Questions to Ask Parent References

Searching for places to send troubled teens is exhausting and stressful — especially when you are making this major decision for your teenager and family. Be prepared with informative questions to ask parent references. 

Since 2001 we have been educating parents about how to research and investigate therapeutic boarding schools to help with troubled teenagers — the initial online search can be daunting and confusing. We take you step-by-step to help you make the right choice for your family.


In our decades of experience, parents have shared with us the best advice was speaking with other families that have taken this journey before them. It gave them deeper insights to the program they were considering and at times, helped them expand their search or gave them new ideas to try at home.

Parents references are priceless, if a potential school or program does not give them to you, (in our opinion), this is a red flag.

Schools for troubled teens that will use the excuse that it violates with HIPPAA policy, it is just that, an excuse. With HIPPAA, you can have exception with the parent’s permission to be a reference.  Most all these programs you are interviewing operate in accordance with HIPPA — again, get parent references and if they do not want to give them, it might be best to move on.

Prior giving out personal references, programs may have you complete an application or a short version of an application before giving you parent references. This assures them that you are a fit for their school and are considering placement. It does not mean you are going to enroll in the program; however, it provides security for everyone involved when giving out personal information of families.

Informative Questions to Ask Parent References

When asking for references, ask for parents with teens of the same age and gender. If you have an adopted teenager, you may want to ask for families that also have an adopted child in the program. As a bonus, you can ask for families within your own geographical area (state) or region.

-Why did they send their teen to a program?
-How did they get their teen to the program?
-Did they use assisted transport? If so, how was that experience?
-Did their teen hate them for sending them? Were they fearful they would?
-What was their trigger moment that made their decision?
-Why did they choose this particular program?
-What was their deciding factor on this program?
-Did they choose coed or same gender and why?
-Did they visit the program prior placing their child?
-How was the communication at the program?
-How was the staff, education, clinical?
-How was the teachers? Was their teen able to complete school?
-Are they satisfied with the program?
-How was the home visits with their child?
-Did their teen graduate the program?
-How was the transitional support back home?
-Would they recommend the program to a friend or family?
-How is their teen doing today? How is their relationship now with their teen?
-Would they like to share anything more?

A key question parents should ask is, if they could change one thing about the program to improve it, what would that be? It gives you room to find out a bit of negative. Usually not enough to change your mind but helps you to go in — eyes wide open.

Parents can tell you about their challenges with their own teenager prior placing them into a behavioral boarding school. They may have some advice and resources you have not tried yet — although it didn’t work for them, it may work for you.

When making your calls be prepared to take notes, and it is always best to email or text for a convenient phone appointment so you both have time to have a relaxed conversation. Again talking to parent references will give you invaluable insights in making this major decision.

Also read:

What Is The Cost of Therapeutic Boarding Schools?

Finding Safe Therapeutic Boarding Schools

Effective Therapeutic Boarding Schools


Do you need help researching schools for troubled teens? Contact us for a free consultation.

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Many parents are at their wit’s end with the challenges of raising teenagers. If you are considering residential therapy, contact us for a free consultation.

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