Choosing Among Troubled Youth Programs may be the Most Important Decision You Will Ever Make for Your Child’s Future.
Troubled youth programs can help if you’re at the end of your rope or your child's been pulled out of school, and you'll have some important choices to make quickly.
In choosing among troubled youth programs you may be considering placing one of the most important persons in your life into the care of another. You may also hope your child will come back healed - or well on the way to recovery from addiction, trauma, abuse, or illness. As well, you may expect the young person to return having learned new skills and acquired effective tools help them make better decisions.
There are many expectations involved in the selection of a youth program. An effective program can help a youth stay out of trouble, in school, and off drugs or alcohol. New skills and self esteem can also help with sexual precociousness, oppositional-defiant disorder, as well as various forms of acting out.
There are some questions you need to ask yourself, your family, your child and the program organizers when making the very important choice between troubled youth programs.
What are you looking for in a youth program? Is recovery from drugs or alcohol necessary? Would you like to see improved discipline and decision-making abilities? Would increased emotional intelligence and emotion management techniques provide a tangible benefit for you and your family? Knowing your priorities for which needs are to be addressed can help assure the outcomes you wish.
Another question to be asked is what special needs does the participant have? Are there physical or mental challenges to be accommodated? Is the program tailored to accommodate the unique abilities and needs of each client? A cookie-cutter or one-size-fits-all approach may not work for your child and may bring out a more oppositional response or resentment towards you. These tough “boot camp” programs may result in the opposite outcome than you had hoped. Youth may be angry and blame you for not understanding them and sensing their needs and may withdraw as a result.
This is a delicate process and it requires great expertise and care. You need to know if clients supported in participating fully in the program. Are they encouraged to try something new in a way that allows them to step out of their comfort zone – maybe into something emotionally vulnerable such as expressing their feelings or facing failure?
The kind of one-on-one time provided in a program will influence the outcomes. People can feel “alone in a crowd” if they feel their needs aren’t being focused upon in a group setting. Alternately, if a participant is left alone often, they may choose to ruminate on negative or self-defeating thoughts or focus on thinking about their resistance to the troubled youth programs'goals.
This unstructured alone time can undermine the program’s progress and work against the interventions being implemented. Time needs to be spent accessing how participants are responding to the curriculum and coming up with alternative approaches to more effectively reach individuals based on how they are responding.
The types of practices used at a facility need to be examined. Outdated approaches may lack scientific backing or support and may be based on practices such as shaming, over-disciplining in an ineffective way, or brutal and harsh methodologies verging on abuse. Many tough boot camp approaches will not work on particular individuals – and may actually cause harm.
Communication skills need to be taught in order to have successful outcomes. Skills such as knowing what one is feeling, talking about emotions, and dealing with issues which are sometimes uncomfortable need to be modelled and practiced by program leaders as part all troubled youth programs.
Follow-through needs to be maintained through the teaching of effective skills for self-management. If participants simply follow a curriculum while they are in a program and leave with no tools for continued personal success then the program is a failure. Individuals need to be taught better ways to make decisions, manage emotions, and care for themselves in ways that are going to last and provide enhanced levels of personal performance and increased functioning.
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