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Our Approach

Waterford Country School Therapeutic Boarding Program is designed for families of children who have social, emotional, or behavioral challenges and seek another route to personal and academic success. We believe our long agency history of compassionate care for children and partnership with Cornell University sets us apart. 

CARE Model

Waterford Country School Therapeutic Boarding Program adopted Cornell University’s CARE model in 2009. Our children have had tremendous success with this treatment approach, which applies resources to treat underlying causes of behavioral health problems rather than behavioral consequences. We do not blame children for not thriving- we look for and treat the cause. If your child has struggled in programs designed to shape their behavior to the detriment of education and general involvement, Waterford Country School Therapeutic Boarding Program offers an alternative. Our only goal is to create an environment that fosters positive behavioral change and establishes a pattern of successful experiences. 

Clinical Model

At Waterford Country School Therapeutic Boarding Program, Master’s level therapists lead the children in intensive individual, group, and family therapy. We are accredited by The Council on Accreditation (COA), which partners with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards. 

Waterford considers each student referred as an individual with special social, emotional, and academic needs. We do not rule out any potential students based on past behavioral issues. Instead, we meet with the student and their family to determine whether Waterford Country School is the best fit. We have found success with these diagnoses:

  • Generalized Anxiety

  • Depression 

  • Mood Disorders

  • Autism Spectrum Disorders

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD

  • Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)

  • Eating concerns

  • Personality disorders

  • Social Anxiety disorders

  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

  • Conduct Disorder

  • Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD)

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

  • School avoidance concerns

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)


Established in 1922

Waterford Country School Therapeutic Boarding Program is a nonprofit agency that has been serving children and families since 1922. As the needs of children in our region have grown, so have our programs. Waterford Country School (WCS) is a multi-faceted, multi-program agency that focuses on “Doing Whatever It Takes” to enrich children and families lives through specialized programs, resources, and community services. To see the array of programs and services at Waterford Country School, please visit our agency page: waterfordcountryschool.org

Top Fears of Parents with Children in a Therapeutic Boarding School

The decision to send a child to a boarding school is not something anyone takes lightly. Many parents of teens struggle through the emotional overload of this kind of decision. Although you and your family are hopeful for these next steps towards healing, there are still genuine fears. Here are some top fears of parents who have children in a therapeutic boarding school program like Waterford Country School.

1. Will they fit in?

After watching your special child struggle and fail and flounder in the school system, community, and at home, parents are extra sensitive to the uniqueness of their own child. They realize a traditional path is not working for their son or daughter. They know they have quirks and antics and learning differences. They wish for friends and teachers that will be understanding and accepting. Waterford Country School holds the motto “Where Everybody is Somebody” and treats each child as a unique “somebody” to be embraced. Parents often feel these fears eased when they visit the school, dorm, and campus because they can see all of our kids are unique and quirky and still fit in. Because as Martha Holden, author of the CARE Model from Cornell University, said, “You don’t wait for the child to fit into your program; you fit the program to the child.”

2. Will they miss home?

As with any change in routine, parents are worried about homesickness for their child while they are away from home. Will missing their family and home life affect them in negative ways? Or worse yet, will they like it so much at boarding school they won’t want to come home? It is normal for parents to worry about their child’s transition. Living and going to school in a home away from home creates opportunities for growth and new skills that might not otherwise be available to your child. The CARE Model used at Waterford Country School considers every student’s emotional competence and works together with the parents to keep open communication through the ups and downs of transition.

3. Will I be left out of their lives?

Many parents fear the boot camp approach to helping troubled teens, which takes children out of their comfort zone and forces them to rely on staff and peers to navigate their lives. Waterford Country School does not take this approach. It is essential to our Cornell CARE Model-driven approach that families be involved and integral to each student’s daily life. Whatever is needed to make the child and parent feel connected. Whether it’s a phone call to say goodnight or a video conference to share about an exciting day, parents at Waterford Country School are encouraged to stay active participants in their child’s life.

4. Will I still make decisions for them?

When a parent entrusts their child to the care of a therapeutic boarding school, they always worry if they will still be in the parental, decision making role for their child. The fear that they will lose control over their child and their decisions based on their proximity. It is normal for a parent to want to know what their child is experiencing in their life. To know if they’re hurting or happy, making friends, and making good decisions. Waterford Country School believes the child heals when the whole family heals and seeks to communicate with each student’s family as much as possible. Unlike other programs with strict rules and restrictions, interacting with family is never a privilege that can be earned or taken away. WCS involves families in every change or decision about their child, keeping communication open at all times. Once parents see this team-driven approach, their fears are eased, and they embrace the adage “it takes a village to raise a child.”

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