Visitors to Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch campus often marvel at all the fun activities available for our residents. From horseback riding and kayaking to bicycling and even rock climbing, there’s a near-endless array of options for the young people we serve.
But, as fun as these activities may be, each of them serves a significant purpose in helping our residents work through their individual struggles. In this way, experiencing healthy risk-taking in a positive, controlled environment serves as a bridge to allow the hurting children we serve express their natural need for excitement and accomplish very tangible therapeutic needs.
“It creates an opportunity for (residents) to get outside their comfort zone in a safe, measurable way,” explained Luke Benton, who heads Cal Farley’s Adventure Program.
Benton said sometimes a child who isn’t comfortable connecting with others can do so more easily in the context of a fun activity. It’s just one of many techniques Cal Farley’s professional staff will use to reach children who otherwise might be unwilling to actively participate in their placement at Cal Farley’s.
“I’m all about relationships. That’s our biggest intervention, getting a relationship between staff and the (residents),” Benton said.
By focusing on building relationships above all, Benton said residents learn to trust their Cal Farley’s mentors as they’re guided through activities to achieve therapeutic goals.
Benton shared the example of a resident who might struggle to trust enough to socialize or work with others. Instead of directly addressing his or her trust issues, the resident participates in a more individualized activity, such as grooming a horse inside a pen. As the child grows more comfortable with the task, she’s invited to halter and groom her horse outside the pen, where others are also grooming. Through a series of baby steps, the child progresses into a group environment, but in a way that lets her feel a sense of control over her environment.
“So, what we’re going to do is kind of a back-door approach,” Benton said. “You teach the child a skill … but the whole focus is going to be on fellowship and relationship.”
Regardless what fun, thrilling or even downright silly form it takes, Cal Farley’s professional staff rely on traditional industry best practices and cutting-edge therapeutic interventions to provide the very best care possible for the children we serve.