Amanda’s boyfriend, George, joins the conversation via telephone. Though he’s a minor, George confirms that he has consent from his parents to speak with Dr. Phil.
“Do you think it’s normal for a young man’s family to take a minor child across state lines without their parents’ permission or approval?” Dr. Phil asks.
“Well, to be honest with you, sir, I didn’t know anything about that. She said something with my mother. Do you understand?” George replies.
Dr. Phil says, “So, are you and your parents willing to sit down with the authorities and the FBI and the police and discuss this in terms of your accountability?”
“What do you mean?” asks George.
“Well, I mean it sounds very much to me like there may be some misconduct here of transporting a minor across state lines. I’m just wondering if y’all would just sit down and explore that.”
George explains that Amanda lied to his mother and that he had nothing to do with that. He never knew the situation would progress to this point.
“So you’re saying that nobody in your family ever knew that Amanda’s parents did not endorse her being with you and that there were efforts being made to find her as a runaway, you had no idea that y’all were hiding and on the lam?” Dr. Phil presses.
George replies, “Well, to be honest with you, the police came here several times and she wasn’t here. She was with a friend.”
“Look,” says, Dr. Phil, “this was on the front page of the paper.”
“I understand that,” George says.
“If her parents say that as their minor daughter they think it’s not in her best interest to see you or to see you only on a limited basis inside their home under their supervision, for example, would you commit to respecting that?”
George says he’d like to continue to see their daughter and to sit down and work out any problems. “Because I really like Amanda a lot, you know what I’m saying?” he says.
“OK, but they love her and it’s their daughter, and if it’s their decision that it’s not in her best interest to pursue a relationship with any young man right now at this young age, and certainly with you, would you respect that?”
“It’s hard to say that because, you know, I love her. I’ve been with her for almost two years now,” says George.
“You’re 16,” says Dr. Phil.
“Yeah, I’m 16 years old but you know I still have feelings for her,” George counters.
“So pretty much, you two have every intention of continuing your relationship, whether your parents like it or not. Amanda, would that be true?”
She replies, “We do want to continue our relationship, but we want my mother and father to hear us out too, so we can hear them out. I wish we could just all come to a compromise. That’s what I wish.”
“And the compromise is for them to agree to do what you want to do,” says Dr. Phil.
“No, not just all me,” Amanda refutes. “Even if it had to be him come over to the house and them sit there and babysit us, I wouldn’t even care.”
“Whoa,” says Linda. “We tried that, because you were spending every single day over there, and I said that’s not right. And I tried to give him a chance and I said, ‘He should at least come over a few nights a week, have dinner.’ I tried to give him a chance. He came over one day, lasted an hour-and-a-half at our house, and then his mother came and picked him up, picked up both of you, as a matter of fact, and when I talked to her, she said to me, ‘They don’t like it at your house.’ And that was it and he never came again. And one time you went to go upstairs into your room, and I said no.”
“Look, here’s the bottom line,” Dr. Phil says to Paul and Linda. “I can’t make a decision about what needs to happen here. You need to make a decision about what needs to happen here.
If you believe that Amanda is manageable in the home, if you believe that you can talk to her and reason with her and she will behave in a way that is in her best interest then I am ready, willing and able to provide you professional support to do that. If you do not believe that that will work, then you’ve got one of two options. You just throw your hands up and say we’re going to let the tail wag the dog here, we’re going to let the 16-year-old make the decision for what happens, or third option, you’ve got to put her somewhere that she can be managed and there are places that you can put runaways.”
One example is the Aspen Education Group, which is dedicated to helping troubled and out-of-control teenagers and their families. Dr. Phil says that Aspen is willing to enroll Amanda in their Copper Canyon Academy, one of the nation’s top therapeutic boarding schools for girls.
Dr. Phil welcomes Mark Hobbins, Senior Vice President of Aspen Education Group. “What does your group do in this situation?” Dr. Phil asks.
Mark says, “What I think we want to accomplish is … to help her define and re-define, frankly, her sense of reality, and some sense of responsibility and accountability as a child to a family, to a parent. And to help parents create, and sort of reconnect, so that you can develop a more healthy relationship. And then you, Amanda, can find better coping skills so you feel like you’re being heard, while at the same time your parents are going to have an opportunity to help you understand their position, and I think rediscover this love, this sense of family belonging that you state you want, and we believe we can help you get.”
“What do you think about that?” Dr. Phil asks Amanda’s parents.
“I think there’s not a doubt in my mind if we get home, she will run,” says Linda.
“You don’t think you can manage her in the home?” Dr. Phil asks.
“I don’t,” Linda replies, “especially after this last couple days. I really don’t.” Paul is equally pessimistic.
Dr. Phil asks the parents, “Is it your decision that she should go to Copper Canyon?” They both say yes. “Are you willing to sit down privately with her, and talk with her now?” Both agree to do so. Dr. Phil then turns to Amanda. “Is it your decision that you will willingly go to the Copper Canyon Academy in respect to their decision?”
“Yes,” she says, “I just want to be heard. I feel like I’m not getting heard and I feel like they’re only getting their way.”
“And then after that conversation, if their mind is unchanged, then you’re prepared to respect their decision and willingly go to the academy?” Dr. Phil asks.
“Well, that’s what they’re going to do,” she says cynically. “They’re going to pretend that they’re going to listen and they’re going to say, ‘Yep, OK, whatever.'”
But Dr. Phil presses on. “And if that’s what happens are you prepared to willingly go to the academy?”
“Sure,” says Amanda with resignation.
“I do listen to you, OK? I will listen,” Linda says.
“Well, the show’s about over, but the story’s not,” says Dr. Phil. You can find out what becomes of Amanda in an upcoming show.
Dr. Phil thanks his guests.