Venture Academy, a private school in British Columbia, has been helping high-risk adolescents from across Canada to manage their psychological needs and overcome their dependencies since 2001.
The youth, 13 to 18 years of age, come from middle-class families where parents are at their wit’s end. They can no longer maintain relationships with their children, whose irresponsible behaviour threatens their health and future as well as the family unit.
Some adolescents consume copious amounts of marijuana or spend their nights in front of video games. “They might play from 8 to 12 hours a day,” explains Teresa Hay, Director of Operations at Venture Academy in Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley.
Others neglect their studies or go out at night and come back home late. That was the case of Darryl Hague and Rita Olmscheid’s two sons, who left their home near Edmonton to spend several months at Venture Academy.
“The boys didn’t feel they belonged anywhere,” said Hague. They were drifting away from us.”
Half of the youth, who stay in the institution for an average of three to six months, come from British Columbia, while others come from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. A second campus at Barrie, Ontario takes care of adolescents in Eastern Canada.
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[Help for adolescents suffering from mental disorders]
Turned away by social services
The children are monitored for 30 days upon arrival to determine the psychological origin of their at-risk behaviour. They could be suffering from anxiety, impulsiveness or attention deficit disorder, difficulties never detected by their parents or schools.
“We look after youth who have been turned away by social services,” explains Gordon Hay, president and founder of Venture Academy. [The parents were told] your children are not that difficult, we can’t take care of them.”
Hay noted that even if, for example, British Columbia gives a lot of money to help youth involved in drugs or prostitution on the rough streets of the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver, his clients would prefer intervention well before such a scenario occurs.
Click here to hear the interview of a mother talking about her son on Midi express
Help at any moment
For this, he said, children at Venture Academy can go and see behavioural therapists any time. These therapists are present in the classrooms and the teachers also know how to manage troubled youth. Classes are taught at a slower pace than in a traditional school.
The private institution is costly for parents but, as Mrs. Olmscheid points out, “It’s not cheap, but what other choice do we have?”
According to Gordon Hay, the schools in Kelowna and Barrie take care of some twenty children each. He estimates the success rate six months after the youth return to their homes at 85%. In other words, most children have become aware of the risks they were taking and parents have developed a closer bond with their children.
Note to readers: The author of this article registered his child in this school for several months. The child grew up a lot and currently presents no at-risk behaviour.