Tips for Parents looking for At Risk Youth Programs
June 1, 2016

We have put together 5 quick points to review for parents looking for programs for at risk youth

  1. Check for national accreditation.  This seems like a normal and easy thing to do, it is. Programs that operate legally, and without any prior issues will gladly share their accreditation.  This is used to help programs maintain a level of safety standards, and high levels of care. There are big ones to look for and ask about, here are a few of the largest accreditation programs to ask about:
    1. CARF- CARF has been around for 50 years and help families to know they can put their trust into a therapeutic program. http://www.carf.org/home/
    2. JCAHO or The Joint Commission- This is one of the most difficult accreditations to receive. Programs have to work hard to earn and keep JCAHO accreditation.  https://www.jointcommission.org/
    3. NATSAP- The National Association of Therapeutic School and Program is the leading accreditation association for at risk programs.  This is one of the most basic things to look for in a wilderness or residential program. https://www.natsap.org/

“The Joint Commission is the hardest accreditation to earn and the most important for our parents to see. For a lot of insurance companies having a JCAHO accreditation is necessary to offer any insurance reimbursement.”

Jennifer Wilde, Executive Clinical Director, Elevations RTC

2. Ask to tour the facility.  Most programs have a policy when it comes from touring.  This is a great chance to see what day to day life is like for teens at the programs.  You can see the kids there, speak with kids in the program, and get a chance to connect with the therapists and staff that will be working with your child.

3. Ask for references from past parents.  Again, it may seem simple but parents who have been in your shoes before will give you valuable insight as to the program and how well it works.  They can share their experience and answer your questions from a parent’s experience.

4. Look online at reviews. Google and Yelp are great resources for at risk youth programs.  A lot of time you will hear from one sided negative sources.  Use the negative reviews to open up a dialogue with a program about their challenges.  Sometimes these are exaggerated or wrong, but they still have good points to talk to a program about.

5. Go with your gut. At risk youth programs are tough to choose. At the end of the day your intuition is the most reliable source.  If after connecting with the program and working through this list you don’t have a positive feeling about a program then keep looking.

Finding the right program is important.  For your family at risk youth programs may be the best chance at helping your child be successful long term.

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