We feature the best troubled teen schools that foster a nurturing, secure, and healing environment for teenagers and their families. Their aim should be to effect genuine transformation, achieving significant progress in the shortest amount of time possible.  We will only work with the schools that maintain the highest standards in regard to their operation, their staffing, and their therapeutic and educational methods.

Youth authorities across the nation lament the lack of clear solutions for the challenges troubled youth and their families face.  Teen suicide, death from overdose, and cultural confusion are at an all-time high. Outpatient treatment and periodic counseling can only help so much when negative influences and peers are still daily impacting the teen’s thinking and actions.  And after a time of less than productive weekly therapy sessions, many therapists reach a juncture where they acknowledge their limitations in providing further progress for troubled teens.

Consequently, a supportive intervention and inpatient residential program, distanced from the negative cultural influences and peers affecting the teenager’s mindset, becomes critical for some teenagers.  To that end, we believe in the important role of these schools, if they are operated properly.  They must design their practices and procedures with the utmost concern for the physical and mental health and safety of each child they serve. They should believe in a gentle approach to helping teens and never doing harm to get to a desired end result.

Unlike the harmful methods of some notoriously bad programs, their approach should be to emphasize a nurturing empowerment, accountability, and autonomy, all within the context of established safe boundaries. They should treat teenagers with respect and dignity, equipping them with the means to make positive decisions. Their approach should foster personal development through introspection, self-respect, and honesty. While consequences are an important learning tool for any individual, they must steer clear of punitive methods.

We continually strive to enhance our list of the best schools.  They must stay abreast of best practices in adolescent care, safety, and therapy.  They should offer a comprehensive suite of therapeutic, educational, and family support services aimed at forging healthier futures for teens and their families.

We hope this clarifies our dedicated stance on supporting and guiding schools that help teens and their families through their challenges.  Other schools with a sketchy background or practices, or who do not believe in these student rights will be avoided by us, and we hope you avoid them as well.


  • Right to Nourishment:  All students should be provided balanced and nutritious meals daily. This diet, which is vital for their health and well-being, is a fundamental part of the program and is consistently provided to all students, regardless of their behavior. It should be their policy that this complete nutritional regimen is never used as a bargaining tool or denied as a punitive measure. If they do recognize and encourage positive behavior with occasional special treats, the regular, wholesome meals and adequate hydration they provide should be steadfast for every student in their care.
  • Right to Rest and Sleep:  Students have the right to sufficient daily rest, which is crucial for their physical health, mental well-being, and academic performance. The program must ensure a structured environment that promotes regular rest and sleep patterns, providing a foundation for students to thrive in their educational pursuits, emotional health, and personal growth. Rest must never be denied, interrupted, or reduced as a means of disciplining or correcting students.
  • Right to Communicate: Respectful and safe verbal interactions between students and staff should be a cornerstone of their ethos. Students have the right to communicate with other students (on campus) or staff, except when verbal interruptions or outbursts are inappropriate (for instance, while in a classroom, library, study time, special training, or in group events). Staff members may monitor such contacts to ensure they are not bullying, threatening, intimidating, abusive, predatory, or generally disrespectful. Each student shall be taught how to appropriately communicate with, listen to, and respect others.
  • Right to Respect of Body and Person: Students and staff should interact verbally in ways that are always respectful and non-threatening. Staff members may not use threats of physical punishment, isolation, verbal intimidation, ridicule, shaming, shunning, or other forms of verbal humiliation to discipline or correct students.
  • Right to Have One’s Possessions: Students have the right to keep personal items consistent with their growth and therapeutic needs, within the bounds of institution’s safety rules and allowed limits. Decisions on whether to allow or confiscate personal items will apply equally to all, without bias towards any individual or their progress or conduct.
  • Right to Privacy: Students are entitled to privacy, including personal space and storage, with the understanding that staff may oversee activities and communications to maintain safety and program integrity. Inspections of living areas and belongings, especially upon return to campus, can be conducted to prevent prohibited items from compromising student safety.
  • Right to Freedom of Movement: Students are entitled to age- and maturity-appropriate activities, with regular scheduling of healthy physical exercise. The use of seclusion or restraints is strictly prohibited, except as a temporary measure under close supervision when a student poses an immediate risk to others.
  • Right Not to be Given Meaningless Work: Students may be assigned routine chores and household tasks as part of valuable life skills education. Assignments should not be profit-driven or punitive. Vocational training opportunities may be available for those interested.
  • Right to See Student Updates and Disagree with Their Contents: Students must have access to review and challenge any negative remarks recorded in their personal files, ensuring alignment with ongoing treatment and goal setting.
  • Right to Basic Clothing Necessities: Students are entitled to suitable attire that reflects personal modesty and is appropriate for their age and program level. Staff and parents must collaborate to fulfill each student’s essential clothing requirements, ensuring proper attire for all weather conditions.
  • Right to the Natural Elements: Students have the right to daily exposure to natural elements such as fresh air, light, and outdoor exercise (as appropriate). Healthy outdoor activities should be a routine part of every student’s experience.
  • Right to One’s Bed: Students have the right to a personal bed in a room that may be shared with other students and monitored by staff (for everyone’s safety).
  • Right to Family Visits: Students may visit their family or guardians at home or our the program’s facility, requested in advance and planned. A staff member may monitor some or all such visits in our facility to ensure the interaction from all individuals is in keeping with the treatment plan for the student.  Upon returning from visits, staff may conduct a thorough check to verify that the student has not inadvertently come into possession of any prohibited or unsafe items. This process must be conducted with the utmost respect for the student’s privacy and dignity; and never involve strip searches.
  • Right to Lodge a Complaint or Appeal: Students, parents, or legal guardians should be permitted to raise concerns or complaints, initially addressing them to the school administration. Should the initial response be unsatisfactory, they have the right to escalate their appeal to the school’s owners or the institution’s board.
  • Right to Medical Care: Every medical situation must be treated with the highest level of attention and diligence. Staff members must be trained to identify health concerns and should be required to promptly obtain professional medical assistance whenever a situation is assessed as needing such attention. This ensures that all students receive timely and appropriate care for their health and well-being.
  • Right to Transcripts: Students are entitled to obtain a comprehensive record of their academic achievements during their tenure at the school. This transcript should reflect courses taken; grades earned. The program is committed to maintaining transparency in the evaluation process and ensuring that full access is given to these educational records for future academic or professional pursuits.  If the program says that its transcripts will be accepted by the child’s home school or a college, they must make sure that this is the case, without exception.
  • Right to Leave the Program (with parental approval):  Students, with parental or guardian agreement, may withdraw from the program, provided they give timely notice as specified by the school’s policies. During this period, the program will facilitate the transition, including document preparation; however, pre-paid fees may be forfeited according to the school’s financial policies. The staff must ensure a smooth withdrawal, prioritizing the student’s educational and therapeutic continuity.
  • Right and Method to Report Abuse: Students are assured the right to report any instance of perceived abuse within the program confidently and safely. The school’s policy must safeguard the student from any form of retaliation or negative consequences as a result of such a report. This process is designed to ensure that all concerns are addressed promptly and thoroughly while maintaining the student’s welfare and anonymity if desired. The institution must be committed to creating a transparent environment where the well-being of students is paramount, and any reported misconduct must be investigated with due diligence.  Any report of abuse must be reported to the local or state authorities.
  • Educational Rights: Students are entitled to receive a comprehensive and age-appropriate education that is in harmony with their academic level and personal development. The school must be dedicated to providing a curriculum that meets each student’s unique educational needs, fostering an environment where intellectual growth and learning flourish. This commitment ensures that students are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary for their future academic and life successes.

boarding schools

Should you need help finding Teen Challenge, ranches for troubled teens, or Christian boarding schools for girls, please let us know. These troubled teen schools, sometimes called reform schools, wilderness schools, or emotional growth schools, combine therapy with academics to help kids get back on track. This site includes a list of the best troubled teen boarding schools. These schools help troubled and struggling teens overcome their challenges and get back on the right track in life.

Our Standards - Troubled Teen Schools

Troubled teen schools that foster a nurturing, secure, and healing environment for teenagers and their families.