The stories of children who are served by Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch are as diverse as the ways in which they find our therapeutic services offered here in the Texas Panhandle.
Just as childcare has evolved, the Boys Ranch placement program has changed, too. Some children still arrive here with a single paper bag containing all their worldly possessions. However, even this only happens after a very specific process has occurred.
The families of the children we serve are often referred to us by school principals and counselors, private therapists, pastors, the parents of our alumni, or friends familiar with our program. Many parents and children find us on the Internet when they search for help for troubled youth. Some children call and want to self-admit.
According to Intake Specialist Elizabeth Blalock, it is usually an adult who calls for information. Calls from children are the exception. She believes this is because it is very clear in information about Boys Ranch that parents, managing conservators and/or custodial guardians must make the actual placement.
“A child may contact us to initiate coming here, but ultimately, their guardian is the one who must place them, must grant permission for them to be here,” Blalock said.
Parents never surrender custody of their children to Boys Ranch.
“If we talk to a child first, we immediate ask if his or her parent knows they are calling us,” Blalock said. “We make certain parents are included in the conversation from the very beginning.”
It is very rare for our Intake, Information & Referral Department to talk to a child whose parent or guardian hasn’t already spoken to us. Regardless who may have referred them, or how they find Boys Ranch, once a parent or guardian reaches out for help on behalf of their child, the intake process begins.
First, an intake specialist does an initial screening of questions with the parent/guardian to see if the child appears to be a good candidate for our program.
Michelle Maikoetter, chief program officer, described a good candidate as a child who has a family member who will stay connected with them during their time here.
“The child has to be able to build relationships with our trusted adults on staff in order for our program to have positive effects on them,” Maikoetter said, adding, “They must be able to function well enough they can live within a group. It’s super helpful if they have interests, talents, or gifts we can help them explore.”
When a child is identified as a good candidate for Boys Ranch, the intake specialist sends the appropriate forms to the child’s family.
“This allows us to gather the child’s records from his school, counselor, legal sources, medical providers and other specialists,” Blalock said.
The documents are reviewed, and families are contacted to schedule a phone interview to obtain a more complete family history. Discussion also occurs with the child, at which time some comprehensive information from the child’s perspective, is noted.
The child is considered on an individual basis by the intake staff and the campus assessment team made up of key individuals within the youth care, residence life and therapeutic communities. They look at what is happening in the various campus homes and how the child’s needs will impact the overall caseload for those who provide the services. Consideration is given to how well the child will fit with others in specific homes in which they may be placed.
“The actual placement of a child into the program can take several months after acceptance due to various dynamics on campus including staffing and bed availability,” said Jo Lee Junell, manager of intake and admissions.
This last fiscal year the Intake, Information and Referral Department received 2,216 calls for information from families seeking help for a child. Yet, the number of available beds each year remains low. On average, Boys Ranch places about 100 children each year.
Of the families whose children don’t come to Boys Ranch, many choose not to complete the assessment process. And, in some cases, the children require more intensive care than Boys Ranch can provide.
“If we deem the child is not a good candidate, we explain why and then offer our referral services to help them find other support/programs to meet their child’s needs,” Blalock explained. “We have someone on staff who specializes in knowing about other programs across the country and can help these families know who else to call.”
If you know a child who could benefit from our services, please talk to his or her parents and share about our program. The family may call toll-free 1-800-657-7124 or request help by filling out our online form. An intake specialist will follow-up in a matter of days.