FamilyLight sm:Successor to "Bridge to Understanding sm"
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The program reviewed here is not, and has no connection with Stillwater Academy Turnabout in South Jordon, Utah.
Turn-About Ranch is a program in which FamilyLight sm had lost confidence even prior to the closing of the New Leaf, North Carolina, program.
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As a motivational introduction to a longer treatment, the concept of Turn-About Ranch has serious potential, although a revision of procedures when a student first arrives at Roundy Camp would be the minimum necessary before we could designate this a "Positive Intervention sm" program. As a program to come even close to a meeting our guidelines for returning home expecting stability, we would need to see a very significant intensification of family therapy and an opportunity for at least two visits home before going home to stay. We would also expect that transition home to be supported by a transition service. Without these changes, in addition to a number of others we will not be supporting use of this facility for out of control teen agers to enroll then immediately return home.
Caution note/ Disclaimer: It is possible that there have been very recent improvements at Turn-About Ranch that we are not reporting here. However, if so, we have heard nothing about it. If the concerns we are indicating are of concern to the reader, you will want to verify that correction has occurred. As of the date of this writing, we are unaware of any such corrections.
Aspen promotes this program as being appropriate to families who can't afford longer term services. We are concerned that those families are exactly the families most likely to expend their limited resources on a program that might not produce hoped-for results. After experience in monitoring the progress of students going through Turn-About Ranch and comparing the procedures with programs we believe are successful, we cannot have confidence in Turn-About Ranch as place where parents wanting a quick, economical "turnabout" will find success.
We would very much like to see Turn-About Ranch become a program promoted as an alternative to wilderness for teens who will likely go on to a further therapeutic placement. Unlike wilderness, students at Turn-About can and will continue their schooling. (We are concerned about the amount of credit a student might realistically accumulate while at Turn-About Ranch might be exaggerated in the promotion of the program). We appreciate the fact that Turn-About Ranch accommodates type one diabetic students. This, and the ability to accommodate many students who would not be able to manage wilderness physically and the fact that many students will simply adapt better to a ranch setting than a wilderness setting encourages us in that direction. We do not doubt that some residents at Turn-About will demonstrate readiness to return home following Turn-About Ranch, but we do not think Turn-About Ranch has credibility marketing itself as being generally able to return out of control teenagers successfully to their homes. For the minority who could be credibly assessed as appropriate for return home following Turn-About Ranch, we want to see an upgrade of family and transition services to provide adequate support for that to happen successfully.
We are also concerned about the references to the Aspen Outcome Study in promoting this program. This study was based on data from a range of Aspen schools, of which all but Turn-About Ranch were long term. As such we perceive no relevance between the findings of the study and the specific situation at Turn-About Ranch. In the past we have heard an admission person from Turn-About Ranch refer to this study as if it is specifically about Turn-About Ranch. At issue is that while there is quality programming in the Aspen Education Group, especially in the schools and programs in the East, we do not perceive consistent quality, and we have no confidence at all in Aspen Marketing.
We regret the need for this reluctance, as the over-all concept here could, with a few improvements, be a very productive and effective alternative to wilderness programming. However, we do not believe that a program of this length and design can be generally effective with teens who need to come into the program involuntarily.
Some specific improvements we would like to see:
1. Discontinue all activities that students/ residents are likely to experience as punitive, and the "one size fits all" approach that most teens would experience as punitive. Permit students upon arrival to move directly into the "Bunkhouse" area for an initial assessment. Prescribe the course of treatment (this is licensed as a Residential Treatment Center, not a corrections facility) based upon that initial assessmemnt.
2. Limit the use of Roundy Camp to students whose initial assessment or subsequent behavior demonstrates the need for it.
3. Institute training and accountability with the "Ranch Staff" so that they understand clearly that they are working in a mental health context and have both skill and the willingness to respond to students with different mental health issues differently according to their needs and that they must not take a "one size fits all" approach based upon approaches that are appropriate to individual assessment needs. We are particularly concerned with increased sensitivity to people on the PDD/ Autism/ Aspergers spectrum. We believe these people tend to have good common sense in approaching psychiatrically uncomplicated oppositional, defiant, and conduct disorder kinds of kids.
4. Ensure that interaction between students and ranch staff is guided by direction from each student's individual therapist and each ranch staff person is held strictly accountable for following that direction. (We have no problem with a team approach where decisions are made be consensus, based upon input from both ranch staff and therapist, but one size fits all approach is unacceptable to us in any residential treatment center.)
5. Base projections and recommendations regarding care following Turn-About Ranch on objective assessments rather than marketing considerations. Ensure that students recommended to go on to further residential care are not demoralized by being in the position of seeing peers obviously functioning less well being recommended home immediately after Turn-About Ranch. Again, these recommendations need to be based upon honest assessments rather than marketing considerations.
6. Substantially upgrade family involvement and transition services for students projected to go directly home. We have no problem with those services as the program now operates for those going on to further residential care.
We continue to believe that Turn-About Ranch has great potential as an alternative to wilderness programming for people going on to longer treatment. We are not convinced that the program has credibility for families seeking to have a permanent change in an out of control teenager in 100 days.
Feedback is invited. We will publish any feedback in good taste. Email FamilyLightResponse@yahoo.com
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.
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Last updated 6-2-2010; deletion 2-1-2013
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