cover image Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids

Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids

Maia Szalavitz, Author . Riverhead $25.95 (326p) ISBN 978-1-59

This important book takes the troubled-teens industry to task, exposing the "extremely harsh, perhaps even brutal tactics [companies use to] keep [kids] in line." For $2,000 a month and more, a program will take an oppositional teen to a lockdown facility or a wilderness boot camp for however long it takes to break him or her. Parents pay more than an Ivy League tuition for their children to undergo some "out-of-line" punishments (use of "stress positions," brainwashing, etc.), and, says Szalavitz, there's no evidence that these facilities cure anything. Indeed, many teens suffer post-traumatic stress disorders for years; some actually die in these facilities. Szalavitz, a freelance journalist and senior fellow at Stats.org, has written a courageous—if horrifying—study of the tough-love industry, focusing on four key players: Straight Incorporated, North Star Expeditions, the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and the KIDS program. These hugely profitable businesses are largely unregulated by legal, medical or ethical codes, avoiding accountability for failure by blaming the victim. With a useful appendix discussing when and how to get responsible help for a troubled teen, this book, filled with first-person accounts, should be required reading in Parenting 101. (Feb.)