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Posted September 15, 2002 

Jack & Sherry Burkman
Vancouver, Washington

Our daughter has been at Cross Creek Manor since March 2001. She has been part of the same program as the grandmother who wrote the letter of September 8, 2002. She has been in the same groups, in the same classes, and interacted with the same staff and therapists. We have a dramatically different perspective.

Our daughter was placed at Cross Creek for drug addiction, defiance, and similar issues. For the first several months she had few privileges, having to demonstrate that she was ready to be trusted first. During this time, like all the girls, she stayed predominately with the group. Like many girls, she didn't want to be there. Privacy was almost non-existent, and that makes sense. The intention is to keep them safe from themselves and others. In our experience the school is very careful with security, making sure the kids are never alone with one other person; staff or student. We appreciate this precaution, considering where these kids are emotionally and mentally when they have been pulled off the streets, are drying out from drugs, or finding out they have to follow rules, for the first time in a long time. 

It was many months before we talked to our daughter on the phone. We could visit the facility at any time and see her. That doesn't mean we would sit face-to-face and talk to her though. It would be  observational. That was a choice we made when we put her in the program. The intent was to keep her working on herself. 

We wrote many, many letters, as did she. Now, a year and a half later, as we talk with her, we have verified that her letters were never censored. Nor were ours. The program is based on a concept of letting the kids work on themselves, without the opportunity to manipulate the parents into rescuing them. When she had advanced far enough for us to visit her, we met without anyone else around. We were not observed and were free to talk about whatever we wanted. Later we visited and took her away from the facility for several days. At no time have we ever seen any indication that she was told what to say, or what not to say, with one exception. She won't talk about the problems of other girls and their families - that would be a violation of confidentiality. 

Sometimes the whole family isn't in agreement about placing a child in a program like this. A surprising number of families end up with conflict between spouse and step-spouse or between parents and grand-parents. These conflicts sometimes escalate into the court system. We know, because these kinds of family conflicts affect some of the students at Cross Creek and, in turn, affected our daughter. Our kids are some of the best manipulators you will ever find. They will seize an opportunity to play a parent off against another, or to play a grandparent off against parents. Our daughter played this game well, when she was at home. 

After placing our daughter in the program, we choose to be united, both parents working together. In the program, she saw other kids playing this manipulation game, gaining special privileges from the other parent, or waiting to be taken home. These kids learn that the more they exaggerate, the more they lie, and the more they claim abuse, the more their program opposing parent, or grandparent, tries to come to their rescue. So, before our daughter could really work on herself, she had to try their tactics too. That didn't work with us, but it's scary how often they do work on split families. 

Cross Creek Manor has been a blessing to our family. Our daughter is near the end of the program. We've been to the facility many times, and actively participated with the facilitators and therapists. They are skilled, dedicated professionals. When you walk into the foyer of Cross Creek, you can see the state license yourself; they are registered as a Residential Facility. All the therapists are formally educated in counseling. The state of Utah did change their law last year and it caused our daughter's therapist to need another college class to be licensed as an therapist, even though he had his degree. His degree had an emphasis on administration and, until last year, met the requirements for counseling. After the new law passed, he was short a semester class. He could still be licensed in almost all states in the US. When the state made this determination, based on the new law, Cross Creek Manor removed him from counseling. That was appropriate, given the change in law. But, it was also a shame. He was an extraordinarily gifted counselor who led our daughter through fundamental, constructive changes. 

When hearing stories about Cross Creek, it helps to have the entire  story, not just a snippet. Our daughter has learned to stop playing this game of exaggeration and lying by omission. Other girls haven't, especially those who are in their first months in the program. 

Some negative stories are told about Cross Creek schooling. The truth is, it's not an easy school. It's not a school where the kids are > lectured to, take tests, and if they get 60% correct, they pass. This is a school that focuses on independent learning. There are teachers, there are text books, and there are tests. The difference between most schools and Browning Academy is that the kids have to read the entire book, work all the problems, and pass the tests at greater than 80%, or they don't pass the Academy class. Originally, our daughter really didn't like this and it took her forever to pass a class. She would have been really happy to go back to her old school and its methods. In time, she learned new study habits, learned how to learn, and started passing. When we've talked to her about her classes, it's quite apparent that she has learned - her vocabulary is drastically improved, she can engage in much more educated discussions, and she actually knows how to apply math! 

When our daughter went to Cross Creek, she had barely enough credits to be a sophomore, even though she was in the middle of her Junior year. Over the last year and a half, she has learned how to apply herself, even with their tough rules, and will graduate from high school next month. She's learned something that she never learned in public high school - how to study and really learn something. 

"Parents Beware" is an appropriate phrase. Beware of how easily we can be manipulated by those we love. Beware of how easy we can be led to take action, to rescue them, even when rescuing means letting them go back to destructive lifestyles. 

We've been with the Cross Creek program for a year and a half now. We have met with a huge number of people who have had kids in this program, some who were involved years ago, some who are new. We hear the same thing that we have learned. Kids manipulate tremendously over the first many months and will say anything, claim anything, to go back to their previous lifestyle. Those kids that complete the program have learned so much about themselves and how to work constructively in this world, that they are often in a better place than their own parents and grandparents. 

We've met many graduates who are stable kids, making their own way in this world - safely, independently, and happily. We know of some graduates who fell back into old patterns, but it's amazing how many of those pull themselves back into a healthy lifestyle. They have learned the skills to do it by themselves.

Cross Creek Manor is not perfect, but we've seen them listen, learn, and improve the program. We've seen our daughter slowly, but surely, change. She's gained confidence, found how to hold onto her self-esteem, and how to deal with the fact that she is, and always be, a drug addict. It's a program that works.

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