Treasure Coast Boys Academy is a residential boarding school just for boys. It has an on-campus accredited, private school registered with the State of Florida. It is a safe haven for boys ages 12-17 years of age with out-of-control behaviors.
The non-profit program is designed to bring about a change in behavior and attitude for boys who are struggling with behavioral and motivational issues such as: falling grades, school suspension, anger, defiance, depression, attention deficit or attachment disorders. They are also successful in resolving drug and alcohol abuse and addictions, which often coincide with behavioral issues.
The ranch property is located on a 30-acre parcel, 10 miles west of Vero Beach, Florida in cattle and orchard country. The boys begin in a dorm setting and finish in a large home with house parents. The property features a well-equipped gym and weight machines, soccer field, baseball diamond, basketball court, pool, game room, fishing ponds, and professional sport fishing boats to take frequent fishing trips. They have horses on the property that are often ridden, and at times taken on camping trips. They form strong relationships with each boy and much of the life changing experiences take place while involved in these outdoor activities.
The staff works with each boy in cooperation with and participation of their family, bringing to the table a vast amount of experience. The therapeutic team helps repair the significant catalysts in each boy’s life that are bringing on their poor choices and self-destructive attitudes and behaviors.
Education is a priority at Treasure Coast Academy. Leadership skills, developing integrity and the importance of work are also learned through indoor and outdoor responsibilities.
Residents are encouraged to challenge and encourage each other to live out their faith in everything they do and say. Residents pray for one another and challenge each other through positive peer pressure to walk in the righteousness of God, which is demonstrated through the Godly character traits such as purity, honesty, and generosity.
Each student at our ranch has an opportunity to spend time hiking, canoeing, camping, and other active outdoor activities. It is through these fun outings that we can get to the root of the issues in a boy’s life. It’s an easy place to talk and share hurts and pains; then the campfire that evening gives opportunity to further talk and pray for one another. These trips are memory makers that last a lifetime!
Treasure Coast Academy provides focused and individualized academic attention for the students in its care. Education goes on and credits are earned, but education is not the program’s primary focus. Character, integrity, hard work, and respect for others are what we concern ourselves most with. If those attributes are in place, education is more easily accomplished on campus and when the boy returns home.
Therapy is ongoing – all day, every day. Individual counseling sessions are not as frequent as the many 10-15 minute life coaching that takes place during school, work, or a sporting event. As was once said, the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man. A simple horse ride can provide a life changing conversation in a young man’s life. The same can be said for a day on the lake fishing with a good mentor.
Treasure Coast Academy understands that success in life transformation depends on a strong loving family atmosphere when going home. Unconditional love with clear well defined boundaries are just a few of the family dynamics we focus on teaching the family while the student is here.
Ranch for Boys specializes in helping boys who are exhibiting the following:
Lives are transformed by the power of God that is stronger than the bonds of rebellion or addiction. They help the total person with spiritual, emotional, physical, social and educational challenges to prepare them for their new life.
Emotionally: The healing of the past is necessary. Bible studies enhance mental growth and serve as a foundation for creating new lives.
Physically: They care for the physical needs of the students.
Socially: Students learn to work through relationship problems with their peers and with their families at home. They will learn to apply the character qualities they learn in the classroom to their everyday lives.
Educationally: Treasure Coast Academy has developed a curriculum specifically designed to teach students about God and help them develop the skills required for them to become successful Christians.
Masters Ranch is a lower-cost therapeutic ranch designed just for at-risk and struggling boys between the ages of 9 and 17. Master’s Ranch is located on a sprawling ranch property on the border of Arkansas and Missouri, near Couch, Missouri, and we have a new ranch in Washington State.
Boys at Masters Ranch find new help, healing and reconciliation when they had almost lost hope. Masters Ranch offers a small family environment in an agricultural setting with a balance of discipline and training in an unmistakable atmosphere of mentoring, love and acceptance. Through education, hard work, vocational training, working with animals, recreation, family interaction and counseling, each boy is given the tools needed to regain the confidence, self-respect and spiritual footing necessary to embrace his family and his future.
The dedicated staff of Masters Ranch is committed to helping you fight for your boy’s future and to help him rebuild the smoldering bridges of relationships with family, society at large and ultimately with God. This critical time will also allow you to re-focus on your home and your other children while staff in this program work with and help your son. Masters Ranch rates are affordable, so most families can be helped in their time of need.
Masters Ranch operates as much as possible like a family, rather than a cold institution. The one major advantage that this program has over the average American family is that it focuses ALL its attention on your son. A normal family is stretched so thin today with extra jobs, activities, responsibilities and other pressing family duties. The problem is that troubled teens require so much more time, energy and effort than most kids. So much of what takes place at Masters Ranch is what you also did and tried to do; to just walk through the hours, days, weeks and months of life, with the boys, using every moment as an opportunity for learning. Staff strives to present everything they do with a positive attitude that will benefit your son.
Masters Ranch has professional clinical-type counseling from licensed therapists as well as pastoral, group and individual counseling. The approach to counseling is informal, often utilizing the outdoors and activities as the setting, believing that teens who feel comfortable and safe will open up and share more readily while they are active. They also work with parents to bring them hope and encouragement and new tools for continuing the progress once your boy returns home.
The dedicated staff of Masters Ranch is committed to helping you fight for your child’s future and to helping him rebuild the smoldering bridges of relationships with family, society at large and ultimately with God. This critical time will also allow you to re-focus on your home and your other children while we work with and help your son.
Gateway Boys Academy and Ranch helps teenage boys who have gotten off track in life need discipline and respect for authority. Gateway features all of the elements that will have the most positive life-long impact on boys in the shortest possible time, administered by loving mentors and peers who encourage them to succeed. The military-style discipline at the academy, accredited school, working ranch and farm, counseling and mentoring, competitive team sports, spiritual emphasis and outreach to the community all combine to make young men all they can be, and more.
Gateway is made up of caring, concerned staff, many who have been in your situation with their own children. Their purpose in life is to help self-destructing teenage boy’s turnaround and begin looking at life differently. Boys are given a new purpose, a new drive, and a new passion to be a better person and to serve others.
If you could see the before and after pictures of boys who have come through Gateway’s program, you would see a striking change to confident, happy young men. You would see selfish boys with a chip on their shoulders that are now ready to give the shirt off their back to someone in need. You would see boys without purpose who now have solid goals and direction for their life.
Gateway is not new at this. They know what works, and we see lives changed every day. They’re not making robots out of these kids, but building up young men with confidence, who thoughtfully consider their options, having learned that making bad choices leads to bad outcomes. Developing leaders of integrity and men of strength from foolish boys who were weak and headed for disaster is what Gateway does.
Seldom is there opportunity for a young man to lead five, ten, twenty or more peers while in high school. Young men at Gateway can reach positions of responsibility and learn leadership skills, which often transfer to college and the world beyond.
Engaging academics in a structured environment is often easier for most, and it helps young men see a brighter future in terms of applying to college. Challenging a young man while his thoughts are big and his future is open is a wonderful part of what Gateway does.
Participation in athletics is strongly encouraged at Gateway. Sports teach teamwork and camaraderie. These are invaluable interpersonal skills for a world absorbed by computers and gadgets. Knowing how to work with others is a critical skill taught by our military school.
The Gateway Academy Lions sports program encompasses both varsity and junior varsity basketball and baseball, and soccer. A recently completed maple-wood gym floor has allows Gateway to host games with our competing teams in the Panhandle Christian Conference.
Future Men is a Christian boarding school offering a highly structured and monitored setting for young men to work on their future. Each student is given an environment and motivation to promote success. Course work and counseling is founded on God’s Word, and the school is nationally accredited by AdvancEd.
The goal at Future Men is to train young men to put off childish behaviors and obsessions with the trivial distractions of this life (foolish friends, slothfulness, anger, disrespect, offensive language/habits, sloppy clothing, lack of self-control), and to subsequently embrace the responsibilities and freedoms that come with true manhood (respect for authority, strong work ethic, obedience, and the fruits of the Spirit).
The role of staff is to be faithful stewards of students in working with them in three main areas:
1. Accomplishing academic goals set by the staff and students’ parents.
2. Working on behavioral and spiritual issues which directly affect every area of their lives.
3. Providing trade training in order to equip the students with realistic skills in order to be productive men in the workplace.
It is the goal for students at Future Men to learn to follow instructions, develop an eye for detail, and show initiative in their work. These qualities will help them later in life to acquire and keep a job.
Being physically productive and having the ability to complete a task gives a young man genuine self-esteem, as opposed to the hollow false praise that society has been programmed to give. In many cases, actively contributing to society will help these young men “turn the corner” and once again have hope.
All of the work completed by a student, whether through apprenticeship or service project, is incorporated into an elective credit. The students come to understand that the work ethic they develop here contributes to who they are and what they are becoming.
Twice a week, each student works hand-in-hand with an area business as an apprentice, learning a trade skill. The tradesmen who partner with Future Men at the various apprenticeships share the same goals and desires. Students are offered a wide range of apprenticeships. Some current options include: electrical work, plumbing, real estate sales, firefighting, animal health technician, glass installation, auto painting, landscaping, airport security and service, computer programming, welding, and construction.
Students who do not yet have an apprenticeship serve in community service projects. These students work with staff directors in preparation for their upcoming apprenticeships. The basic habits of working at a steady pace, not asking to take breaks, learning to “see” work that needs to be done, following instructions, and using/putting away the proper tools, are taught and developed in this stage. All of these traits are part of a good work ethic which is critical for young men in today’s society.
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are set aside for working on the core classes and doing service work projects. On Monday evening students have a Bible study, and on Wednesday and Friday evenings they have quiet hour for studies, reading, and letter writing.
Tuesdays and Thursdays represent apprenticeship days. On Tuesday evening students watch a documentary movie. On Thursday evening they have game night. These games can vary from basketball to pool tournaments to interactive games within the lodge.
Saturday is typically a day out. The whole house may go to a park for football, or maybe go caving/hiking here in the Ozarks. Saturday night is movie night.
On Sundays, the mentors and the students attend church, followed by homework in the afternoon. Each student is also involved with chores, cooking, and laundry as well. These are integrated into Life Skills elective class.
During free time the students can make use of the recreation building. Billiards, ping-pong, foosball, and weight lifting are common sources of entertainment and camaraderie.
New Hope Boys Home offers life transformation to boys who are struggling with life-impacting behaviors, addictions or attitudes. They desire to see every boy reach his God-given potential.
This program includes a number of elements, but their overall goal is to see boys prepared to transition successfully back to a normal and healthy lifestyle, whether that be college, ministry or the workforce. Ideally, we want to see every young man following God.
They have a supportive relationship with a local church, which supports the work and ministry of New Hope Boys Home and also provides a church home. Boys and staff attend services and participate in missions projects. Boys also work through the Teen Challenge discipleship curriculum as part of the program requirements.
The “Positive Peer Culture” means an environment where making right choices is accepted and encouraged. Boys who have been “following the wrong crowd” into destructive behaviors instead find themselves pushed by their peers toward responsibility, integrity, and growth. We reward positive choices. Our campus promotes teamwork and accountability among students as well. As they progress through the program, boys advance through three levels that govern privileges and indicate progress. To promote a boy to the next level, our staff look for evidence of personal growth in matters of attitude, character and personal conduct. The third and highest level carries with it expectations of and training in leadership skills.
They desire to see families healed and restored. They invite parents to visit with their son on campus once each month. These family days give families time to restore relationships within the supportive environment on campus. Parents also have the opportunity to spend time with other parents and with our staff and to receive Godly counsel.
They prepare boys for the future, wherever God may lead them next. In addition to an accredited high school education, we provide physical exercise and adventure outings filled with life training and mentoring. We help each boy become all that God has created him to be.
They believe that putting academics back on track makes a significant difference in the lives of teens who are overcoming life-controlling issues. While enrolled in New Hope Boys Home, students work on their secondary education in our accredited private school. Boys work under the instruction of a certified teacher, with tutors available for additional assistance.
Boys come to NHBH with a wide variety of academic records, often with a history of failing grades and skipped classes. For many of our students, enrollment with New Hope Boys Home means a second chance at graduating high school, a possibility which had nearly been destroyed by their former lifestyle. The self-paced curriculum, along with one-on-one instruction from their teaching staff, allows boys to gain mastery of subjects and earn missed credits toward a high school diploma. New Hope Boys Home staff provides certified teachers, a quality computer-based curriculum, record keeping and a wide variety of courses.
The security of knowing dual enrollment courses are held to high-quality standards necessary for the academy to maintain accreditation which is recognized worldwide by colleges and universities.
Uniquely qualified and certified to teach subject-specific distance learning courses to the students.
New Hope Boys Home utilizes the Ignitia curriculum, the newest learning management system from Alpha Omega Publications. Built exclusively for Christian schools, this comprehensive curriculum includes lessons in five core subject areas: language arts, math, science, history, and Bible, with a diverse list of electives also available. Ignitia courses are not only rigorous and interactive, but provide instruction based on a Christian worldview, encouraging students to consider challenging questions from a biblical perspective. Courses include text-based lessons, assignments, quizzes, and tests that engage students while they learn. Optional external web links, interactive learning games, audio and video clips, and off-computer assignments help students develop the skills necessary for academic success in a media-rich environment.
Students get a consolidated view of daily assignments, curriculum overviews, due dates, subject reviews, and grades with this organizational feature geared to keep them on track.
Diagnostic testing in language arts and math allows teachers to identify content areas in which students need review, so students who previously failed a course can recover the credits they need to graduate without repeating the entire course.
More than 50,000 multimedia elements including audio and video files, challenging games, interactive exercises, a historical timeline, and integrated video clips reinforce concepts and offer an in-depth explanation of key points.
With the text translation tool, lesson text can be translated into eight different languages including Spanish, French, German, Korean, Japanese, Russian, Simplified Chinese, and traditional Chinese.
This user-friendly application allows students to hear selected passages or entire lessons to promote greater understanding by simply highlighting the text within the lesson.
Student computers are programmed to restrict all internet access with the exception of Academy related websites. In order to limit distractions and provide an environment conducive to learning students do not have access to email or social networking sites while attending New Hope Boys Home.
Whetstone Boys Ranch is a working cattle ranch and therapeutic Christian school that serves struggling boys ages 12-16 and their families. Here boys live, learn, work and grow as they experience essential individual, group and family therapy, excellent academics, exciting outdoor adventures, and useful hands-on tasks. We believe in sharpening young men to become true servant-leaders in their families and communities.
Since 2011, Whetstone’s purpose centers on the reconciliation of boys (ages 12-16) and their families. Boys live in dorm-style in the boarding school with a 3:1 boy to staff ratio. We treat struggles such as anger, depression, low self-esteem and trauma with a loving, systems-based approach. And this comprehensive method of treatment and restoration sets us apart.
We work with boys with Reactive Attachment Disorder, ADHD, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, internet addictions, and rebellious boys. Here the boys live, learn, work and grow as they experience essential individual, group and family therapy, excellent academics, exciting outdoor adventures, and useful hands-on tasks.
• Boys who suffer from not being able to form healthy emotional relationships with adoptive parents, including RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder),
• Boys who are unable to remain focused, ADHD, (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
• Boys who display signs of early rebellion, refuses to obey, shows argumentative behavior,ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder),
• Boys who simply need a change of environment, separated from the negative impact of internet addictions, and harmful relationships.
We focus on issues adolescent boys struggle with, including introductory misbehavior (vaping, negative video game-technology/pornography), anger, depression, low self-esteem, trauma related issues, attachment and adoption disorders. Whetstone is an opportunity to intervene now, before these issues grow deeper. Boys receive therapy based on their needs, after going through a screening process.
Therapy and counseling includes individual 1 hour sessions, once a week, led by a LPC therapist. Individual treatment includes EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) –originally designed to alleviate distress associated with traumatic memories. It is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences…and helps activate their natural healing processes. (EMDR.com)
Group counseling occurs 2 times a week.
Family therapy includes an intensive 2-3 day session during a boy’s stay at Whetstone with our licensed therapist.
The 285 acre ranch in the Ozarks, offers an Adventure Week each year, as well as hands-on classes on topics like Winter Survival, Summer Survival, Fishing, Orienteering, Campfire Cooking, Shelter-Building, Knot-tying, and Disaster Readiness, and more. Strength training program with running, team and individual sports such as basketball, football, whiffle ball, golf, ultimate frisbee, can-jam, swimming, and disc-golf, and more.
During a yearlong stay, the boys are offered other adventures like fishing, swimming, hiking, camping, canoeing, kayaking, rock climbing, rappelling, bowling, model building, carpentry, woodworking, guitar, field trips to concerts, sporting events and museums, creative writing, movie-going and much more.
Whetstone Boys Ranch provides boys with a liberal arts-based education in a uniquely integrated setting. The Whetstone curriculum diagnoses gaps in student learning before moving to material that the student may not be ready to tackle. These gaps in learning are often the cause of student failure and eventual misbehavior in the classroom and at home.
Whetstone’s low boy-to-staff ratio gives us a huge advantage over most educational settings. One teacher for every three boys, provides multiple opportunities for assisting them as needed. Whetstone students return to public schools, private schools, home schools, and are those headed to college shortly after graduation. Whetstone helps transition the boy back home with providing transcripts to high schools, helping him to enlist in the military, preparing for the ACT, and more.
We do therapy without “doing therapy.” In a small group setting, guided by qualified teachers and counselors, we talk about movies, music, novels and poems. We talk about Truth and Beauty – examine a “Grecian Urn” or two. Some say that all art is therapy. If this is even close to the truth, our boys get a ton of it while sharing their thoughts in writing and during lively group discussions, developing critical thinking skills in the process. In addition, all boys participate in at least one week-long adventure therapy session, during which they hike, camp, fish, rock-climb, rappel, cook over a campfire, and other activities.
One key component of our therapeutic model is mentoring – the modeling of positive behaviors within a loving and supportive environment. Our low ratio allows each staff member, from counselor to cook, to spend quality time with each boy in the schoolroom, in the outdoors, and around the family hearth. In doing so, we are naturally drawn to storytelling. We all have a story. Happy, Sad, Tragic, Triumphant. It longs to be shared because we long to be understood.
From a therapeutic perspective, what we see as our role in this story has a dramatic impact on how we view ourselves in relationship. Our beliefs make us able to overcome the problems we face in life, because they make us willing to receive help from those we love. Throughout our program, boys are encouraged to share and understand their story, as well as the stories of those around them. When people do this in community, understanding, compassion, and forgiveness become not only possible, but probable.
ADDICTION TREATMENT AND SOBER SCHOOL PROGRAM…
Teen Challenge Adventure Ranch is a licensed therapeutic program, addiction treatment program, and boarding school for boys ages 14-17 with serious life-controlling issues or addictions. The boys experience clinical therapy and regular therapy-based, challenging outdoor activities including: camping, backpacking, rappelling, canoeing, swimming, hiking, and spelunking (rock climbing and cave exploration). Students are challenged physically and learn the importance of teamwork, goals and perseverance. They develop better communication skills and improve their ability to work cooperatively with others.
Teen Challenge Adventure Ranch is a licensed treatment facility with private bedrooms for the boys. The energetic therapists and caring staff encourage the boys to apply appropriate solutions to life’s problems. They endeavor to help troubled boys become mentally sound and drug-free for a lifetime, not just for the short time they are on the TCAR campus. The program’s extensive Aftercare Program ensures your boy’s ongoing success, entailing an extra six months of support, training and encouragement and a visit to the boy’s home, plus help in finding local resources for the parent and boy.
If nothing else is working for your boy today, enrolling him in this residential program may be absolutely the right choice and the best chance for helping him before he becomes an out of control adult. The program is designed to help a boy when:
• His behavior is out of control
• He is addicted to drugs, pornography, online games, or alcohol
• Counseling and other outpatient treatments aren’t working
• His problems are persistent or even worsening despite promises to change
• Inappropriate behaviors are placing his (or your) health or life at risk
• He was expelled from school or is facing legal problems
• He is deeply entangled with friends who are a negative influence
• He keeps returning to negative behaviors even after periods of time when he has been doing well
• When your boy’s behaviors or attitudes could endanger his future.
ADDICTIONS? TCAR is a dual-diagnosis, licensed facility, helping teenage boys recover from either or both substance abuse addictions and self-destructive, out of control behavior. Addiction recovery services and licensed drug and alcohol addiction counseling are offered as a regular part of our treatment, since substance abuse often co-exists with troubling behavior. According to multiple outcomes studies, Teen Challenge’s success rate in dealing with addictions tops the industry.
Below is a list of some factors that set this program apart from others. The list reflects some of the things that parents often find important when deciding where their child should go. Please take a moment to review the items below.
WHAT THEY SAY: “We believe that God has a purpose and a plan for every boy who comes to Teen Challenge. It’s not just about teaching boys how to stay out of trouble. It’s about seeing our students reach their full potential and experience the hope and future that God intended them to have. We believe that every boy that comes to us has the potential to become a man of character and integrity. Their attitudes can be positive, and they can be successful in their relationships with others. All of these elements are presented in a loving Christian environment.”
Teen Challenge utilizes an integrated model of intervention. Their methods of intervention are Biblically-based and incorporate concepts and techniques from various psychological approaches including: Cognitive Behavioral therapies, Reality therapy, Choice theory, solution focused therapy, systems theory, and others. The program makes use of behavioral elements, experiential activities, therapeutic interventions, and social/interpersonal activities. All of these elements are presented in a loving Christian environment.
Teen Challenge helps students regain control of their behavior by helping them to recognize the unproductive patterns in their lives and encouraging them to seek new solutions to life’s problems and difficulties.
They believe that students can and should take responsibility for their behavior and choices. While there may be life tragedies or difficulties which have contributed to a boy’s problematic behavior, a child can learn to make better choices regardless of his situation or past. Effective solutions to life’s difficulties can be found, and healing from life’s hurts can be experienced.
The Teen Challenge program is broken up into five phases. The first four phases are completed on campus. Each phase has unique goals, objectives, and intervention material that a student must complete before moving to the next phase. The general goals of each phase are as follows:
Phase 1 – Basic Self-Management
Phase 2 – Teamwork and Cooperation
Phase 3 – Leadership Training
Phase 4 – Leadership and Service
Phase 5 – Successful Transition outside of the program
Each phase has additional privileges as well as greater levels of responsibility. There is improvement in behavior and attitudes as students progress through the different phases of the program. A scoring system is used to provide students with feedback on their behavior and to help them become aware of and manage their own behavior. This behavioral technique is used for each activity of the day. A student’s behavior is scored in the following five areas:
The scoring system helps staff and the student identify the areas where the student is doing well or has made significant progress. It also helps us to identify areas where the student may be experiencing difficulty. If challenge areas are identified, we will work with the student in problem solving and help him develop strategies for success.
The program is approximately 18 months long. The first 9-12 months are done in residence at Teen Challenge, and the last 6 months take place after the child returns home and enters our aftercare program.
TCAR believes that a critical factor to the success of the boys is an effective Aftercare Program. They continue to work with boys and their families after the residential portion of the program is completed. The aftercare portion of the program is designed to last at least 6 months. They continue to work with the student and his family and help with any transition issues he may face when returning home.
Teen Challenge Adventure Ranch also works with families in regard to finding a mentor for the child. This mentor will be someone from their local area who will coordinate with the Teen Challenge Transitional Services Director. He/she will meet weekly with the student and provide continued encouragement and accountability after he returns home.
The Transitional Services Director also maintains regular contact with the student after he completes the residential portion of the program. He makes weekly phone contact with the student and family to check on progress. When possible, in-home visits are often scheduled (if the family would like for that to happen). During the visits/calls, the following is discussed:
Students showing significant difficulty transitioning back into society and/or participating in at-risk or delinquent behavior can be returned to Teen Challenge Adventure Ranch for a limited time. After re-stabilization, the previous aftercare plan is evaluated and appropriate changes are made in order to better assist the student with transition.
Safe Harbor admits boys age 15-17 who are experiencing behavior problems in home and at school and need an alternative home setting. The purpose of Safe Harbor is to assist the boys in becoming responsible, mature and independent young men through spiritual, educational and vocational training.
Safe Harbor helps a boy become a young man of character and integrity, with a vision for their own future. Once the boys have an “I can and will” attitude, they naturally branch out into caring for others. Therefore, community service is an important part of Safe Harbor’s program. Learning to give into a community makes it one’s own and what a person claims as their own, they take care of and have pride in. This is why each donor, sponsor, volunteer makes a real difference at Safe Harbor; it becomes their own.
Safe Harbor has been featured in People Magazine, and on CBS This Morning, NBC News Today, CNN, and CBN. The story of the unique boarding school for at-risk boys is featured in the Safe Harbor movie, starring Treat Williams, on Hallmark Channel.
Since its inception, the Safe Harbor program has provided each boy with the mental, physical and spiritual strength to succeed in life. Water and boating have always played an integral part in people’s lives. Life on the water provides serenity and peace, but also unequaled opportunities for life.
Safe Harbor was founded “accidentally” 30 years ago when a judge asked the founders, Robbie and Doug Smith, to care for a troubled boy on their large sailboat, instead of that boy being sent to juvenile hall for the weekend. The judge, a friend of Doug’s, wouldn’t take “No” for an answer, even though the Smiths were retired and about to embark on an around-the-world trip on their boat. The success of that weekend triggered more pleas by the judge for the Smiths to help more boys, until the Smiths needed more help. A nonprofit program was launched and formalized in 1984. Safe Harbor is now an established, charitable, nonprofit, maritime boarding school based in Jacksonville, Florida. It utilizes maritime principles, discipline, and seamanship as a therapeutic model for helping turn around at-risk teenage boys. Safe Harbor provides a safe, structured, and exciting alternative to therapeutic boarding schools and harsher juvenile programs.
Boys in this program have been exhibiting at-risk behavior due to a number of causes:
Safe Harbor is an interdenominational program. The staff are dedicated Christian (Protestant) individuals who care for each boy in the program. Boys from different religious backgrounds or those from no religious upbringing are accepted and no child is required to change their beliefs to have success in the program. However, parents or guardians of the residents MUST understand that being a Christ-centered ministry is the reason success comes to the boys at Safe Harbor. Most guardians or parents are delighted to “have their son back” and are happy to have them exposed to a spiritual influence.
The Safe Harbor program is structured and centers on teaching a work ethic and helping the boys understand their behavior is leading them into less and less freedom. This program develops positive character traits by exposing the boys to many vocational education opportunities including carpentry, welding, boat maintenance & repair, gas and diesel engine repair, and some basic electrical concepts. Character traits such as dependability, follow-through, focus, and attention to detail, are taught in these courses. Every class at Safe Harbor is entitled “work” to expose these boys to the world of employment, where the majority are headed within twenty four months.
Counseling is provided individually and through groups by both licensed mental health professionals and pastoral counselors. All staff are involved in mentoring during time spent with the boys. These informal settings help the boys relax, begin to trust adults, and learn life lessons not acquired elsewhere. Most boys entering the program have had outpatient counseling but this has not yielded results.
Professional staff conducts individual sessions with families and their sons including conversations over the phone, and staff sends frequent emails to keep family updated. Additionally, short weekly phone calls along with encouraged letter writing helps restore family relationships. Once placed into residential care, the boy’s family suddenly becomes very important again.
Lasting change takes time, and the process and timing for each boy is unique. Guardians and/or families must take a long-term view of the process that develops change. The poor attitudes and habits the boys have upon entering the program did not occur overnight and they will only change over time. Families must be committed to the process of change; longer lengths of stay promote stability and community through the experience of connection and belonging that comes from this stable, structured community environment.