Dear Clarinda Academy Director:

I placed my client, S.K., at Clarinda Academy four months ago on Halloween 2008, knowing very little of your program. We had been desperate to find an appropriate placement for S.K. in California, but had exhausted all our options. So we found you, held our breath and placed her there sight unseen.

On February 25,2009, I made my second visit to Clarinda Academy to see my client. After visiting with my client for a half hour or so, we attended the Assembly together and listened to a guest speaker in the gymnasium. I was impressed with the attention and genuine respect afforded the speaker by the students during and following the Assembly.

Prior to my arrival, I had made arrangements with my client's case manager to receive a full tour of Clarinda Academy, as I had been unable to do so during my previous visit. I want you to know how very impressed I was with your program, your campus and in particular, the two young men who escorted me for an hour- J.B. and A.H.

Not only were these two young men very thorough in showing me the campus and buildings and introducing me to each area, they gave me a real sense of how your program operates. What I enjoyed most, however, was how open, honest and insightful each of them were in answering my questions about their personal experiences and how and why they have become successful at Clarinda. If J.B. and A.H. are examples of what your program can achieve with its clients, I applaud you. I was so impressed at how confident and proud each of them appeared to be, yet without a trace of vanity or pride. You are clearly doing something right if the children in your care are able to develop and achieve that kind of self-respect.

I have been a social worker for many years. Prior to my time as a social worker, my husband and I both worked in and operated residential treatment programs for many years. As such, I think I have a pretty well tuned eye for programs and an ear that can detect insincere responses from children in programs- being either robotic or false in their references to and about their placements. It is my pleasure to tell you I detected no such insincerity in the responses from any of the young people who rose to greet me at each step along the tour. Each of those whom I met displayed a genuine friendliness, confidence and respectfulness in their interactions with me and others around them and a very real sense of pride in their progress there.

My client, S.K., remains "in neutral" at Clarinda. She is a bright but stubborn and self-damaging young woman with a history of being able to successfully manipulate her way out of situations she dislikes. She hates being at Clarinda and is intent on "doing time" until I get her out of there. I assured her during this visit that she is only making her stay there longer since I have no intention of bringing her back to California until she decides to make a genuine effort there. My time with J.B. and A.H. - and the other students I met during my visit- assure me that Clarinda is the right place for her to become successful.

Thank you so much for your excellent program for children.

Melissa Phillips
Social Worker
Specialized Placement
Mendocino County, California

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