What Do You Do When Your Teen Tells You She Intends To Run Away?

June 11, 2012

(h/t to Mzchief for providing me with the link to Kathryn Joyce’s article titled Horror Stories From Tough-Love Teen Homes, published by Mother Jones (July/August 2011). See link below.)

The sound of duct tape ripped back.

I will never forget it as long as I live. One day many years ago, my ex-wife and biological mother of my daughter, came over to my house bearing a packed suitcase and a large roll of duct tape. She rang the doorbell at precisely 11 am and I stumbled over my packed suitcase, which I had placed on the floor next to the door only a few moments before.

I recovered and opened the door feeling like a traitor and not knowing what to say. A lump formed in my throat and I couldn’t speak. We were about to do something unspeakable, kidnap our daughter and drive her to a school for troubled teens, and drop her off for two years.

I remember sitting at the dining room table across from her mother as she ripped pieces of tape and stuck them to the edge of the table. Each piece dangled down, curling at the end.

We waited in silence.

For privacy reasons I am certain y’all will understand and respect, I will not recount the grisly details of what led us to this point. Let me put it this way. We did not come to this decision easily and we desperately feared for her safety and even her life.

She was fourteen, living with me, but I had not seen much of her because she had dropped out of school, was staying out all night, and was planning to move out. The few conversations we had quickly turned into screaming matches and it was absolutely clear that she was not going to listen to, much less obey me.

What does a parent do in a situation like that?

Fortunately, she had not gotten into any legal trouble, but that would only be a matter of time, if she survived that long. A pretty 14-year-old girl would be nothing more than fresh meat on the streets of Seattle. I was certain of that because I had represented teenage girls turned out as prostitutes when I handled juvenile court cases as a public defender in the late seventies. I also had represented pimps in adult court and men who had murdered young girls my daughter’s age. I knew what happens to homeless girls living on the run and no matter how emotionally painful and intellectually objectionable, I was not going to allow that to happen to my daughter.

I talked to her mother about the situation and we reviewed our options, which were not very many. Ultimately, we settled on a two-year residential program a few miles from Bonner’s Ferry, ID, called the Rocky Mountain Academy. RMA was a part of the CEDU system of schools.

I am not sure whether it exists anymore

Fortunately, our daughter submitted without a fight and we dropped her off at RMA early the next morning.

I cannot describe the pain and the relief and the guilt I felt when we dropped her off.

She made it through a tough behavioral modification program and graduated two years later. About all I can say about the program today is that I am grateful they kept her safe and at least they did not abuse her physically.

For more information on CEDU Schools and RMA, go here for the first part of a multi-part documentary by Liam Scheff.

I am very proud of her. She’s 31 years old, self-employed, self-confident, happy and beautiful.

The tough-love schools for teens are an unregulated national nightmare of unqualified, untrained and, in some cases dangerous people, subjecting children to behavior modification using psychological abuse and, in some cases physical abuse, including torture.

Please read Kathryn Joyce’s article titled, Horror Stories From Tough Love Teen Homes, published by Mother Jones (July/August 2011).


%d bloggers like this: