Frequently Asked Questions

What age boys do you take?

Our Camp serves boys from age 9 through 15. Remembering that we are a long-term program that could last two years or more, it is important that we do not admit boys who could become legal adults (18) before they are ready to graduate. The adventure of living the Camp life seems to appeal best to boys 11-14 and this pleasure balances the hard effort needed to overcome habitual behavior problems. Also, at ages younger than 9, the attachment to parents (especially Mom) and home are difficult to overcome in a new setting.

What does it cost to send my son to camp?
We are looking for a reasonable commitment from the family and discourage any new indebtedness in order to attend Camp. Our policy is that no boy will be refused or discharged because of the family’s inability to pay the full tuition. While the per diem for Camp (cost per day) is much lower than many similar programs that help boys with deep behavioral needs, the costs for land, buildings, daily operations (food, electric, etc.) and a high staff-to-boy ratio do add up! Fortunately, as a church-supported charity, families who cannot afford the entire cost of their boy’s stay at Camp are not turned away. The monthly cost of roughly $1,900 can be reduced by ‘scholarships’ based on family need. Each family is responsible to raise as much of the tuition cost as they can through extended family, friends, and their own charity connections. Further, each family is asked to pay tuition based upon their income and a sliding scale fee. Camp works within each individual family’s financial ability.
How long does your program take?
The number of months varies widely, but averages 18 months, or, 1 ½ years. Most of our campers have attended a short-term program or counseling for help and many boys have participated in several such programs without success. Further, most of our boys have developed their struggles over many years. Camp is designed to accommodate boys who have both different levels of need and who can make progress at different speeds. A boy’s Camp stay is complete when the behavior and attitude goals he has set (with the encouragement of his parents and Camp staff) have been met, not when a fixed amount of time has lapsed. While the intense nature of the Wilderness Therapeutic model makes the time of recovery far shorter than the time that a boy took to acquire unacceptable behavior, there are generally no shortcuts.
What does it take to graduate?

A boy must have satisfactorily and consistently met his behavior and attitude goals in order to graduate. Due to the long–term nature of Camp, the decision to commit to the OWBC program is made by a team consisting of the parents, their son, the Camp staff, and the Camp therapy boy group where he would live. The decision commitment comes from asking questions like, ‘Can the Camp format help this particular boy with his specific struggles?’, ‘Can the group we have for this boy help him through his challenges?’, and, ‘Is each member of this team able and ready to commit to their part of bringing change in his life?’ In the same way before graduation, that same team, many months later, asks questions like, ‘Has our son truly changed his attitude and behavior during home visits?’, ‘Is this boy consistently functioning well in his group at Camp?’, and, ‘What is the likelihood of success given the circumstances he will be returning to at home?’ The decision to come and the decision to graduate is made by this parent – son – staff – group team.

What is the application process?

There are 4 steps in the application/intake process that require at least two months. Again, because coming to Camp is a long–term commitment, the application process is very deliberate. We do not take ’emergency placements.’

Step One is for the parents to learn all they can about Camp from this website and conversation by phone with Camp’s Family Worker. If it would seem that Camp might fit the boy’s need…

Step Two would be to receive and fully complete the application. If after receiving and reviewing the application, there is an opening and Camp Staff feels that they might have a group that could help this boy…

Step Three would be an in-home interview by the Family Worker where the family could meet someone from Camp and view a photo album of Camp as each picture is explained to them. Also at this meeting, Camp staff can meet the family and begin to understand the home situation. If after this meeting in the home, both family and Camp staff still feel that Camp could be what this boy needs to ‘get on the right track’ in life, then…

Step Four would be a visit to Camp where the boy and his family can tour the campus, meet the staff, and visit in the campsite with the therapy group of boys that their son would be living with. The purpose of this tour is to answer any remaining questions that any member of the decision team might have: parents, son, Camp staff, or Camp group. At the end of this tour, the team meets in the office and decides to make the commitment to one another or to not make the commitment at that time. This Camp visit is scheduled roughly two weeks before a known opening in the proper group. If the decision to come to Camp is made, a date and time are set to arrive at Camp. This entire process will take at least two months, depending on when a spot in the right group opens up.

What training do the caregivers have?

Staff training at Ohio Wilderness Boys Camp exceeds the requirements of the State of Ohio for residential care. All personnel are trained in the Wilderness Road Therapeutic Camping Association model of helping boys make progress on their behavior and attitude goals. This system of care has been used for over 60 years in dozens of Camps to help thousands of boys. Senior Camp Staff are responsible to train and oversee Mentors (Chiefs) as they help boys achieve success. Our brochure describes this in more detail, while the book The Wilderness Road by founder Campbell Loughmiller (available under ‘Resources’ tab) would be an in-depth explanation of our de-escalation and support strategies. Further, all direct-care staff are trained in Advanced First-Aid, CPR, Safe Crisis Management, Water Safety, Fire Safety, Suicide Prevention, and other areas needed to keep our campers safe and secure in our outdoor environment. All staff are entirely free of any criminal record, and have at least five recommending references.

Will my son get behind in school?

We find that most boys who come to Camp advance academically at least as much as they have been in school and usually more. Education and learning at Camp are given high priority. However, at Camp we use a ‘Life-Wide’ educational approach – one that is very personal to each camper rather than a traditional school room setting. That is, everything that a boy learns at Camp impacts him directly in some way. Upon entering Camp, each boy will take a standardized achievement test and will be tested again just before he graduates to track academic progress and prepare for re-entry into the educational setting of his parents choice upon Camp graduation. Even though we do not use the traditional lecture and book approach, boys consistently become better learners while at Camp in: Language Arts, Science, Mathematics, History and Geography, Music and Art, Health, Physical Fitness and First Aid, Safety and Fire Prevention. The emphasis at Camp is first on behavior and attitude improvement which allows true learning, or education, to prosper within each boy.

What does Camp require of parents?

Parents will find that Camp requires a lot from them: time, travel, tuition, and a desire to become a better parent. Beyond the agreed-upon tuition, our program for boys necessitates a good bit of travel back and forth to Camp. Two round trips every six weeks for Homevisits, a trip to Camp every three months for an evaluation, and a couple of other trips per year for special events. If the family lives close to Camp this might not be much of a burden, but as distances increase so will the cost in time, fuel, and vehicle wear. Parents need to stay connected with their son by weekly letter writing. Parents need to maintain the required outdoor clothing that gets used heavily in our rugged setting. Our special-needs boys require parents with parenting skills above normal, therefore, our Family Worker will be working with the parents to help improve their child-raising skills. Weekly lessons and calls, and a Parent Group Meeting and visits every six weeks are the norm for our parents. At Camp we are looking not only for boys who want to change, but parents who want to improve as well.

What about post-camp treatment?

Ensuring a good transition back home and success back in the community for our graduates is very important to Camp. The Family Worker will try to develop local mentor relationships for both the boy and family throughout the boy’s stay at Camp. This should provide a smooth transition back into the community for the Camper.  An evaluation six months after leaving is offered back at the Camp office. Camp staff remain available to parents for consultation after graduation.

How is this program different than others?

There is no similar program in the state of Ohio, and only a handful in the U.S. Going beyond the physical environment (our outdoor facility), we differ greatly from most programs. We do not use reward-based (prizes or privileges) or punishment-based (fear) motivation. We teach that things should be done right because it is the right thing to do and doing so makes us feel ‘right’ on the inside. We show boys how to take responsibility for their words and actions, just as we want to see others who live with us behave that way. We demonstrate that living unselfishly ultimately brings the most fulfillment in life.
We are not a Boot Camp, although we have plenty of structure and routine. We are not an adventure program, although we have lots of fun and seek to make positive memories with our boys. We are not a scouting program, although our boys will learn many outdoor living skills.
Essentially, we staff men live life with boys – meeting our daily needs and interacting with others – in a boy–oriented world learning what works and what doesn’t in life. Natural consequences for our words, actions, and attitudes abound as we live life together as a group. When problems arise, we stop right then and there and solve them by being responsible, getting a better plan, and having good attitudes again. We move forward when the problem is solved. Learning the skill of solving and preventing problems is the goal of Camp. As we strive for this, we don’t do things ‘to’ boys… we don’t do things ‘for’ boys… we do things ‘with’ our boys.

What if my son doesn't want to come?
Each boy needs to have a desire to come to Camp in order to change himself. Camp is not for everyone. We are looking to change hearts in boys…their motive for how they live life and how they relate to others. Camp is a supportive place of mentoring and encouragement through love, fun, and care that is hard to resist, if a boy has a desire for change. There does need to be some desire for change within a boy if he is to be successful at Camp. The expression of this desire may be grudging or only come as a result of looking at much worse options, but it needs to be there. We cannot force change on an unwilling heart – sadly, that can only be accomplished by medications or institutionalization. Our goal is to reach boys before they get to that point.
Does my son have to be a Christian to come?

No. All boys are welcome regardless of their faith, or lack of it. Our ethic or moral code… how we determine what is right and what is considered wrong… comes from the Christian Bible. All staff are committed Christians. We have many activities that are Biblically-based: morning devotions, prayer, singing, and two Chapel services each week.
We cannot change a boy’s heart concerning the Christian faith, but the influence will be all around him, and as a family you need to be comfortable with this if your son comes to Camp. The conservative Anabaptist churches of Ohio (Mennonites, Amish, etc.) furnished the facility and supply both staff and the scholarships we can offer families unable to pay the full tuition.

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