Benchmark Parent Commentary  
 

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This article was originally published in Bridge to Understanding, we think approximately 1999. We will continue to search for more specific information on the date in question.  It was the contribution of one of our parent-clients.  We generally did not edit such articles unless to make minimal corrections in spelling or grammar.  We reprint it because it addresses directly some of the recent criticisms directed at Benchmark. 

At that time, we ran a feature in each monthly issue, called "Parents' Corner."  In this feature, parents of young people we have worked with described their experiences.  (We are considering re-creating that feature on this website). 

Welcome to Bridge to Understanding Online!  We are the most complete resource on the web for information about programs, facilities, and schools helping young people not meeting expectations.

PARENT'S CORNER

Benchmark -- A Parent's Perspective

As our daughter Melissa turned 18, she was expelled from her fourth residential program. We enrolled her in Benchmark – mostly because we were desperate and that was the only program what would take her.

As she did in her other residential programs, after about a month, Melissa began to act out with extremely anti-social behavior. Once again, she fell into a cycle of not making friends and with her attitude and behavior, turned away anyone who tried to get close to her. Her self esteem plummeted and depression and thoughts and acts of self harm took over.

The night before our first visit (for which we flew 3,000 miles) Melissa swallowed a bottle of Advil. Because we had no other choice than to buy into the Benchmark philosophy, rather than ignore the incident, we accepted that our visit with Melissa would be only 15 minutes and we returned home. Melissa got the message that Benchmark and we were serious about setting limits.

Melissa continued to struggle. The difference with Benchmark was that they didn't use a “policy manual” approach to her. They were the first program to not continuously demand that Melissa try harder to behave and fit in with the group. Their approach to “time out” for her behavior was to remove her from the group setting and have her live in a motel for a while.

As parents, we were shocked and worried and could never imagine that Melissa would survive – even a day. Given that the law saw Melissa as an adult and we could not manipulate her circumstances like we could only a month prior, we held our breath and tried to remain optimistic.

The most amazing twist of all – nothing terrible happened! Melissa herself pointed out that she felt better and was coping with a lot less stress and a better attitude. So, by turning what began as “time out” into a daily routine, Benchmark had her stay longer in the motel. Her incentive to improve her behavior was the promise of moving to a place with fewer roaches.

The pressure was off to keep up with the other kids in the program and Melissa had only herself to worry about. With each new success of making it through each day in the real world, self-esteem began to emerge. The anti-social behaviors slowed way down and Melissa took herself (successfully) off all her meds.

She never did move back to the group setting. Her social and life skills improved immensely.

Now, twenty months into the program, Melissa is living on a limited budget in her own studio apartment, loving her part time job, taking advantage of part time school opportunities and slowly making friends. Our relationship with her has never been better. We are thrilled to respond to the “How's Melissa?” question with – “She's terrific!”

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Disclaimer: No  program review, no matter how positive, is a blanket endorsement. No criticism is a blanket condemnation.  When we express our level of confidence in a school or program, that is our subjective opinion with which others might reasonably disagree.  When we address compliance with our guidelines, you need to remember that these are only OUR guidelines -- not guidelines from an official source.  We have also set the bar very high, and do not expect any school or program to be in total compliance.  It is not appropriate to draw a conclusion of impropriety (or even failure to live up to conventional wisdom) from our lack of confidence in a school or program or from less than perfect conformity to our guidelines.  Some will say we expect too much.

Last updated 6-21-08

 


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