What are the chances?

I found additional information about John Christopher Inman on the NamUs site (which is not as useless as I thought at first; I regret having judged it prematurely). It says he was attending a “school for the emotionally handicapped” when he disappeared. That’s got to be the Cedu School; I know of no other such school in the vicinity of Running Springs, California. (Paris Hilton attended the Cedu School for about five minutes back in 1994-ish.) Knowing the town he disappeared from, I wondered if he’d been a student at Cedu; now I know for sure.

This makes three—count ’em, three!—teen boys I have on Charley who are missing from that school. The other two are Daniel Yuen and Blake Pursley. All three have been missing for a considerable time, much much longer than the average runaway: Daniel for five years now, Blake for almost fifteen years and John for sixteen years. What are the chances?

*rant* Let me say I am extremely skeptical of the worth of private residential schools for “problem teens.” I’m sure that not all of them are bad, and in that many of cases they can be beneficial. However, many of these are for-profit institutions that charge upwards of thousands of dollars a month in tuition. (I checked out a website for one of them just now and they charge $6,650 a month. Average length of stay is 16 to 18 months, which is $106,400 to $119,700. That could put a person through four years at a decent private college, or get two bachelor’s degrees at a state school. The tuition at these places is almost never covered by health insurance plans, btw.) Thus, it’s in the schools’ interest to take as many students as possible.

Therapeutic boarding schools often issue alarmist literature to potential customers, listing behaviors of so-called “problem teens” and acting like the person’s teen child is going to kill someone or commit suicide or wind up in prison or become a crack ho or something unless the parent sends the kid to the school right away. Even such minor misbehavior as leaving dirty dishes out or refusing to clean his room have been given as reasons why the teen might need residential treatment!

In addition to that, many of these schools are not run or staffed by professional counselors and therapists, and their methods of helping the children are distinctly unhelpful at best and often very harmful. Children have been basically murdered at some of those places, by beating, being denied food and water and medical care, and so on. For more on this topic I refer you to the excellent book Help At Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids. Or just Google the term “gulag school.”

Residential treatment centers (RTCs) should always be the method of last resort when dealing with a problem child. The idea is to use the least restrictive form of treatment that is effective; if the kid can get better at home, than they should stay at home. After all, they’re going to have to go home sooner or later.

I myself would have been a prime candidate for one of those residential treatment centers if my parents had had the money and the inclination. I practically flunked out of junior high and dropped out of school altogether in the eighth grade. I had no friends. I spent an entire year basically hiding in my room and hardly ever leaving the house. I tried to commit suicide. I went on to date a man over a decade older than myself (and we’re still together after seven years, he’s the light of my life, but many people would consider that a “problem behavior” in a sixteen-year-old). I’ve had severe depression for most of my life.

Yet I’ve turned out more or less all right. I still struggle with depression, but I graduated high school and went to a good college. I’m not homeless, I’m not a drug addict or an alcoholic or a prostitute, I have no criminal record and I’ve never killed anybody. I got through a very difficult adolescence without much in the way of professional help. I think many problem teens will, like me, simply outgrow their problems if they hang on.

Another thing you have to consider is that often, it’s home that’s causing a large part of the problem. I think unless the residential treatment center works closely with the kid’s parents or whoever’s taking care of him, and there is real change in the home environment, things will never really improve. But I think that probably doesn’t happen usually because the parents think it’s all the kid’s problem and the RTC must “fix” the kid. I’m quite sure my own parents would not have felt any need to change their behavior or parenting methods to help me recover my sanity. My mother in particular has always blamed everyone for her problems except herself.

Let’s say my parents sent me off to an RTC. I think I would have quickly improved in that kind of environment — later in life, when I was hospitalized for depression, I got better rapidly. But then, went I went home, back to the bullying at school in junior high and the isolation later, back to no friends, back to my mother’s violent screaming tantrums and bullying, and my brother’s abuse and my parents condoning the same, I would have promptly gone right back off the deep end again, probably worse than before. I think that’s a large part of the reason why RTCs are often unsuccessful in the long run. I’m not saying RTCs are all utterly useless or that they are all bad places, but they should be used with great caution and if a less intensive treatment works, that should be used instead. I mean, if you stub your toe, morphine will take care of the pain. But so would an aspirin. *end of rant*

Getting back to the Cedu School: it closed in 2005 due to financial insolvency, in part due to the lawsuits filed against them by parents of children who attended the school and were allegedly mistreated. Daniel Yuen’s parents were among the plaintiffs. It’s worth noting that the school as many defenders, both the parents of alumni and former students who say it was very helpful to them. And perhaps it was. But clearly, Cedu failed these three missing boys, failed them spectacularly.

But THREE BOYS have been missing from there for a long, long time. John Christopher Inman had a seizure disorder, and Blake Pursley had so many health problems that he couldn’t have lasted a week on his own. What are the chances, I ask you. What’s going on here?