Your child is out of control – lying, skipping school, hanging with seedy characters and generally bringing anguish to your home life. You’ve already shopped therapists, but you’re caught in a common dilemma: you make too much money for an income-based agency and not enough for a pricey counselor. Time to consider an extreme way to help your child: a military school. Don’t bother pricing private military schools. Tuition rivals that of universities. Free military schools for troubled youth are more than just wishful thinking. Turn to the ChallenNGe program (capital letters stand for National Guard) in your state to find free help.

Boot Camp for Troubled Youth in Maryland

If you are looking for a boot camp for troubled youth in Maryland, the Maryland Freestate ChalleNGe Academy is endorsed by the state and run by the Maryland National Guard and the National Guard Bureau. Its campus, on the main post of Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Harford County, is home to at-risk adolescents between 16 and 18 whose negative behaviors have profoundly disrupted family life. For 22 weeks, “cadets” are subjected to rigid discipline, but for those who have dropped or flunked out of school, with behavior change comes a high school diploma. Successful graduates often move on to a second free, year-long, post-residential program.

Military Schools in Mississippi

According to the Mississippi ChalleNGe website, 8,000 kids drop out of school in that state every year. The Mississippi National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Academy aims to help change that. The 1993 Defense Authorization Act that launched the ChalleNGe pilot program in conjunction with the Mississippi National Guard, helped establish this free military camp for kids. This boot camp-style program teaches teens the meaning of accountability, responsibility and respect. Like the other state-sponsored ChalleNGe programs, the Mississippi version includes leadership, job, educational and fitness training for both young men and women. It’s not unusual for kids to turn around so dramatically they graduate the program with college scholarship funds in hand.

Get Help in Illinois

When Rantoul Air Force Base, located two hours from Chicago, was closed, the State of Illinois re-purposed the site, establishing a chapter of the National Guard-driven military campus for at-risk children. Lincoln's ChalleNGe has graduated 35 classes since the program began and while it’s fighting to stay open amid government budget cuts, the military school has plenty of success stories. Youth accepted into the program lose most privileges when they arrive and must earn them back, one at a time. Volunteers, in concert with the Guard, get youngsters through this program. On graduation day, parents are re-introduced to the kids they once knew.

Get Help in Oregon

The Oregon National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program refers to itself as a residential alternative high school program modeled after military schools. “Staff use a "Hands Off," tough love, caring, disciplined approach to instill values, train, and instruct cadets.” Your child will set and meet goals, adhere to a military schedule and make behavioral changes on his own schedule. The program is accredited by the Northwest Association of Accredited Schools and approved by the Oregon Department of Education, so not only can your child get his head on straight, he can also earn a high school diploma.

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About the Author

Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.