Free Boot Camp Programs for Teens

By Erica Loop
Military-style boot camps can reform your teen.

If your teen is heading down the road to delinquency, a juvenile boot camp can help turn his behavior around. These camps provide strict discipline in military-style settings. They also offer an alternative to incarceration for juvenile offenders who have already been convicted of a crime. Unlike correctional facilities, boot camps provide educational, vocational and therapeutic services. If you can’t afford the costs of a boot camp, free programs, grants and scholarships offer a means to pay for your teen’s treatment.

Government-Run Boot Camps

In some cases boot camp is mandatory. County courts may require teens who have been adjudicated for crimes or delinquent acts as adults to complete their sentences at boot camps. For example, Miami-Dade county operates boot camp programs for young adults aged 14 through 24. This includes programs for both boys and girls who have been tried as adults in court. As a county-run program of the corrections and rehabilitation department, Miami-Dade’s boot camps are free. Similar programs exist throughout the country, but not every state or county has boot camps as alternatives to other juvenile detention or correctional facilities.

Public and Private Funds

Not every government-run boot camp uses taxpayer funds. Some free boot camps are funded by grants from public and private sources. This enables teen offenders to attend boot camps instead of less therapeutic detention centers or jails. For example, the Cooke, Grayson and Fannin county boot camps in Texas use a blend of funds from the courts, the Texas Juvenile Probation Commission and the Oliver Dewey Major and Smith Foundations.

School Scholarships

Private boot camps and military academies often offer their own scholarship and grant programs for families who can’t afford the tuition. Private boot camp-style boarding schools are different than the government-run free versions. Unlike county juvenile boot camps, these rigorous and strict programs feature military-like environments with a focus on academics and preparing for college. These school may offer merit-based scholarships, endowed scholarships and other grants that make the program free. For example, Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, Pennsylvania awards annual scholarships for children of disabled or deceased United States military veterans, students with outstanding grades and in-state teens. A school’s financial aid or admissions office can tell you what funds are available and if your child meets the requirements.

Tax Credits

Some states offer tax breaks for private school tuition. A private boot camp that is part of an educational program may qualify for this type of credit, making it free. For example, Wisconsin allows residents a $10,000 tax deduction for private high school costs. If your state offers a similar program, it may or may not cover all of the costs related to the boot camp. The specific amount of the credit varies, depending on state tax laws and regulations.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.