Family Foundation School
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August 6, 2013:  This review, written four years ago is obsolete due to the fact that it does not reflect the great improvements that have been implemented since this was written.   A current review is underway.  The introductory two paragraphs are accessible at on our Family Foundation School (Introduction) page, which is open to the public.  The full review, when complete, will be on the Family Foundation School page, accessible only to members.    

This school is one that FamilyLight sm holds in high regard. We expect to revise what we have written extensively if and when we get a response to our questionnaire.   This is a school with which we have differences but also for which we have a great deal of affection.   

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FamilyLightsm is an educational consulting firm specializing in work with families with a young person with behavioral, emotional or psychological difficulties.  We offer in-depth personal guidance to families on a fee basis and free guidance on the internet. FamilyLightsm attempts to be fully objective and accepts neither advertising nor referral fees.

Family Foundation School always presents us with a dilemma.  In so many ways it is the best of the best.  They also have practices we would like to see changed. We see slow but steady improvement where we desire change.  In order to understand Family Foundation School, we believe one must understand some aspects of its history. 

The school began in the home of  Tony and Betty Argiros.  Tony and Betty were alcoholics in recovery. As part of their twelfth step work they welcomed young people struggling with recovery into their home.  At some point, some of the people who came home were underage.  This required Tony and Betty to become licensed as foster parents.  At some point the number grew beyond the number of foster children allowed.  At that point Tony and Betty sought a legal way to continue to give young people in recovery, who were still minors, a safe place to live.  They came to the conclusion that the best way to do this was to become licensed as a school.  Since they were already "homeschooling" some of their residents, it was a  logical step, and Family Foundation School was born, in Tony and Betty's home.  

There are two things that are important here.  Tony and Betty did not set out on this venture planning to found a school.  Making their twelfth step service into a school was a means to an entirely different end.  Tony and Betty were not motivated by money.  They made the sad discovery that they could not continue to reach out in this manner unless someone provided them with some money. 

Rumor has it that Tony and Betty ran a tight ship.  The early Family Foundation School was a "my way or the highway" kind of place.  Tony and Betty lived tough love in its true sense -- not the perverse version we usually hear about today.  They absolutely loved every person who came seeking recovery.  They loved them enough to be willing to be tough when they behaved in a less than constructive manner. Tony and Betty understood that the lives of those young people were on the line.  Tony and Betty were also  devout Roman Catholics.  They advocated that each person in recovery find his or her own higher power  -- whatever/ whoever/ wherever they might find as a higher power. But they understood their own higher power as the God worshiped in the Roman Catholic Church. 

The culture created by that history has defined the school.   There is no emotional growth, therapeutic, or twelve step recovery school that offers more for the amount of money charged.  Until Bob Runge, former construction manager and recovering person, took over the business function approximately 1990, Tony Argiros would simply admit any kid they thought they could help and he would worry about money later.   Until that time the school was always on the edge, financially. 

Family Foundation School continues to be defined by the love, the firmness, and the spirituality of Tony and Betty's home.  It is also defined by the rich (in spirit and talent) community of faculty and staff who were at one time nearly all twelve steppers.  At present and in the recent past, this has been shifted by design to be approximately 50% twelve step people and 50% not.  This faculty brings immense talent to bear on the student body and functions with an exceptional sense of dedication.

Another special attribute of Family Foundation School is the unusually rich extracurricular program and the particularly outstanding offerings in the arts. 

We do not see Family Foundation School as an immediate candidate for a Positive Intervention sm designation.  With great respect, we don't expect Family Foundation School to rush out and change their procedures in order to secure that designation.  As firmly as we believe in promoting our Positive Intervention sm guidelines, we believe a sudden turn in that direction would destroy the culture and cohesiveness of the school that is the source of its quality.  We recognize that the firm hand of Family Foundation School creates a sense of security for some that would be harder to achieve in a school fully compliant with our Positive Intervention sm guidelines. We also recognize that a sometimes heavy hand at Family Foundation School, as some have interpreted Tony and Betty's tough love, have led to some of the complaints from past students we see on the Internet.  Some of what apparently took place in the past was not appropriate, at least not by today's standards and some would argue that some things were never appropriate.  Yet we believe that the people who operated Family Foundation School then as now chose their methods because they believed what they were doing then and (with updates and changes) what they do now was/ is the best way to save the lives of young people seriously at risk for dying of alcoholism and other addictions.  And they do self-evaluate and grow with the times.

We hope to see Family Foundation School continue to evolve over time to meet our guidelines more precisely.  At this time we believe they are a model for what we want to see of others in addressing religion and spirituality. We see one of the highest quality academic programs in any school addressing behavioral issues, at least with students capable of mainstream education.  We appreciate the quality of their twelve-step work recognizing that their students might identify something other than drugs or alcohol as that over which they are powerless as they approach their first step of the twelve.  But anyone who says that young people can't accept the powerlessness  and spirituality components of twelve step work has not observed Family Foundation School. 

We are anxious to receive a completed questionnaire from Family.  We will be looking for evidence of individualization in planning for each student, adoption of Stages of Change and Motivational Interviewing into a steadfast program of twelve step recovery, further adaptation to learning differences, among other things.  We will be interested in what they say about transition from the school.

We have referred to Family Foundation School and we have expressed differences in discussions with Family Foundation School.  We will probably continue to do both.  We will continue to nudge them in the direction of our guidelines.  Where they don't agree, they will resist. That resistance will be based solely on an honest belief on their part that to continue to resist our input is essential to saving the lives of their students, and that is the sole reason for their existence.

August 6, 2013:  This review, written four years ago is obsolete due to the fact that it does not reflect the great improvements that have been implemented since this was written.   A current review is underway.  The introductory two paragraphs are accessible at on our Family Foundation School (Introduction) page, which is open to the public.  The full review, when complete, will be on the Family Foundation School page, accessible only to members.    

Official web site of Family Foundation School

Family Foundation School Responds To Congressman Miller's Legislation (Woodbury)

Return to Individual Schools and Programs Index

Peterson's description (PDF)

Peterson's Page on Family Foundation School

Visit Report from Woodbury Reports

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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 assert something as fact, we have done our best to be accurate, but we cannot guarantee that all of our information is accurate and up to date. 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. Readers are responsible for verifying accuracy of information supplied here prior to acting upon it. We are not responsible for inaccuracies.

Last updated  5-16-09;changed to archive status on August 6, 2013 with appropriate notations added. 

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