Are Boot Camps Safe for Your Child?

By Elisabeth Wilkins

Has anyone out there ever sent their teen to a boot camp, and if so, was it a good experience for your child? I’ve heard good and bad things over the years, myself. My friend’s son had a great experience at wilderness camp, and really turned his life around. Another friend’s teen-age son also had an incredible experience at a similar type of camp, but in his case the life-changing part only lasted about 2 weeks, according to my friend, when he reverted to his old ways once home. So far I haven’t personally known anyone who has been injured or hurt at camp, but I’m curious to hear if any of you have.

In fact, if you follow the news on boot camps, you’ve probably heard that teen therapeutic camps have been in the spotlight this past year for what the government has called a “risk of abuse, injury or death.” These seem to have occurred mainly at private, unaccredited camps–of which there are many all over the country.

During the congressional hearing, parents and GAO investigators detailed abuses that their children went through at certain (usually unaccredited) camps, including being made to eat their own vomit and to sleep in feces and urine.  There are at least ten cases where children actually died due to negligence on the part of the camp they attended, and that number is growing.

While many of these publicly- funded camps are regulated in their individual states, often private camps are not. A good resource to use to check the credibility of boot camps is The National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs, Their website includes information on different programs, referring professionals, and program directories.

Has anyone out there sent their teen or pre-teen to bootcamp, wilderness camp or something similar? Please let us know how it went, and cast your vote–would you recommend this to other parents, provided the camp was a good one?

About Elisabeth Wilkins

Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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