Every Effort is Designed to Bring About Positive Change
We work from the inside out. Other schools work from the outside-in, focusing on external causes and psychology. We work on the heart first. We believe that spiritual growth opens the doors to positive emotional growth. We support this belief through mentoring and daily spiritual encouragement. Our emphasis is to turn boys into young men that truly love and respect others.
Who We Work With
Boys entering our program may be defiant and rebellious, lazy or unmotivated (especially in school), withdrawn, or angry. Many of them blame everyone else for things. They think they know it all and have no accountability. We work with boys with ADD, ADHD, and ODD. We have found that teens will turn to negative behavior and peers, looking for acceptance, because they struggle in their current atmosphere. The longer a parent waits to intervene, the more things their teen may be caught up in.
Before enrolling their sons here, most parents have tried counseling, short-term programs, hospital stays, or other forms of inpatient or outpatient treatment with no lasting effect. However, if your son refuses the idea of change in behavior, interventions away from home such as a residential program like Agapé might be the best long-term approach.
Length of Stay, Monitoring, Discipline, and Level System
We require a 12-month commitment for students entering the program. It is proven that change takes that long to become a part of the boy’s life and habits. Any less than a year, and most boys will return to old bad behaviors within two years of leaving any such program. There are no short-term fixes with lasting outcomes. Boys who are taken out of the therapeutic program before this term will often revert to their previous ways when they return home.
Our goal is to build up these boys and put them on the right track, not to punish them, but a large group of boys with these issues would quickly descend into anarchy and violence if there were no strong discipline and monitoring. Therefore, we are required to monitor every aspect of the boys’ time here, not only for their sake but for the sake and safety of every other student here. There is nothing sinister about such monitoring – it is for their own safety.
We teach the boys throughout their stay that poor choices affect themselves and others. When we encounter issues with negative behavior, we typically withhold special privileges for a time. Other typical disciplinary tactics also include separation from the student body for a time (a cool-down period) or the addition of chores. Agapé is more privilege-based than consequence-based. Loss of privileges is a big deal here. Discipline is principle-minded and designed to teach a character lesson, not to punish the boy.
We do not participate in any form of corporal punishment, nor withholding of basic food or sleep, nor chokeholds or physical restraints (other than for a few minutes in situations where the child may be an imminent threat to himself or others). Our staff is specifically trained in safe restraining tactics.
While we already had such safeguards in place, the State of Missouri requires a thorough background check (by the State Police) for any staff and anyone who is on campus with the boys. We are regularly visited by state regulators.
Boys are promoted through a level system during their stay at Agapé Boarding School, earning privileges and gaining responsibilities as they progress.
Our Level System has nine stages after the Orientation stage:
- Level 0: Orientation – An introductory level, used if a student refuses instruction, is fighting, etc.
- Level 1: New Student – Most students start at this level and are guided by a trusted student in a buddy system.
- Level 2: The student has completed initial assignments and continues to be guided by a trusted student.
- Level 3: The student has continued to stay on task with academics and behavior. He no longer has a student guide and can participate in some outdoor activities. He begins work responsibilities and chores, which continue through level 8.
- Level 4: The student has earned talking privileges with other students. He can participate in all outdoor activities.
- Level 5: Student gains access to the game room and participates in projects in the community.
- Level 6: Student is allowed to participate in off-campus activities when they occur (occasionally).
- Levels 7-8: Leadership mentoring
- Level 9: The student has earned ultimate trust and privileges.
In the lower levels, promotion happens every 7-10 days. Discipline reports set a student back 1-10 days, depending on the infraction. In the mid-levels, promotion times are typically 10-14 days, depending on behavior. In the upper levels, there are usually 14-21 days between promotions. Promotion to Level 9, the top-level, requires administrative review and approval. We try to bring each student up to a level 6 and get him caught up or balanced in his coursework. Not every student aspires to leadership roles in levels 7-9. However, successful students display consistent good behavior and evidence of a personal relationship with God, and they daily seek to help others.