Drew Way was on a downward spiral at school and in life. He was suspended from school due to drug use, and made threats to his parents. The worst part, for his family, was the lack of remorse shown by Drew.
“The day I went to the office and found out about Drew being suspended,” said his father, Andy, “was the same day we found out he was accepted to Shelterwood.”
Drew’s family was worried, and hoped Shelterwood would get him back on the right path. Time was running out – Drew was steps away from destruction.
What it was like dropping Drew off at Shelterwood: “When we dropped Drew off,” says Drew’s stepmom, Christine, “I was prepared for a hard drive home, but we actually didn’t cry at all. We felt like there was hope and we really believed Drew was where he needed to be – like God had brought us to the right place. For the first time, we felt hope and relief.”
All a parent wants is for their son or daughter to be healthy. But the Ways knew Drew was hurting.
“We gave Drew everything we had,” says Andy, “but after you exhaust every piece of knowledge and resource you have, there’s only so much you can do. Leaving him at Shelterwood that day was the first time we felt real hope.”
Why Shelterwood: “I had been looking at other programs,” says Andy, “and felt scared about a lot of the reviews I had seen. That was a scary process. There are a lot of options for programs that help teenagers. But we knew school and therapy had to be part of the process. When we first heard about Shelterwood, we spoke with Shelly (Shelterwood’s Director of Admissions) and knew the program had all the pieces we wanted. Drew benefitted from an accredited curriculum, participated in the neurobehavioral program, received excellent clinical care and, of course, the mentors played such a big role in his success.”
Drew’s beginning at Shelterwood: “Drew was pretty stubborn at first,” says Christine, “and did some things to try and remove himself at Shelterwood. But there was breakthrough around the 11 week mark. Shelterwood likes parents to do a site-visit around that time, so we came and visited. And when we saw him, he was appreciative. He spoke with gratitude that we had not heard in a long time. In terms of therapy, Drew’s counselor worked with our whole family to get to the root of Drew’s anxiety. It was a long process, but mental health cannot be rushed so we just had to put faith in the process.”
Shelterwood staff stood by the Ways throughout their journey. Before Shelterwood, they felt alone in the fight for their child’s life, after enrolling it became clear to us that God had sent us help.
“One of the many things we enjoyed were the Family Weekends in the Fall and Spring, and the ability to talk with other parents, who have had challenges with their children.”
The mentors at Shelterwood: “The mentors or ‘Bigs’ at Shelterwood,” says Andy, “completely changed the game for our son’s well-being. Drew opened up to them because he felt comfortable. It’s amazing when you get an army of people – the staff, the Bigs, the therapists – who have a heart for your son or daughter. Not to mention they are really fun people, who enjoyed creating space for play. Through all of that, Drew made really close friends.”
As Drew opened up to mentors and staff, his heart was softened to receive truth. The boy who had been walking a dangerous line began to accept the truth: he is a child of God.
“The mentors had faith-based conversations with Drew, and that was very formative for him spiritually. He heard about a relationship with God from someone other than us, which helped him wrestle with doubts and believe key understandings.”
The Shelterwood result: “We gave Shelterwood a scared and broken young man,” says Andy, “and I mean he was really struggling. Drew carried baggage from being bullied as a kid. But the boy we are getting back – I call him a ‘next level human’ because he is empathetic, intuitive and confident. Academically, he is back on track. Now, he has hope and a relationship with God which has helped with insecurities. That’s a big deal when you look at the peer pressure in America today. He’s a totally different young man.”
The Way family saw changes after Drew returned home, and are glad they acted sooner rather than later.
“He listens now, and helps around the house,” says Christine, “he even likes cooking. He was closed off before, but he can now articulate emotions and communicate what he might be struggling with. Drew would have never reached success without the therapy he experienced at Shelterwood.”
“The number one thing I’d recommend,” says Andy, “is to take action. If you feel like ‘I’ve tried a few things and nothing is working,’ you need to go get something that’s working. And when you do, see the process through and hold on until your child gets better.”
What does it look like to get a son back to his normal, fun-loving self? For the Way family, it started with a trip to Independence, Missouri. Drew spent a season at Shelterwood, so he could experience a lifetime of freedom.