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News & Views - Aug, 1994 Issue #29 

Impressions by Tom Croke
Latrobe, Pennsylvania

For some time, I have found the small family-like programs of the Northwest somewhat confusing. On paper they all sounded alike to me. On the Tuttle Gundry Tour we visited a number of these, and I visited Tyler Ranch separately. I am writing to try to identify the contrasts between these programs ?? not to describe any one in depth. You may want to review past issues and Lon's directory for more detail on some of them. 

Galena Ridge -- (Trout Creek, Montana) -- A new program for boys, operated by Paul Clark and Cheri Des Marais, this is probably the most structured of the family programs we saw. Somewhat influenced by Spring Creek and Outward Bound, Galena Ridge operates with wilderness expeditions in the summer, and four boys selected to remain for the school term. The main house itself is divided into upstairs family quarters for the Clark/Des Marais family including their two pre? teen sons. The ground floor is common living, cooking, meeting, and dining space. The clients remaining for the school program live in a nicely finished basement, which is off limits to the younger boys. The boys attend classes at the local public school, and have a closely managed schedule of study, chores and group work. No time is allowed for school-based after school activities. There is excellent support for chemically dependent boys. 

Explorations -- (Trout Creek, Montana) -- Although similar in principle to Galena Ridge, this program is co-ed, and the program is flexible enough to permit more complete participation in school based extracurricular activities. It is owned and operated by Lorne and Penny Riddel who have been running the program for a number of years. The main house has been operating with six boys and two girls during the academic year. A second house is opening for eight girls. At the time of our visit, the main house was undergoing extensive renovation. Explorations offers more variety in population and program, includes its own horse stable, and will customize wilderness programs for an entire family. The program includes horseback riding and some farm chores, but has more of a wilderness character than a ranch character. There is excellent support for chemically dependent students. 

Tyler Ranch -- (Spokane, WA) -- With three houses on a residential street and a maximum of sixteen pre-teen and teen aged boys, this strains the definition of the small family program, but in many ways operates more like them than like the traditional group home or boarding school. The boys participate in a program of group work, counseling, recreation, and educational support, and attend public school in Spokane (with study helps on grounds). A barely visible point system sets limits and incentives, but nurture and quality family interaction dominate the lifestyle. Tyler Ranch places emphasis on younger boys. I would not likely consider Tyler for a severely acting out boy 15 or older, nor a 17 or 18 year old functioning fully at age level. I would consider it for a ten year old, confident of adequate nurture, structure, and positive interaction with the older boys. A few of the older boys at Tyler might be candidates, too, for some of the other programs described in this article, but in maturity level the population more closely resembles the male population at Valley View, Hampshire Country School, Forest Heights Lodge or maybe CEDU Middle School (Forest Heights Lodge is clearly dealing with a more clinically complex child and Valley View probably is, also). They have excellent support for chemically dependent boys. 

Elk Mountain Academy -- (Clark Fork, ID) -- This was the least structured in some respects, but yet in some ways the most innovative of the programs, and seemed the most remote in location. Presently they are able to house four boys in the main family house. A second building is under construction, which will expand the capacity to twelve and intended usual census to ten. The next door neighbor is a part time staff person. The house is also occupied by Director Carl Olding, his wife and two very young children (a toddler and infant). The boys will attend public school in town, or be home schooled as may be preferred. Elk Mountain Academy is an ideal setting for a boy willing to meet the situation halfway, who is not on a high powered academic track, and who will benefit from hands on work developing professional grade skills in the building trades. The program gives sufficient space for every boy to follow his own interests as resources of the Academy's property and the nearby town allow, without any sense that things are running ragged or of control. One boy has built a cabin on the property which will be his own, so long as he remains. The property is huge, pristine, and picturesque. Director Carl Olding makes his greatest contribution though the force and magnetism of personality than through the formal structures of the program. Carl's biggest problem will be figuring out how to clone himself when the program reaches a population of ten. Excellent support for chemically dependent boys. 

Saddlehorn Ranch -- (Bonner's Ferry, ID) -- This is the project of a couple (Adarah Dancer and Tremain Albright) who have each raised their own families, and now want to apply their skills for someone else. A true working ranch with some wilderness work by contract, this program is really just getting under way. It is coed with a select group of summer residents remaining for the school year, attending public school in Bonners Ferry. Adarah and Tremain have been on this site for several years, living in a small cottage, building their big house, and housing some local boys who needed some support and who could assist with building and other chores. With the coming of summer, they had their first "real" clients, living in tepees for the summer, but anticipating completion of their main house for fall. The program includes wilderness skills, building trades, ranch chores, public school (in season), operating the "Road Kill Cafe Chuckwagon" and the loving and mature care of Adarah and Tremain. Every resident cares for his/her own horse. The climax of the program in the spring is a ten day Native American Rendezvous. This is probably not for the very toughest kids, but an exciting new addition to our range of choices for the boy with a spark of cooperation, and the boy or girl needing an outstanding summer experience. 

Straight Arrow Camps -- (Cusick, WA) -- Although this is not the only working ranch in the group, it is probably the only one of the group which has a large enough agricultural operation (a buffalo ranch) to be commercially viable even without dealing with kids. Programmatically the emphasis is clearly on building trades and agriculture, not wilderness experiences (although they plan to add wilderness experiences in 1995). This family (Shirley and Bruce Morelli and children) is special among the small program families, as they have three boys of their own who fit into the same age group as the boys in residence, and a girl a few years younger. A co-ed program in summer, and all boys in winter, this program offers a home schooling alternative to the local public school, and an impressive family environment. This would be an especially good choice for a boy in need of close interaction with role model peers as well as good role model adults, and who needs a great deal of individual support with schooling, although not necessarily highly specialized LD work. There is a special kind of nurture here which goes with the maturity of the Morelli's and the way the clients interact with the Morelli children. Shirley and Bruce do function more as parents and teachers than as counselors, and that is how they want it. Bruce manages the ranch chores while Shirley manages the house, the administrative work, and the educational support. Both are involved equally with counseling and support for the boys, which is more likely to stress common sense than psychodynamic theory, and is more likely to accompany pitching hay or washing dishes than lying on a couch or even sitting in an office. Traditional family values are lived quietly and not used as a weapon. Especially for kids who have had too much formal therapy, this is a good place to think about. This does not do justice to the programs. There is nothing like seeing them for yourself. I can say for sure that I will be using them; these are great alternatives at a lower cost, and a great opportunity for quality personal interaction. 

Copyright 1994, 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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