In the last 80 years, thousands of people have found hope and healing at Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch. To better understand the journey Boys Ranch is on today, you must first understand the path on which our journey began.
When our organization was founded in 1939, control and punishment were the staples of discipline across the United States. Our founder’s choice to provide children a stable home life, rather than sending them to reformatory school, was revolutionary. There was little understanding as to why different children might have different needs, so our approach was uniform and inflexible regardless of the age, history or emotional needs of each child. In that context, our organization’s approach to behavior modification was beneath today’s ideal —it was uniform for all children in our care, regardless of his or her history, age or emotional needs. This approach was common in the day.
Such advances have been made over the past several years in understanding brain development, especially the exponential impact of our early years of life, that the social services industry has grown in leaps and bounds. This has led to a new compassionate direction emphasizing improving the lives of children, rather than simply warehousing.
Like those we served then and now, Boys Ranch is growing and maturing.
In 1996, Boys Ranch took a noteworthy step forward, discontinuing the use of corporal punishment. In the early 2000s, our leadership implemented a more intentional strengths-based approach focusing more on a child’s resilience than his or her vulnerabilities. By 2008, we developed what we call the Cal Farley’s Model of Leadership & Service®. This model identifies the universal needs of safety, belonging, achievement, power, purpose and adventure. In every part of our program, from houseparents to caseworkers to activity program mentors, great effort is taken to ensure needs are being met for every child in a positive, encouraging, healthy way. At the same time, efforts were under way to reduce the ratio of children to staff to provide better supervision and heightened safety for every child Boys Ranch serves.
Yet another key milestone in the Boys Ranch journey came in 2010, when we began applying the Neurosequential Model™, developed by Houston behavioral scientist Dr. Bruce Perry to our residential program at Boys Ranch. The Neurosequential Model™ influenced who we hired and how we trained them. It shaped our educational, vocational and recreational programs. Our leadership clearly saw the need to develop a professional program that provided depth and the guidance needed by our clinical staff, but one that would be easily understandable and could be put into action by those responsible for direct care of our children.
As our experts’ understanding of child brain development grew, so did their insight into how trauma effects a child’s mind. Armed with this knowledge, Boys Ranch staff began working to discover underlying causes of behavior, rather than simply seeking to control negative behavior itself. The importance of this milestone can’t be overstated. After all, a child’s behavioral problems may be very evident, yet what lies underneath them seldom is. These causes are often as confusing and unsettling to the child as they are to parents, caregivers, and the outside world.
By training our staff in this trauma-informed context, Boys Ranch’s caregivers understand it is only by responding with compassion, knowledge and clear intent that we can replace a child’s pain — and the hurtful behavior that accompanies that pain — with healthy relationships and a positive connection to society.
Today, Boys Ranch provides the highest standard of professional quality and care. Indeed, we meet or exceed all state licensing requirements for residential childcare facilities. Further, we regularly evaluate our policies and work with peer organizations to implement the latest industry best practices to maximize the beneficial impact of our work. Our longtime supporters also know Boys Ranch voluntarily initiated a partnership with the New York-based Council on Accreditation more than 20 years ago to guarantee the children and families we serve always receive high-quality care.
Boys Ranch will always stand for the young men and women we serve, whether they participated in our programs a day ago or many decades. And, you can rest assured Boys Ranch and its leadership maintain an unwavering commitment to growth and learning, so we will always provide the best care possible — no matter where the road takes us!