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Schools, Programs & Visit Reports- Dec, 1993 (#25) 

Grove City, Ohio
Sally Pedron, Admissions
614-875-2371 (FAX 614-875-2116)
Tom Croke Visit: Summer, 1993

Buckeye Boy's Ranch is a psychiatric residential treatment center in suburban Columbus, Ohio, with some very special innovations. It serves boys and girls from 10 to 18, although girls are served only in the intensive treatment area. In the case of hearing impaired person, the age runs up to 22. This facility occupies a beautiful tract of land just beginning to acquire suburban homes for neighbors. The physical plant is well kept, with a combination of homey buildings from the ranch's early history, and the latest in modern buildings. The residents represent a very broad combination of needs ranging from ADHD/conduct disorder issues to relatively mild thought disorders, mood disorders, and children primarily characterized by difficulty in establishing relationships. They also offer quality day treatment services. I stayed overnight in a guest room in the all new (1991) Intensive Care Center. The first sense that I was in a facility with a really different character to it was the very open design in the ICC, which is a locked facility which seemed to make the security barriers disappear. The secured area is entered through an administrative building, from which a person touring passes into a large open courtyard, approximately the size of a football field. All the other buildings of the ICC open onto this courtyard. At the far end of the courtyard is an opening between two buildings into open athletic fields. The only obvious fencing is around the athletic fields, but since fencing athletic fields is common, you feel as little closed in as you would at your typical Little League field.

In the main courtyard itself, the appearance is like rows of condo apartments on both sides of the courtyard with fencing concealed by building walls and wise use of foundation plantings. It is a warm, friendly area.

The open campus, populated by boys only, many of whom have graduated from the ICC, is well equipped and homey. To the side is a large athletic stadium used more by the community outside than by the ranch, a reminder of the effort the ranch has put into keeping open interaction with the surrounding community. It includes complete and well equipped dining, recreational, and physical education facilities.

The distinction between secured and unsecured facilities was purely clinical. There was no such thing as using the secured area as a disciplinary response for kids on the open campus. Although Ohio is a state which, like most western states, permits juveniles to be placed in secured facilities on parental authorization only, the eastern emphasis on placing each child in the least restrictive environment possible and keeping therapeutic security separate from discipline governs actual practice. There are very well conceived and effective procedures for discipline, for therapeutic behavior modification, and for crisis management. Buckeye sees these as three independent issues. Residents may be restrained in a crisis, assigned to a secured area for clinical reasons, and subjected to well reasoned and caring discipline, but will never be locked up for a punishment.

Buckeye's approach to therapy was, at first observation, very traditional. Both formal psychotherapy and a familiar levels system are in evidence. However, within its traditional psychotherapy, are some points of truly exceptional excellence. First, there was a strong sense of accountability to common procedures and philosophy. While there is clearly ample room for staff creativity, this is not a program in which underlying philosophy and procedure are dependent upon therapist selection. Second, there is both a maturity and an understated but sophisticated awareness of the most forward looking approaches to unusual problems. Third, there are special programs such as the art therapy program and Kinetic Learning Methods (Issue #13, Woodbury Reports December, 1991).

There also is a very sophisticated vocational program. There is also a willingness to acknowledge what Buckeye does not do well. For example, they were willing to acknowledge there are probably more cost-effective approaches to uncomplicated adolescent oppositional behavior, and they make no claim to do well with extremes of attachment disorder which require the special holding therapies such as seen at Forest Heights Lodge.

At Buckeye, some of the most creative therapy which takes place is part of art therapy. Every art project is a basis for further communication about the real life issues each boy faces, based upon a real therapeutic alliance with the art therapist.

The Kinetic Learning Methods program (KLM) is a Buckeye creation with a twenty year track record of innovation. Some of the same purposes are served by ropes courses and the like in vogue in many other programs, but at Buckeye, each resident works directly with Doug Kuhn, Ph.D., who is a genuine innovator in this field.

The vocational program is the most comprehensive I have seen. Boys from the open campus have the opportunity to do professional grade work in manufacture of office products, manufacture of awards and trophies, engraving, printing, woodshop, building/ grounds maintenance and food service. They work with modern equipment, including computer controlled machinery, and deliver products and services fully competitive in the local market, at a fair wage. The work is done on the grounds of the ranch. In all work areas, they experience competitive work place training and demands for excellence. Boys who come to Buckeye Boys Ranch have the opportunity to leave with quality work experience behind them.

It is fully JCAHO accredited, is competitively priced among accredited psychiatric treatment centers, and is an approved special education program by the state of Ohio.

Staff morale seemed high. Retention and longevity were good. The interaction I saw with the children was consistently of good quality.

I would refer to this program and recommend it to others, especially for a vocationally oriented child in need of sub-acute psychiatric service, a child who learns better by doing than by talking, and a child with primarily behavioral issues indicating the need for residential care but with complexity too great for those special schools lacking psychiatric support. It is an obvious choice for any deaf child needing psychiatric services. I would give strong consideration for a boy needing psychiatric service and at risk for sexual identity issues. An appealing point is greater than average flexibility regarding children with borderline intelligence. I would be comfortable with the Intensive Care Center as a safe environment for boys and girls with mild to moderate thought disorders.

Copyright 1993, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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