At-risk boys, ages fifteen to seventeen, may be eligible to participate in the Safe Harbor program. The program is not free, nor government-subsidized, but it is more reasonable in cost than most therapeutic boarding schools, thanks to individuals and institutions’ donations.
Boys are admitted into our program on a limited basis for a number of reasons having to do with at-risk behavior, including:
- A major loss in their life: death, family split, parental desertion, abuse
- Electronic/Video addiction issues
- Failing grades and/or truancy
- Poor choice of friends
- Defiance and disrespect toward adults and family
Families who prefer to work with a private program and whose child has minor legal problems will find Safe Harbor can work with most Juvenile or Family Courts to obtain a placement from the court.
A MINIMUM TERM of one year is required for placement at Safe Harbor (learn why in the FAQ section). The boys must progress through the level system. The one-year commitment enables each boy to progress, make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, and ultimately learn to live differently. In the end, the boys need to show themselves, the staff, and their families a consistent way of dealing with life and a positive plan and outlook for their future.
Safe Harbor is an interdenominational program. The staff is dedicated Christian (protestant) individuals who care for each boy in the program. Boys from different religious backgrounds or those from no religious influence are accepted, and no child is required to change their beliefs to have success in the program. However, the residents or guardians of the residents MUST understand our viewpoint that being a Christ-centered ministry is why we believe success comes to the boys at Safe Harbor. Most guardians or parents would be 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 that bad behavior will lead them to less freedom. We develop positive character traits by exposing the boys to 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 licensed mental health professionals and pastoral counseling. All of our staff is involved in mentoring during the 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 led to anticipated change.
Professional staff conducts individual sessions with families and their sons, including conversations over the phone, and staff sends frequent email reports to keep family updated. Additionally, short weekly phone calls and regular letter writing from the boys help 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 boys’ poor attitudes and habits upon entering the program did not occur overnight and 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.
If guardians (grandparents, aunts, uncles, or other relatives) and/or parents are not committed to having their son work through the level system to the point that they recommend them to return home, we prefer they not consider placing their boy at Safe Harbor.