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The Family Foundation School is a behavior modificaton facility located on 431 Chapel Hill Road, Hancock, New York 13783 [1].

It was founded in 1979.

They are able to detain 240 teenagers aged between 12 and 18.

The average length of a stay is minimum 18 months [2].

Program structure

Admission process

The parents have to apply and they are encouraged to a visit, but the teenager are not allowed on campus before entering the facility [3].

For Parents Only

The tour and interview are for parents only, not for the prospective student, so if you are a single parent or are traveling alone, you are welcome to bring another adult relative or adult friend of the family. We do ask that you make arrangements for younger children, as we are not able to accommodate them during interview visits.


They use a kind of level system where junior teenagers in the program are monitored by both staf and teenagers who have been there longer. Access to personal laptop is something the teenagers can earn.

Student life

When entering the facility the detained teenager are put in one of 8 "families" properly as a symbol of that the teenager has lost his or her rights to be a part of their old family. Each "family" consist of 30 teenagers. A family has a two family leaders called "father" and "mother".

Each of the detained teenagers has a sponsor and a junior sponsor. Alltough the program detain teenager of both genders they live in gender-separated dorms.


The day starts with mandatory chapel which is lead by a leader (Catholic, Protestant and Jewish on rotation basis which mean that a the teenager is forced to attend chapel in a different belief than their own).


Communication is with parents alone. Siblings are only allowed to communicate with the detained teenager if the parents and the staff member handling the case. No communication with friends are allowed at all.

During the first month letters are the only way of communication. After a month the teenager may recieved a weekly phonecall, but the right to communicate with parents are something to be earned [4].

Students may lose communication privileges for a variety of reasons. The most common is for not doing their homework. By making letters and phone calls a privilege that students can lose, we restructure relations between parents and children. At home, most of our students avoided communicating with their parents. Here, after a few months, students comply with behavioral expectations so that they can make calls home. Thus we transform contact with parents into a positive reward instead of something to be avoided.


The first visit is on-campus in relationship with a parent seminar held on campus. It is held 6 to 8 weeks after the admission. It must be in a public setting, so any possible negative information about the teenager state can be adressed. If the teenager progress in the program the next visit - still on-campus - will be held in relationship with a Family Group after 4-6 further weeks.

After 6 months some student are judged to be granted an off-campus visit over night, but it must not be in the home of the teenager, where the teenager perhaps will be able to contact family or friends. Six month is minimum. Most are not ready until they have been detained for 9 or 12 months.

Home visit are a part of exit plan for the program and they are therefore encouraged to be put off until late in the program.

Mandatory participation in the 12-step program

They use the 12 step system to battle all problems regardless if the teenager is detained there for substance abuse, alcohol abuse or simply Oppositional defiant disorder.


If a teenager does not agree to a certain demand, they are first restrained (both by staff and untrained teenagers senior in the program) and put in the corner for 24 hours [5][6]. If the teenager refuse to sit down in the corner, they are duck taped or wrapped:

  • 1) To the chair
  • 2) In more severe cases they are duct tape hands and feets and then rolled into a blanket, which is duck-taped so the teenager can not free him or her-self by rolling on the floor.

They also have isolation rooms with cameras in the cellar.


They also offer college for older teenager. This is a less strict environment, but still out of norms regarding relationship with other teenagers [7].


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