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Teen Boot Camps - Are They Effective?

Teen boot camps came into being as an alternative to jail for juvenile delinquents. Research has shown that the recidivism rate for juvenile offenders who have attended a "teen boot camp" is very high (over 90%).

Why would a parent want to send a troubled teen to a program that was originally intended for adolescents who have been prosecuted for criminal acts? It is not an environment intended to modify behavior through self-understanding. It is an environment that seeks to scare kids straight, a method that has proven time and again to have only short-term results.

Whatever program or therapeutic approach you choose for your struggling adolescent, you should take into consideration the long-term impact of the choice. If a child undergoes significant behavioral and emotional changes in a therapeutic program, the long-term success rate will be much higher as has been shown in a wilderness therapy study.

Many times parents want a "quick fix" for their troubled teen. How many years did it take to end up with a sullen, belligerent, hostile child? You won't fix it overnight. Focusing on a long-term plan in which the intervention is therapeutic and emphasizes behavioral change through the acceptance of personal responsibility will improve the outlook for your child.

Teen boot camps are rarely the best choice for a truly troubled teenager. They need to face their basic emotional and behavioral issues as well as discover and be taught behaviors and positive interactions that will improve their academic performance, personal relationships, and personal success. It is change that occurs through self-revelation that has the longest and most permanent effect on any human being. Give your child the opportunity to learn more about himself or herself, and then discover that he or she can be a positive part of the community.

"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


Teen boot camps, are teen boot camps effective? What are the alternatives to teen boot camps?

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