From the week of November 27, 2008

"Where the Wild Things Are," Adam Cayton-Holland, November 13

A Family Affair

My wife and I have a daughter, Samantha, at Monarch Center for Family Healing. We decided in September of this year to send her to Monarch because of behavioral problems and drug use; our decision was the result of a ton of research. We live in New Jersey, so choosing a program in Colorado was a huge commitment. We knew we would be traveling to Georgetown every seventeen days for family week. And we could not be happier with our choice. After spending a cumulative fourteen days at Monarch over the past two months, my wife and I feel we've gotten to know the staff quite well, and have been very impressed by the level of care and commitment.

Not only are Chris and I pleased with the progress Samantha has made while at Monarch, but so is she. I don't question that kids and parents have had bad experiences at Monarch, but I believe these are isolated incidents. After reading your article, I felt that you didn't interview a broad base of Monarch alumni. I wonder if you researched Monarch as well as myself and my wife did. 

Samuel Spencer

Brick, New Jersey

In January of this year, my wife and I elected to place our oldest child in Monarch after months of agonizing issues in our family. Monarch was offered as something no other program even came close to: family therapy.  Not just a place to send children to have them "fixed," but a place to learn what is going on in our family system — what was causing our child to search out this direction in life.

I was blown away by Monarch. Don't get me wrong: I am still having many issues with my child. But I have learned that it is my family dynamic that is the root cause of our problem — not my child. He is reacting to something wrong in our family. We are continuing to work on this. God willing, we will connect with each other someday in the honest way we are really supposed to meet. Does my child like the program? Hell, no. But guess what he says every time he gets himself in trouble and we have to decide on serious boundaries for his safety?  "Can I go back to Monarch?" 

If you are reading this and wondering if your child will make it through the night because you can't stop them from running away, taking drugs or getting pregnant, you will ultimately have to face the hardest issue I had to face: to get him or her help. Don't send your child to a wilderness program if you don't want to get involved with your personal issues or want to avoid diving head-on in your child's life — all of it. This is life stuff.  It's ugly. 

My child made it through Monarch. We are still struggling — not because of his experience, but because I suck at this parenting thing. I just wasn't prepared. In today's world, who is? But my son is thankfully alive, and I am working like hell trying to show him that I love him enough to do whatever it takes to work with him. 

Craig McMahon

San Antonio, Texas

Adam Cayton-Holland, your article on the Monarch Center for Family Healing grossly misrepresents the organization and significantly distorts the truth. Monarch is a place of healing, heart and integrity. The founders, Dave and Lori Ventimiglia, are deeply compassionate, loving and well-intentioned people who have dedicated their entire lives to helping teenagers and families in crisis. They open their hearts and embrace every family that comes to Monarch, and seek to provide the highest-quality therapy available by some of the most experienced and talent therapists in the area. Your article is a superficial exploration of some very complex situations. The process of therapy often touches deep pain and asks people to look at parts of themselves they would rather disown...and sometimes instead of doing that, it is just easier to blame others.

Joan Rieger


Editor's note: In Adam Cayton-Holland's "Where the Wild Things Are," he mistakenly reported that Monarch is listed as one of the "top fifty programs in the nation" by the National Association of Therapeutic Wilderness Camping. Although Monarch is a member of the NATWC and listed on its web site, the organization does not rate wilderness camps or therapeutic schools and programs. We apologize for the error. For more — much more — discussion of that article, go to the News section on The Monarch lawsuit trial is scheduled to begin Monday, December 1, in Denver District Court.