FamilyLightsm: Successor to Bridge to Understanding
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Programs and More

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          Determining Need

          Guidelines <<


               Basic and Core Issues



               Emotional Growth



               Addiction and Substance Abuse

               Short Term


               Length of Stay

               Case Management




               Marketing and Promotion




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     Reserved for later

     Reserved for later







These guidelines now complete were prepared to alert people searching for residential facilities, whether parents or professionals, to issues that often do not get sufficient attention even in the best of schools, treatment centers and programs. We may have under-emphasized standard characteristics that we think most well run programs attempt to meet and most people considering these facilities think about. This is intended to call attention to the issues that make a difference among the better resources.

If we had known when we started this project all that we learned through 2008 developing these guidelines, we would have organized the website differently with guidelines in a more prominent place and the section organized differently within.  However, now that we have created this particular outline for the website, re-arranging is simply a bigger task than we are prepared to take on.  Therefore we will keep the present organization of the web-site, but gradually add navigation aids. 

Although complete, we anticipate the guidelines progressively adjusting and maturing with experience and feedback.

  • This starts out as a set of guidelines from just one consulting firm and that may seem presumptuous.  But Tom Croke in that firm brings 40 years of experience in dealing with special needs issues and more than 15 as an educational consultant,  as of 2008 when the guidelines postings were begun.  More importantly we hope to mature these guidelines with input from many additional sources with some of the benefits of an "open source" resource.  We don't expect these guidelines to become law, but we do think they represent issues that ought to be considered in every search or enrollment.  We welcome and will publish vigorous but respectful dissent.  Hopefully our point of view will never be the final word but will be the opening for well-reasoned discussion.
  • No program that we are aware of meets all proposed criteria.  We attempt to be clear which criteria are commonly met currently and which are rarely met.

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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 no advertising nor referral fees. The only revenue at FamilyLightsm comes from client fees. 

  • We intend to encourage programs to meet these criteria
  • We are guided in our referral process by the degree to which programs conform to these guidelines.  We encourage parents doing web searches to do the same.
  • We use the word “client” to describe any young person who might be enrolled in any of the programs referenced here.  Others might apply the terms “student,” “patient,” “struggling teen,” “resident,” or some other term, and that term might be more appropriate in some situations.
  • We use the term “program” to refer to therapeutic schools, emotional growth schools, wilderness programs, residential treatment centers, group homes and other points of service where clients live at the point of service rather than in their own homes.

These are our current and anticipated areas where we suggest guidelines: 

  1. FamilyLightsmGuidelines for Safety
  2. FamilyLightsmGuidelines for Basic and Core Issues
  3. FamilyLightsmGuidelines for Clinical Resources
  4. FamilyLightsmGuidelines for Staffing
  5. FamilyLightsmGuidelines for Emotional Growth Programming
  6. FamilyLightsmGuidelines for Transition and Aftercare
  7. FamilyLightsmGuidelines for Family Participation
  8. FamilyLightsmGuidelines for Addiction and Substance Abuse
  9. FamilyLightsmGuidelines for Short Term Evaluation and Treatment Programs
  10. FamilyLightsmGuidelines for Wilderness Programs
  11. FamilyLightsmGuidelines for Length of Stay
  12. FamilyLightsmGuidelines for Case Management
  13. FamilyLightsmGuidelines for Spiritual Life and Development
  14. FamilyLightsmGuidelines for Use of Transports or Escorts
  15. FamilyLightsmGuidelines for Educational Services in Treatment and Emotional Growth Programs
  16. FamilyLightsm Guidelines for Marketing and Promotion
  17. FamilyLightsmGuidelines for Communication
  18. FamilyLightsmGuidelines for School and Program Ownership
  19. FamilyLightsmGuidelines for Outcomes
  20. FamilyLightsmGuidelines for Referral Sources
  21. FamilyLightsmGuidelines for Admission
  22. FamilyLightsmExtra Credit Guidelines

Feedback is invited. We will publish selected feedback.  Email:

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  1-17-09;  minor edits  9-28-10

                                    "Solutions, Not Just Referrals"

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