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Schools & Program Visits - Dec, 2000 Issue #76 

 Bailie Memorial Youth Ranch
Ralph Vreugdenhil, M. Ed., Child Care Supervisor
Mesa, WA

November 2, 2000 Visit Report
By Loi Eberle, M.A.

[Loi Eberle, M.A. is an educational consultant and editor of Woodbury Reports. Previously a Journalism teacher and advisor for the CEDU North Idaho Schools’ student newspaper, she also co- founded and directed a private K-8 school, has doctoral work in Educational Psychology.]

Rather than searching my briefcase for the directions, I just asked local business people in a Connell, WA where the Bailie Ranch was located. Everybody seemed to be familiar with this child placing agency because it has been in operation since 1958, serving over 500 children. It was located in a part of Washington State that I’d driven through many times, about twenty miles north of Pasco. I always thought of the area as being rather stark and barren. As I left the familiar highway and drove west on the county roads towards the ranch, the numerous wetlands, ponds and interesting rock outcroppings in the area surprised me. I even stopped a few times to take pictures; it was really quite lovely.

Executive Director, Craig Lewis, and Childcare supervisor Ralph Vruedenhal, greeted my arrival at the ranch. They directed me to a large aerial photograph mounted on the wall to show me the approximately forty two hundred acres owned by the Bailie Foundation. All the interesting places I had noticed after leaving the main highway were within the boundaries of their property. They told me the Bailie Foundation stocked some of the ponds and had partially developed them, allowing occasional public access as a form of community support.

A good relationship with the community is important to this foundation, because they do a considerable amount of fundraising for the scholarship fund that is available to qualified families. Some of the former residents who graduated from the ranch still live in the nearby towns, often visiting the kids at the ranch and helping out with the programs and fundraising efforts.

Although difficult for me schedule, I accepted the invitation to visit the ranch because I wanted to be comfortable referring this place for residential placement for youngsters. This was important to me because I knew this was a place that wouldn’t turn a family away if they could not pay the full tuition. My visit taught me that this is also a viable placement for those who could pay the entire tuition, a place that rivaled, and perhaps surpassed, other group home situations.

The boys and girls who come to the ranch live in five licensed foster homes on the fifteen-acre central campus. This is an appropriate setting for boys and girls between the ages of 8 and fourteen and a half, who, after weighing their options, choose to come to the ranch voluntarily. Prospective residents need to be capable of being enrolled in public school, free of addictions, non-abusive to other children, and unencumbered by legal issues in the juvenile justice system.

My tour of the foster homes revealed very spacious quarters, with single or double occupancy rooms in comfortable, attractively decorated surroundings. Each house has a set of dedicated live-in parents who are trained and experienced in working with troubled youth, who work closely with the childcare supervisor and executive director. Although most of the residents were at school during my visit, I saw many photographs of the students who had made this place their home away from home, some of them staying long enough to graduate from the local high school. From the house parents’ descriptions of their daily activities, it seemed these kids were having the chance to live a fairly normal life.

They attend a small local school, with classroom teachers and aides who were trained in special education skills. If they stay at the ranch long enough to attend the local high school, they take the bus to nearby Connell, WA. Bailie Ranch has enjoyed a long-time interaction with the local school systems, ensuring that the foster care students keep up with their studies and honor the school’s behavior code. I was told that if a Bailie Ranch student is disruptive in class, the ranch is contacted. The ranch then gives the child consequences such as being kept home the next day to rake the leaves. They found behavior was not usually a problem in this scenario.

The children at the ranch are able to participate in gardening as well as raising 4-H animals, if they wish. When I was there I saw the large gymnasium with a new floor that had been refinished in order to have a place for sports activities. Outside was a large caged flock of pheasants that was being raised by one of the staff members. It was explained that the particular projects going on at the ranch were somewhat dependent upon the interest of the staff and the children who were there at any particular time. The ranch also boasts an outdoor sports court with basketball, tennis, volleyball, and skateboarding, as well as an athletic field with baseball, football, and soccer, and a wood shop.

The opportunities at the ranch are many. It is a great chance for a child to grow up in a loving, rural community with structure, support, and lots of activities. Once an application is approved, a ranch visit is arranged for the child, and placement decisions are made within seven days after the visit. Typically the entire intake process takes between four and six weeks.

The parents have various responsibilities for their child while living at Bailie Ranch, including tuition, clothing, medical insurance and medical and dental treatment. In addition, parents must participate in parenting classes and read the books offered or recommended by Bailie Memorial Youth Ranch. They are also expected to attend each quarterly review, or, if absolutely unable to attend, parents must return a completed questionnaire regarding their perceptions of their child’s progress during the past three months, based particularly on what was observed during the child’s home visits.

Children who live at Bailie Ranch have the chance to experience a rapidly disappearing situation: a two parent home in rural America, with animals to raise, fish to catch, trails to ride, and open space and loving support to foster their growth.

Copyright © 2000, 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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