Boot Camp - is It the Right Choice for Your Troubled Teen?


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Chances are that you have probably seen or heard about a “boot camp” approach for working with troubled teens. You may have seen it on a news program or talk show. Sometimes the abuse at these camps has led to the death of a participant. But, these camps are still in business. Are they all bad? Is there any value to the “tough love” principles that many of these camps are based on? For those who have a troubled teenager, they may see this as a better alternative than a juvenile detention center. What is the truth? Here are some facts about these boot camp programs.

1. Studies have shown that for both youth and adults the rate that people return to illegal activity after these types of camps is the same as if they go to any other type of facility. The changes don’t appear to make a difference long term even though most of the offenders in these camps are non-violent or first-time offenders and they also offer follow up care and counseling.

2. The boot camp approach is more costly than the juvenile detention facility and probation, so it does not save the judicial system any money. This is because it is usually longer term and requires more staff.

3. The “in-your-face” confrontational approach that is taken in many of these camps is not a good way to teach positive social behavior. With the types of populations that are generally sent to a boot camp, that have very little background in positive role models, they don’t know how to differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate social interaction.

4. Once the youth leave the boot camp they need follow up care and counseling because they do not retain many of the positive skills and behaviors that they learned while in the camp.

5. It has been found that a family based community program is a better alternative to the boot camp approach. Since many of the problems that these youth are having are based on their family situation, it is necessary to work with the whole family to make the changes that will be longer lasting. Most boot camp programs do not involve the whole family.

If you are still thinking about this type of camp for your teen, make sure that the camp has good follow up care and counseling, involves the whole family, and does not use a negative discipline approach.

Eriani Doye writes articles for Home and Family. For more information about boot camps visit


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