The alliance between parents and Academy staff is so critical to a student’s success that we devote a great deal of thought and time to it. We do not consider a student’s application unless parents make an exploratory visit to meet us, to view the school and encounter our students. For we all, parents and senior staff alike, need to know whether we like and can trust one another. For if we cannot, then, given the challenges that lie ahead, we would all do better not to start.

Parents choose a program with a son’s or daughter’s needs in mind. Our senior staff choose teenagers and parents, too, mindful of what successful outcomes require of them. We look for mothers and fathers who are not too defensive to see themselves as participants in a solution, even if not to blame for all the problems. We look to parents to help to recognize teenagers, but also to help set limits for them—and to support the Academy’s limit-setting.

Here we promote and sustain close relationships among parents and team staff. The clinical supervisor (therapist) is on the phone with parents weekly. The team-leader helps parents with visits and logistics; and the academic advisor works with parents around academic planning.

By mid-program family work takes center stage. Therapists work with students and parents in family therapy sessions. To help parents in this key clinical effort, the Academy conducts three-day parent workshops twice each year at the ranch and at Sky House, and once a year each team hosts a parent-student trip.

And, of course, at graduation, students must be ready to leave the ranch, and mothers and fathers must be prepared to take back the baton from staff and to take over parenting again on their own.