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Frequently Asked Questions


Here at Shelterwood, we’ve created the environment where students CAN grow and change. We’re centrally located in Independence, Missouri, which is in the Kansas City area. Our great airport with Southwest and other major airlines is convenient from anywhere in the country. Our campus is located on 220 wooded acres, set apart from the local community. Our campus includes outdoor courts, wilderness trails, a swimming pool, beautiful gymnasium, a soccer field, classrooms, dorms and counseling offices. Female and male students live in separate lodges, with same-gender mentors. We serve teens from all over the United States, Canada, and some international students as well. Ultimately, most parents choose us after extensive research because they want the very best program to help their child.

Yes! Four out of five Shelterwood students are not from the Kansas City area. We welcome any student Shelterwood can serve, regardless of where they call home. Our central location was chosen to meet the travel needs of families throughout the nation. We are very proud of our program, components of which are unique and distinct from any other program in the country. Ultimately, most parents choose us because they want the very best program to help their child.

Shelterwood offers a structured experience, but doesn’t take a military perspective. We believe that “relationship and respect” is the key to our program, and that most teens will follow someone they think is cool or respect.  So, we hire a dynamic team of young adults as our direct care staff/mentors to build relationships and live in community with our teens. These young adult mentors work in concert with our therapeutic team to use the therapeutic and spiritual tools available to go after the hearts of teens. At Shelterwood, we maintain a 1.5 : 1 teen-to-staff ratio. That means our teens are more than just supervised. They are discipled and encouraged around the clock, 24/7.

Shelterwood was just recognized by NATSAP (National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs) as one of the first faith-based programs in the country to earn the Gold Star recognition. This is awarded to those programs who have statistical evidence in providing “reliable change” for the teens in their program. While success looks different for every student, Shelterwood has also spent a great deal of time over the years tracking feedback from parents. Please take the time to read some of the stories that are shared on our review site. We have also taken the time to collect quantitative research that highlights some of the changes you can expect to see when your teen attends Shelterwood. Please ask for this data when you call to talk to our admissions counselors.

Shelterwood students are in middle and high school, ranging from age 13 through 17. We serve students from a variety of backgrounds, and every student’s needs are unique. Our strong relationship-based approach to treatment wraps teens in love when they are at their worst. Students arrive at Shelterwood during a very difficult time in their lives, but many say at their graduation that it was the most difficult and rewarding experience of their lives.


As a residential treatment agency, we are uniquely equipped to help struggling adolescents who are spiraling out of control and showing signs of:

  • Low self-esteem, depression or suicidal thoughts
  • Abuse, anger or anxiety
  • Drug use, alcohol use or other risky behaviors
  • Loss of academic standing or school suspensions
  • Low motivation, manipulation or poor peer choices
  • Family or authority conflict and discord
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)


While we would love to help every teen that applies, we simply cannot do so. Our therapeutic team evaluates every application to make sure that each teen who applies would be a good fit for our program. We only accept those teens that we believe we can help, and who have a good chance of success in our program.

Mental and behavioral health issues can create emotionally challenging and financial stressful times for families.

Many of our families are interested in working with their insurance providers to get the cost of residential options at Shelterwood covered.

To help our parents navigate the complex obstacles and red tape associated with insurance denials, we have partnered with several Insurance Advocate companies to help resolve claim issues and ensure their health benefits are working for them.

For a list of these companies, please send an email to

Enrolling your child in a residential treatment center is one of the most difficult choices you may ever make. But it can also be one of the most important decisions you ever make, and help set the trajectory of your teen’s life. At Shelterwood, we see this decision as a new beginning and a chance for lasting life change. Give us a call or fill out an application. We would love to answer all of your questions: (800) 584-5005.

Life at Shelterwood

Shelterwood’s on-site school is fully accredited, and our professional educators teach and challenge students of all levels, including those with IEPs and those at accelerated levels. Unlike most treatment programs, our teachers actually teach from the front of the classroom, and students move from class to class on our campus throughout the day. Our academic team will challenge and encourage your student. We can help you and your teen navigate switching schools mid-semester, as well as credit transfers after your student leaves Shelterwood. Learn more.

When your teen is struggling, all you want is your child back. Although many struggling teens require a traditional residential therapeutic program of nine or more months, some teens may be able to make the transition back home sooner. So at Shelterwood, every teen begins comprehensive treatment with our Rebalance Intensive Assessment.


This stage is designed to initiate the real transformation and restoration your child needs. Our goal in our Intensive is to help you determine what’s best for your teen and your family, answering the question of whether you can finish your treatment back home or whether more residential treatment is needed. And the only way to know the answer is to begin.


Because no two teens are the same, the length of stay looks different for every student. You and your family will receive weekly updates from your therapist throughout the process. And at the end of your Intensive, your family will have a special review with your treatment team to assess progress made.

Shelterwood teens are really no different from the teens in your community. Our teens come from all over the country, from big cities and small communities. They often tell us that most of their friends back home are dealing with many of the same issues that they are facing. Shelterwood teens have families that were willing to go the extra mile and to get help for their teen. At Shelterwood, our staff are involved with teens throughout the day and are able to challenge and intervene when inappropriate behavior is practiced or even discussed. Each teen is vetted through a rigorous application process to reduce the risk that a teen might be a danger to others, and our team also works hard to develop and promote positive peer culture on our campus. Parents of Shelterwood graduates consistently tell us that one of the greatest things about Shelterwood was the life-long friendships that their teen made while they were here.

Shelterwood is faith-based, and the values and teachings of Jesus are at the center of what we do here. And we also believe very much in sound clinical treatment from our masters-trained therapists. We believe in excellent clinical care along with strong spiritual values based on the teachings of Jesus.


Shelterwood includes weekly chapel services, voluntary mentor-led Bible studies, mission trips, and quarterly intensive spiritual retreats. At these retreats, our team has developed a special program that helps teens to uncover the stronghold lies that they have been believing about themselves and replace these lies with the truth of what God says about them. We have seen tremendous breakthroughs for our teenagers on these retreats. Mission and service trips have been a catalyst for real change in many of our teens’ lives.

Not interested in faith? Your teen is still welcome. Teens are never forced to convert or pushed into any spirituality. Faith is always a personal choice for our teenagers. Families that send their teens to Shelterwood do not need to have a faith experience either, but most families are greatly comforted by the knowledge that faith and values are at the heart of what we do. Success at Shelterwood is when we see a family restored. Over and over again at graduation, parents say, I’ve got my child back!

Safety and Supervision

Shelterwood is a leader among Christian residential treatment centers in our student-to-staff ratio: our 55 teens are cared for by more than 90 staff members. Located outside of the city, Shelterwood is a secure environment in which teens feel safe and are supervised throughout the day and night by our professional staff.


With the exception of computer work during school, teens do not have access to cell phones and other forms of electronic communication until they near graduation from our program. We are not a locked facility, but by removing teens from risky contacts they may have at home and from the temptations that a more urban setting may offer, we reduce the risk of teens running away.


Our staff is trained to distribute medication, as well as CPR and restraint-trained. Sharp items, liquids and other hazards are properly locked and supervised if used. Our houses are monitored with video cameras in halls and living areas to review any safety concerns.


Shelterwood as an organization is also routinely reviewed for safety and quality by a variety of third parties. We are a licensed Residential Child Care Facility through the state of Missouri and a member of the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP). In 2019, Shelterwood was awarded The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval® for Behavioral Health Care Accreditation. The Joint Commission is a nonprofit health-care accrediting organization that has set quality-care and patient-safety standards for behavioral health care organizations since 1969. Today, only around 2,000 facilities have achieved the elite gold-seal designation, with an even smaller number of residential treatment centers earning accreditation. Accredited centers go through a rigorous process to prove they meet the Joint Commission’s standards as set by the latest scientific research and expert input.


Our school is also accredited through AdvancED, the world’s largest education community, representing 32,000+ public and private schools and districts across the United States and 70 countries worldwide and serving more than 20 million students. We are also registered with Ministry Safe and require each of our staff to participate in training in Risk Reduction.

Our young adult staff are largely college graduates who have chosen to give a year of their lives in service to helping teens. Many young adults come to us after graduating with degrees in counseling, social work, and ministry. And each Shelterwood mentor goes through a rigorous application and interview process. Mentors are expected to conform with the guidelines of HIPAA, as well as our policies and procedures, including critical areas like reporting, confidentiality, and health and safety. We expect that each mentor has either graduated from college or had  some significant experience in working with teens. A sincere faith in Jesus is also an important prerequisite.


Over their year of service, mentors receive extensive child care training and coaching. Specific training is required at the beginning of their tenure on our staff, including kitchen training, food safety, driving education, de-escalation techniques, medication certification, restraint training, risk reduction, CPR and first aid training. This video explains the role of our mentors and how they help the teens enrolled in our program.

If and when a student has a medical concern, a Shelterwood Case Coordinator will contact parents to gain approval before scheduling an appointment. Of course, if the student is in need of emergency medical care and parents cannot be reached, Shelterwood will follow through with an appropriate emergency response.


Over the course of the students’ stay on campus, case coordinators work with parents/guardians and Shelterwood’s team of therapists to determine if the teens are in need of appointments ranging from annual physicals, dental/eye exams, orthodontist appointments or psychiatric appointments, among many others.


Specific Shelterwood staff is certified to dispense medication and parents/guardians will be consulted before prescriptions are filled. The case coordinators also help bridge the gap between doctors at home and doctors at Shelterwood, by connecting these parties when necessary and helping transfer information and records.

Parental involvement is critical to the success of teens at Shelterwood. Students enjoy a weekly call home along with regular family counseling. Parents have the opportunity to attend two family retreat weekends on the campus each year, which are designed to deepen the family unit through intensive family sessions, groups, parent seminars, and a wide variety of fun and adventurous activities. Parents are also given the opportunity to visit their teen on and off campus throughout the school year in accordance to individual treatment plans.


You and your family will receive weekly updates from your therapist. And at the end of your Intensive, your family will have a special review with your treatment team to assess progress made. This will equip you to make the decision: is your teen ready to return home, or do you need more support from Shelterwood?


Shelterwood parents are involved in the development of the treatment plan, have access to school records through an online parent portal, receive regular interdisciplinary reports from the treatment team, and are invited to quarterly meetings with the various department heads to determine general satisfaction and resolve any issues that might be emerging. We also make sure that parents are deeply involved in the development of their teen’s aftercare plan so that the whole family is prepared for their return.

Other Topics

The Shelterwood team is committed to serving teens for the glory of God. If you’ve ever felt called to share the transformational love of Jesus with teens, then we invite you to visit our Careers page where you can learn more about the positions currently available.