I had the absolute privilege of spending the week of 19th – 23rd of May in Amarillo Texas on Ranch at Cal Farley’s residential treatment centre. It is hard to know where to start when describing Cal Farley’s and my experience there. One blog is not going to even remotely capture the breadth of what the service offers. First and foremost I have to acknowledge the absolute generosity of the Cal Farley’s team from their Chief Operating Officer, Clinicians, Training team, House Parents and well basically everyone on the property. My visit was catered for most generously and my schedule was very busy – largely because there was just SO much to see and in the spirit of my Fellowship, I didn’t want to miss a thing.
Cal Farley’s is a one of a kind service, of this I’m pretty confident. It is one of America’s largest privately-funded child and family service providers specializing in both residential and community-based services at no cost to the families of children in their care.
Yes you read me right, NO COST!
The founder of the Ranch, Cal Farley was quite a visionary for his time and in 1961, he established the Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch Foundation. Contributions from the Ranch’s friends and supporters provide approximately 30 – 40% of the funds required to meet total annual operating expenditures. Through the foresight of Cal Farley and his Board of Directors, the remaining funds required to operate are available through the Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch Foundation.
Cal Farley’s operates like a small town – in fact it’s almost big enough to be a small town. It hosts a chapel, fire station, it’s own bank and post office services, has it’s own independent school district, complete with administration, including their own superintendent, elementary, middle, and high school. An activity centre, gym, pool, football field, indoor horse riding arena, rodeo stadium, athletics field, stores and the communal dining hall. Many of the staff live on site at the Ranch, which in addition to the staff homes, hosts 28 residential homes each of which caters up to 12 children and young people. At capacity Cal Farley’s can have up to 260 children and young people at a time. Residential homes are staffed by 2 sets of house parents, the lead house parents and relief house parents. The residential homes as you can see from the photos are all designed similarly and provide a very homely feel.
Neurodevelopmentally informed interventions/activities included (and I will probably leave some out):
- Individual Therapy
- Play Therapy
- Art Therapy
- AAT – largely equine based including colt and filly training and Rhythmic Riding
- Adventure Therapies – Ropes Courses, Kayaking, Trail Rides, Challenge course
- Rocket Club
- Computer Lab
- Woodwork Studio
- Robot and other electronics programs
- Rodeo skills
- Agriculture workshop – where they built a trailer for example so that they could transport their livestock to agricultural shows.
- Mentoring of younger children by older children
- Capacity for vocational training and part time employment
All of this is embedded in a community where relationships serve as the key to success. As I wandered around Cal Farley’s I had to remind myself that this was a service for children and young people who had mental health, emotional and behavioural problems, because often what I saw and experienced seemed just like any ordinary community. The importance of relationships whereby the kids were positively supported, contained and nurtured by multiple adults in their daily experiences was evident in the way the children and young people conducted themselves in the community. I’m not saying that there were no challenges, as there were, but on the whole the adults in this community do a wonderful job of creating a relationally rich environment filled with amazing activities, “interventions” and opportunities.
If you work in the child and welfare sector and you ever find yourself in Amarillo Texas – look Cal Farley’s up and see if you can visit – it’s nothing short of impressive and it’s folk are just downright good people who are absolutely and only in this for the best outcomes for kids.