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What Are Boot Camps?

Boot camps are military-style, semi-penal institutions that use discipline, military exercises, and rigorous physical training to "break" a defiant adolescent and supposedly return home a "good soldier" who will obey authority, follow rules, and improve behavior at home and school. There is no therapy, no psychological intervention to address underlying emotional or behavioral problems that may have been developing over many years. The theory is that a swift "kick in the pants" will turn around a child who has probably been acting out for years.

There is more than one type of boot camp. Some are state-run substitutes for juvenile jail. Some are privately run "get tough" camps where the "guards" enforce strict rules, some of them simply there for no other reason than to challenge the student to follow the rules or break them, force physical exertion (forced long runs and obstacle courses), and generally shake up the child's perception of reality. Of course, this isn't reality. Most of us do not live in a boot camp or military atmosphere in the real world. These boot camps were created as a short-term alternative to military boarding schools. The idea is that you break the child's will (spirit?) and teach them that they are not the center of the universe.

However, many therapists would disagree that such a tactic results in a well-adjusted, responsible young adult. The recidivism rate of juveniles who attend state-run boot camps has been said to be as high as 94%. That does not say much for the success of this model of rehabilitation.

"Military-style boot camps have been haunted by abusive staff members, even as they were being touted as cheap, effective prison space-savers and politically tasty." David J. Krajicek, MSNBC, December 23, 1999

"Seven guards from Maryland's boot camps for juvenile offenders have been fired for assaulting delinquents in their care, officials said yesterday as criminal investigations continued into a pattern of abuse spanning more than three years." Baltimore Sun, January 11, 2000

"Boot camps use military discipline to try to turn rebellious youngsters' lives around. But over the past decade, as the popularity of such camps has grown, so have abuse allegations, lawsuits and deaths." Nando Times, July 6,2001

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Turn About RanchTurn-About Ranch

Real Ranch. Real Values. Real Change.

Few images capture the imagination more strongly than that of the American Cowboy - this powerful icon of the American West captivates and inspires teens who have become jaded and hostile toward authority. The Ranch setting takes defiant teens out of their comfort zone and reminds them that success is achieved through teamwork and cooperation, not through entitlement and manipulation. They learn that while they might feel entitled to get what they want, when they want it, in the real world rewards come through dedication and hard work.

Turn-About Ranch differs from typical residential treatment centers for troubled teens because it values action not just talk. Your teen participates in therapy and goes to school, but they also participate in the daily running of the ranch. They feed the chickens at dawn and bring the cows in before dusk. These real-life experiences enhance the therapeutic process - we put behavioral changes in action, which is much more effective than just talking about changing behavior.

If you would like to discuss these options with an advisor, please call

866-879-8495