Before you enroll your teenager in a program, consider:

  1. Be cautious and seek qualified consultation if you intend to enroll your child in a program that is likely to recommend one of their programs next. Most programs refer to their "family" of programs exclusively and make minimal effort to refer students to other programs that would be more appropriate.

  2. Ask the program if they pay incentives to their staff when they make a successful referral to a programs in their "family" of services.

  3. Read the contract and give it to a qualified attorney for review. Sign no contract that allows a program to keep your tuition or charge you the balance of your tuition if your child becomes ill, is expelled or runs away.

  4. Do not enroll your child in a program that has runaways and is not required to take students back if they keep your child's tuition and deposits. Ask the program how many runaways they have a month or per year (verify this by calling local law enforcement).

  5. Put all verbally expressed exceptions to the contract in writing. Write a letter of understanding if necessary or write the exceptions directly on the original contract.

  6. Do not sign a contract, make payment or agree to pay for services not rendered in advance if the program does not offer external appeal or binding arbitration regarding requested exceptions. The program should state in writing that the remaining tuition and deposits will be refunded if a qualified professional determines that your child is not or was not benefiting from that program.

  7. Never sign a contract unless the contract states that the well-being of the child is paramount and that no contractual obligation supersedes that child's health and emotional well-being.

  8. Never sign a contract that potentially allows the program to withhold your child's school credits or degree until you pay for services that were not rendered.

  9. Do not enroll a child in a program that does not explicitly outline the basis of the exceptions to the contract that would require a refund or would void your contractual obligation.

  10. Do not use your credit card to make payments beyond the initial payment. If you use your credit card, inform your credit card company that you do not authorize further charges to the school without your permission.

Programs For Troubled Youth That Profit From Failure: How To Protect Yourself (

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