Schools & Program Visits - Jan, 2001 Issue #77
Jan West, Placement Administrator
[Lon’s Visit on September 20, 2000]
Driving to the ranch, heading west of Boise on a two-lane highway
a little north of the Freeway, reveals that it is clearly southern Idaho country living, with instructions to turn left at the four
potato cellars, and then continue on for about two miles. The collection of clean looking buildings on the left, placed along curved
paved roads, looks like a little community. A large indoor riding arena and stables are the most noticeable structure on the Rupert
Campus of the Idaho Youth Ranch. All the buildings are either new or recently remodeled, and are obviously well cared for. The physical
plant gives the impression of being clean, prosperous and isolated, with farms some distance away as the only neighbors.
The 500+ acre campus can house up to 56 young people. Most are referred
by Idaho state agencies, but there are some students from out of state. There are a few private pay students and the administration
is interested in expanding this clientele, stating as their policy: “For in-state private referrals, fees are adjusted according to
a family’s ability to pay.” The lodges were clean and fairly orderly. Staffing allows for the students to be watched 24 hours a day.
The campus is licensed as a Children’s Treatment Facility and accredited by the Council on Accreditation as a Residential Treatment
Center for Children and Youth.
The average length of stay at the Ranch is about eight to ten months.
In past years it used to be 12 to 18 months, but pressure from public policy to reduce the length of residential placements has reduced
the average length of stay for the students at Idaho Youth Ranch. This shorter length of stay doesn’t necessarily apply to private
pay students however.
The students I talked to had typical hair-raising stories about
what was happening before they were placed there, indicating their desperate need for residential placement. Their good appearance
indicated they were making favorable progress while at the Ranch. I talked to one student in particular who was just about ready to
graduate. It was obvious he had made good progress, but still badly needed more time to consolidate the gains he had made. The staff
were well aware that more time at the Ranch would be beneficial for him, but a longer stay was beyond their control so the staff had
been making considerable efforts to develop the best kind of follow-up care and support they could to increase the chances he could
build on his progress instead of reverting to old behaviors. The student himself had mixed feelings, ranging from being excited about
moving on to being worried about whether he was strong enough to succeed.
Academics are emphasized at the Ranch. The on-grounds school is
operated and accredited by the local school district. Every classroom has a teacher and a teacher’s aide, hired by the local public
school district. One Ranch employee, a Primary Youth Specialist, is in each classroom to serve as a bridge between treatment and education.
These staff members also act as classroom aides. All the materials used in the classes have been approved by the local public school
district. The classes were purposely kept small to maximize each student’s opportunity to receive as much one-on-one teacher attention
as was needed during the five hours a day students spend in educational classes. I attended two classes, a math class that had a relaxed
atmosphere and attentive students, and an Equestrian class. The ranch has been active in developing equine therapy, using horses as
healing agents both during class time as well as during other times.
The students participate in regular individual therapy and they
attend several group sessions each week, using a “strength based, peer influence treatment model.” Several psycho-educational groups
are offered weekly, including “Thinking For a Change” (a cognitive self change group), substance abuse education, AA & NA groups
and independent living skills.
There are five lodges. One is specifically for girls, one is for
boys aged 11 to 13 years, two are designed for 14-16 year old boys and the fifth lodge, also for boys, is licensed to provide treatment
for substance abuse. The resident’s experience is rounded out through their participation in 4H, recreation, community service projects,
and chores around the campus.
Idaho Youth Ranch is probably the largest provider of youth services
to at-risk youth in Idaho, running a number of other programs throughout the state. These include: a community-based group home in
Coeur d’Alene called Anchor House; the Emancipation Home in Boise, which provides a transition to independent living; Family Services,
home-based behavioral health care; Adoptions; Hays Shelter Home in Boise; and a community-based group home called the Nampa Boys’
Home, located in Nampa, Idaho.