Ask Sue Scheff
Sue Scheff is a nationally recognized published author, parent advocate and family Internet safety advocate. Learn more about her accomplishments and many contributions to national publications about parenting and digital citizenship on her personal website.
Sue Scheff founded Parent’s Universal Resource Experts (P.U.R.E.) in 2001, shortly after her horrific experience with teen help programs.
Frequently asked questions for Sue Scheff:
Q) Why do you believe in teen help programs, therapeutic boarding schools or residential treatment centers after you had such a terrible experience?
Sue Scheff: The fact is, there are many very good schools and programs in our country. It is about doing your due diligence and understanding that this teen help business is just that – a business. It’s a big business too.
I want parents to learn from my mistakes, gain from my knowledge. I always tell parents I can’t tell them where to place their child, but I can give them questions to ask, tips and advice to follow. Questions that they would have never thought about otherwise.
In most cases, this is the first time you have been faced with a situation of a troubled teen. You really don’t know who to trust. You get online and you are chased down by these toll-free numbers and sales-people that promise you the world. You enter your email – the next thing you know, you receive a dozen programs telling you your child is perfect for them. It can be so overwhelming.
I often tell parents, take your time – or if they aren’t ready yet, I encourage them to at least research programs while they are calm. Even if they never need them, they have done their homework before a crisis happens.
Q) Do you consider yourself an educational consultant (EC)?
Sue Scheff: No. I often have people say that, but I personally don’t consider myself one. I refer to myself as a Parent Advocate, since I believe I am advocating for parents — in an industry that is extremely confusing if you are not educated in the field of it. Some of the people in this field, including EC’s call me a crusader, I guess I accept that too.
The so-called educational consultants (EC) in this field of teen help programs will charge parents up to $5000.00 or more for nearly the same advice I give. I have had many parents tell me that I have given them more – if not better, advice than the EC’s they had paid. It’s only my opinion, that any parent today, can do their own diligence for their own child. An EC serves as a middle person. I’m not convinced you need that. However, that is only my opinion. There are some situations that do require EC’s.
Q) Do you visit any schools or programs?
Sue Scheff: Yes and it’s really enlightening to see how some teen help programs truly engage with their students through different enrichment programs such as art therapy and animal assisted therapy. Visiting these schools and programs renews my ability to share with parents that there is definitely quality care in our country. Yes, there are a few bad apples — and you do still need to be aware of them, however if you do your homework, you will find the right placement for your teen.
Q) Why are there so many teen help referral services now?
Sue Scheff: Mental health is a growing concern in our country especially for youth. As I mentioned above, the teen help industry is a big business and this means the referral business is even bigger.
Parents need to go into this with their eyes wide open. No one should tell you where to place your child, this is ultimately your decision. You should be very cautious of these referral services that sell your emails, phone numbers and other confidential information to schools and programs without screening you first. How do they even know you are an appropriate candidate for that school?
I have talked parents that have accidentally entered their emails or numbers into these sites and the next thing they know they are flooded with confirmations of “We have accepted your son” or “We have your information, your daughter will be a perfect fit” – when in fact that parent doesn’t even have a daughter – or never contacted that school! The referral source took it upon themselves to just randomly send out emails to a variety of programs.
Does a referral source not list a phone number? Maybe it’s a toll-free number? In today’s age, everyone can have a direct number – where are they? I am not a pessimist – I am realist. This is your child we are talking about, not buying/selling a car.
You should know where you are calling and who they are.
I also cringe when I see “best” as their label. Unless there was some third party hired to do a statistical survey, it is hard to say they are the best. They might be really good – even great – but how do you know they are the best – and the best for who? What’s best for some is not always best for others. It’s marketing – and sometimes deceptive when you have parents at their wit’s end.
The biggest takeaway tip, avoid filling out forms that don’t assure you that they are not selling your information to third parties.
Q) Slander, defamation and twisted truths: How do you overcome this online?
Sue Scheff: Since parents or concerned family members are calling me for information about teen help programs, they may stumble on my experience of cyber-war. When I wasn’t able to be silenced from telling my story online or in my book Wit’s End, I was faced with cyber-mobs of slander, defamation and gangs of cyber-destruction.
My name and organization (P.U.R.E.) was dragged through the mud until there was barely anything left. After a trial in 2006, I won the landmark case in Broward County, FL for Internet defamation and invasion of privacy.
Then the next little house of horror opened with new trolls that thought I was attempting to chill the first amendment, which I wasn’t. It was a matter that free speech doesn’t condone defamation.
Long story short, I still have some trolls out there, that don’t want to let go. Not to mention, I understand that the programs that are still opened today associated with the program that harmed my child still tells parents today that the jury made a mistake (from 2003) and I am a disgruntled parent. My name ‘Sue Scheff‘ is still etched into their vocabulary and they are armed and ready when potential parents mention me.
Yes, the truth prevailed. I have risen above it all and stronger because of it.
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Sue Scheff Truth: Teen Help Programs