When investigating the variety of options for your child you may find yourself entering into conversations with Admissions Counselors (or psychologists doing assessments or testing) who will ask probing, and personal, questions about you, your family, and your child. Depending on the type of placement you’re investigating, be prepared to get questions which range all the way back to prenatal and birth experiences, questions about adoption and family dynamics, questions about developmental milestones, and inquiries about medical history, history of drug, physical, or emotional abuse, questions about school performance and experiences, and questions about past, recent, and current behaviors both in and out of the home environment.
While the intention is always to do this in a respectful and supportive manner, it’s possible that a parent might feel embarrassed, defensive, or unsure of what to disclose to a stranger. While all of these feelings are perfectly normal, it’s also important to remember that while you’re shopping around for programs that feel like a fit for you and your family, the program is also doing their due diligence to make sure they can serve your child (and your entire family) in the best way possible.
While parents may not know everything about their child’s history or experiences, sharing what you do know is an important step in the process. Don’t be afraid, or ashamed, to share even the worst-case or scariest incidents, as often these provide vital information for a program evaluating their capacity to help your family. You’ll be talking to non-judgemental and supportive professionals who will treat you with respect and confidentiality, and hearing these stories are an important part of the evaluation process.
One of the worst mistakes a family can make is to hide or gloss over elements of the struggle they’re facing. The temptation to do this may come from a well-intentioned desire to secure a spot in a program that your family really likes, out of fear of admitting or facing the types of challenges your child is experiencing, or out of shame or guilt for the past. Unfortunately, a lack of transparency can lead to a program inadvertently accepting a student that they are not, in fact, equipped to support. This can result in lost time, money, energy, effort, and even be damaging to the overall therapeutic process for your child.
If you are taking the steps to evaluate therapeutic placements for your child remember that the program’s goal is to enroll clients they can help; the information you disclose is a key ingredient in helping find the right mix of support and structure and intervention. By trusting in the application process, and engaging honestly with Admissions professionals - including providing full disclosure - you’ll be taking the first steps toward finding the help you, and your family, needs.
ABOUT THE AUTHORJake Weld holds a masters degree in education and has over twenty years of experience in traditional, LD, and therapeutic schools, adolescent and young adult programs, and conventional, wilderness, and residential settings. He has served as the Executive Director of a therapeutic boarding school, the Assistant Headmaster of a specialized LD boarding school, and as the Academic and Program Director of various schools and programs. He is currently the Director of Admissions and Business Development for Mansfield Hall, a specialized college support program in Burlington, VT, and Madison, WI.