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Posted April 30, 2004 

Importing troubled teenagers -
Behavior camps become big business in region

The Idaho Spokesman-Review
Spokane, Washington
By Julie Titone

June 2, 1996

A new industry is quietly thriving in the Inland Northwest. It exists only because of teenagers like the one Kristy Vollar (Henley) [Woodbury Reports current web master] used to be.

“If my parents wouldn’t have sent me, I’d be dead or in jail right now,” says the 20-year-old Vollar, who four years ago was running away from her Bonners Ferry home, getting suspended, hanging out with gang-member wannabes.

Where they sent her was a wilderness camp, and then a boarding school, whose specialty is straightening out troubled teenagers.

“We have an epidemic in behavior problems in young people,” says her stepfather, Lon Woodbury.

Woodbury makes his living helping parents find the right place for their out-of-control kids. More and more of those are in the region, in 15 or 20 programs strung from Spokane to Trout Creek, Mont.

Woodbury tracks about 100 programs for his directory called “Places for Struggling Teens.” There are many he doesn’t know about. Utah and the Inland Northwest are the two big regions for wilderness-based offerings.

Woodbury’s office is a converted house in Bonners Ferry. The town, whose timber economy is struggling, benefits greatly from the booming emotional-growth business.

One reason there are more programs is that a lot of staffers, including Woodbury, left Rocky Mountain Academy to strike out on their own.

There’s been little research documenting the long-term results of emotional growth schools, according to Woodbury. But there are many testimonials like those of his stepdaughter.

Kristy Vollar says she almost walked out of Montana’s Mission Mountain School when she turned 18.

“I was free to go. But something the counselor said made me feel like somebody actually cared, there was somebody that was going to help me.

“At that moment I decided, I’m going to go in my room and unpack.”

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