-2 Diabetes is also termed “adult onset diabetes” because originally, only adults were afflicted with it. This, however, is quickly changing. There is an alarming increase in the number of children and adolescents developing Type-2 Diabetes throughout the world due to being overweight. According to The American Diabetes Association, 45% of children diagnosed with diabetes have Type-2 Diabetes due to being obese or overweight. Moreover, between the years 2005 and 2008, the number of children with Type-2 Diabetes doubled in America (if this rate continues that number will have doubled again this year in 2011). In some countries, type-2 diabetes has become the most common form of disease in children and in North America at least one in every 100 youth has been diagnosed with some form of diabetes.
  8. Sleep apnea is a growing threat: As defined by the Mayo Clinic, sleep apnea is a condition where one’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts throughout the night. A study preformed in 2009 suggests that sleep apnea is the most severe problem faced by obese children. There are two types of sleep apnea: central sleep apnea, which occurs when the brain doesn’t send the proper signals, and obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when throat muscles relax too much and the airway collapses. Obese children are at a greater risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea because their tonsils are so large that it can interfere with the ability of the chest and abdomen to fully expand during breathing. Sleep apnea is associated with decreased quality of life. Sufferers may also experience behavioral, neurocognitive, cardiovascular, metabolic, endocrine, and psychiatric complications.
  9. Health care costs are triple what they are for healthier children: The cost of obesity for both the national health care system and the individual has sky rocketed in the past few years as obesity quickly becomes an epidemic. In an examination of the cost of obesity for Americans, researchers report that Americans spend 9% of their total medical costs on obesity-related illnesses and that the national cost of obesity is approximately $45 billion per year. Moreover, children treated for obesity are roughly three times more expensive for the health care system than children of normal weight. To put this statistic into perspective, this means that children who are being treated for obesity and obesity related illnesses spend more on health care than smokers. The indirect cost of obesity, including missed work and future earnings losses, has been estimated at %56 billion dollars per year. As if the cost of your health and happiness weren’t enough, obesity also costs your bank account and the national health system a huge amount of money.
  10. Obese children will live shorter lives than their parents: Perhaps the most frightening facts concerned with childhood obesity are the projections being made about an obese child’s life expectancy. We know that heart disease and type-2 diabetes shorten a person’s lifespan, but what happens when we talk about children under the age of 10 with these “adult” conditions? A study performed in 2005 projected that if obesity among children continues to increase, the current generation of children will live shorter lives than their parents. Let’s hear this just one more time: if childhood obesity trends continue, children born now may die before their parents. This is an utterly terrifying thought. This projection means that obesity is not only more expensive, but also, more dangerous to a person’s health than smoking cigarettes. With obese youth being 80% more likely to become overweight or obese adults and, therefore, more at risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, cancer, and osteoarthritis, it’s not too difficult to see that shorter lifespan could become a problem. Childhood obesity is a dire issue. These 10 facts underscore the necessity for a healthy diet and active lifestyle at all ages, but especially for children.
Special Contributor:  Corrine Smith

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Parenting Toddlers to Teens: What Happened?

  • What happened to that sweet 5 year-old you sent off to Kindergarten?
  • What happened to that athletic tween that loved T-Ball?
  • What happened to my little angel that loved going to the mall with me?
  • What happened to my child that always worked so hard to get good grades and always worked to make me proud?

Where did my kind son go?
Where did their childhood go?

Today's society is challenging for teenagers - but can be even more distressful for their parents.  When slowly they watch their good child turn into a tween or teen that they barely recognized.  Underneath the questionable clothing, the piercings we had to reluctantly agree to - and the tattoos they got on their own - our child is deep in there somewhere!

After exhausting all local resources, whether it is an excellent adolescent therapist to local support groups and even out-patient facilities, you are looking at a teen that is heading down a dark road.  It is time for parents to dig deep and find the strength to get their teen the help they need - unfortunately it usually is not at home.

Residential therapy is a big step and a step not to take lightly.  Are you considering a Residential Treatment Center, Therapeutic Boarding School, Military School or other out of home options?  Learn about the differences and find what is best for your teen - visit

Read Wit's End! Advice and Resources for Saving Your Out-of-Control Teen today!