Visit Reports
Visit Reports

Nov 5, 2004, 18:01

Springfield, Maine
Audrey Peavey - Admissions Director
Jacqueline Danforth -Founder

Visit by Kristie Henley - September 9, 2004

I met Audrey Peavey, Admissions Director and Jacqueline Danforth, Founder of New Horizons for Young Women at 8:00 a.m., and we left my hotel in Bangor and headed north. We drove an hour and a half before arriving at the base of operations, the Field House. The staff welcomed us into a warm and comfortable atmosphere, and a friendly dog came wiggling up to greet us.

New Horizons for Young Women is a program for girls, ages 13-18 at the time of admission, who have a low self confidence, image issues, and are struggling to figure out who they are. This wilderness experience is about self-discovery to help girls realize who they are and what their potential is.

When girls come to New Horizons, two staff members drive to Bangor to pick them up at the nearest airport. The girls go through an orientation process where they spend 24-48 hours learning how to pack their backpacks, become familiar with their surroundings and have the option of taking a shower before heading out. They receive all of the necessary information and skills they need to live outdoors with the rest of the group before joining them in the field. There are one to two groups in the field at a time and each group consists of five to seven girls.

When the weather is warm, the wilderness treks are set away from the property. The group drives about an hour north of base camp, where they canoe down the rivers and around several lakes in northeast Maine. To provide a balance, New Horizons intertwines emotional growth and clinical therapy. They combine nature with this balance to support young women as they work toward understanding themselves and what motivates their choices, relationships and behaviors. Each girl has two, one-hour sessions with their therapist per week, as well as group therapy sessions. The therapist stays overnight in the field for three days so they can be on call if a girl needs additional therapy. Personal hygiene and laundry are accomplished in the field and at base camp.

During the winter, the girls live in bunkhouses, which can hold up to 8 girls each including the three staff members who live with the girls. They come into the Field House once a week for laundry and showers. Camping is limited to a two- to four-day weekly trip. On these expeditions, they use winter, canvas-wall tents with portable wood stoves. Winter activities include arts, ice-fishing, cooking and other life skills. They participate in cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, and once a year they bring in a team of dogsleds for the girls.

New Horizons is not a wilderness survival program. The girls have everything they need, including hot meals, to be comfortable so they can focus their energy on why they are there and self discovery. New Horizons outfits the girls with all necessary clothing and supplies. The only extras the girls can bring are personal medical items such as medications, glasses, hearing devices, etc. The supply room contains a vast array of clothing and supplies appropriate for each season. New Horizons doesn't believe in deprivation because "wilderness survival won't teach them how to survive in most real world situations."

The staff to student ratio at New Horizons is; two to three fulltime field staff, a therapist who joins them for three nights per week, and the medical staff who visits the girls once a week. Since the field staff is with the girls 24/7, they rotate after eight days and take the next six off. New Horizons prides themselves as a supportive employee environment that provides medical benefits and education options. In all, New Horizons has about 27 full time employees. Most of the staff members have various outdoor/wilderness backgrounds and emotional growth skills.

The Field House contains a shelf of a five-volume policy and procedure manual, wall maps, computers, and all the technology necessary to provide a quality service to its clients. Communication with the field includes satellite phones and numeric pagers. Satellite phones are the initial method of contacting the field staff, who checks for messages three times a day. At 4:00 p.m. every day, the field staff calls the On Call personnel to let them know how the girls are doing, and they brief each other at every weekly staff rotation.

New Horizons maps campsites near Helicopter landing sites for quick evacuation, if necessary, and the GPS systems assists in locating these landing sites. In addition, New Horizons hires full time medical personnel to run an infirmary, which is fully equipped and able to handle just about any female problem that may arise.

The New Horizons experience lasts six to nine weeks, and the girls have the option to continue with their studies while in the wilderness. They must complete particular tasks to gain trust levels and progress through the program. Upon completion, approximately seventy percent go onto boarding schools, residential programs or other therapeutic programs to continue their progress.

New Horizons is licensed by the State of Maine Department of Mental Health and the Department of Human Services, is a full member of NATSAP, and is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities Inc. (C.A.R.F.).

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