The HMD Youth Ranch
A Proposal for Development of The HMD Youth Ranch
The Hollie Mignon Diggs (HMD) Youth Ranch will provide housing, care and treatment in a character enriching environment to abandoned, threatened, abused and neglected girls and boys ages 10-17. The Ranch will be located in the middle peninsula area of Virginia, with a campus comprised of family-style homes, cafeteria, library, classrooms, recreational areas, gymnasium, livestock barns, fields for raising crops/produce, storage silos, and a wildlife sanctuary. Each home will feature a family-style treatment approach, in which a specially trained married couple lives in the home 24 hours a day. They will serve as the primary treatment agents. In addition, the boys and girls will receive classroom instruction, coaching, life skills training, job skills development, and spiritual development. They will also regularly participate in activities designated to promote family and community welfare.
Family-Teachers will assist youth via the teaching model that applies behavioral principles when teaching life skills, building appropriate relationships, and helping youth develop self-discipline. Our youth will come from a variety of religious, socioeconomic, and cultural backgrounds. This diversity allows an opportunity to learn about and appreciate living and working together in harmony.
Youth and Families to be Served
Youth admitted to the HMD Youth Ranch probably will have experienced severe individual and/or family difficulties. Some have been involved in the juvenile justice system or the social service system. Many youth will have experienced some type of out-of-home placement prior to coming to the Ranch. Potential characteristics of youth to be served are:
• Serious behavioral problems
• Lack of success in school
• Inability to live at home
• History of runaway behavior
• History of aggressive behavior
• History of drug or alcohol misuse
• V ictim of physical and/or sexual abuse
The populations to be served
In general, the type of child who will qualify for placement at the HMD Youth Ranch is between the ages of 10 and 17, needs long-term placement (12 months or more), has not responded to local remedies like individual or family therapy, and can live safely in a family-style environment. The focus will be on youth whose behavior problems can be successfully addressed in a family-style treatment setting. Youth who are acutely dangerous to themselves or others, including actively suicidal youth or youth with psychotic-like behavior, would require treatment in a more secure environment.
The HMD Youth Ranch is not intended to be a boarding school. It will be a treatment facility. So, therapeutic home visits which are helpful for treatment purposes may occur.
Religious and Spiritual Development
The HMD Youth Ranch will be nonsectarian and non-proselytizing. At the same time, research shows that “getting in touch with a Higher Power” is a prerequisite for strong, positive character development. So, the HMD Ranch will expect every boy and girl to learn to pray. How he/she prays is up to him/her, but every child will be strongly encouraged to receive spiritual and religious instruction as part of his or her daily life at the Ranch. Regular church attendance, community service, and traditional spiritual and religious observances will be routine portions of the residential program.
Each youth who comes to the HMD Youth Ranch will have their own set of strengths as well as serious problems. Individualized treatment goals will be developed for each youth during the first few weeks of placement. Youth will be active members of their treatment team, together with parents, guardians, and other professionals. As much as possible, Family-Teachers will work closely with parents and guardians to keep them involved and informed about a youth’s progress as family reunification will always be appropriately and vigorously pursued.
To help youth get better, we will use a behavioral teaching model. It is neither a punishment model nor a standard counseling model. The goal is not to frustrate youth, but rather to help them learn to get their needs met in pro-social ways. This requires a low tolerance for inappropriate behaviors coupled with high warmth and praise for appropriate behaviors. It is a self-help model; it’s not a control model. It is a model that empowers youth to become working and contributing members of their families and communities.
Two schools will eventually be necessary at the Ranch: a high school and an elementary/middle school. Both schools will seek full accreditation from the Virginia Department of Education. Teacher-to-student ratios will average 1:10 and classroom size averages will be 10-12 students.
Many of the youth coming to live at the HMD Youth Ranch will probably be behind in all of their academic subjects; especially reading. The Sylvan learning method will be used to dramatically reduce the learning gaps and build around the foundation of helping youth gain academic success.
The HMD Youth Ranch hopes to offer a wide range of opportunities for youth outside the academic environment. These activities are a vital component of our character enriching environment. They will include:
|• Track & Cross country
• Student Council
|• Summer camps & mission trips|
• Service clubs
• Future Farmers of America
These co-curricular activities are yet another way to teach life skills, values, team participation, leadership, and ethics to our students.
In most cases, children will be referred to the HMD Youth Ranch by social service agencies, juvenile courts and human service professionals. These professionals will be able to assist the youth’s legal guardian in coordinating the admissions process. Parents will also be able to apply directly to the Admissions office.
Hollie Mignon Diggs Memorial Trust Scholarships
As a partner in a child’s care, the HMD Youth Ranch will also expect every parent, guardian or federal/state agency to commit to financially support their child/client in accord with the family’s/agency’s ability/policy. At a minimum, parents, guardians and agencies will be expected to provide as much financial support as they are currently providing for the youth (i.e., clothes, school, entertainment, food, shelter, and medical needs). Hopefully, the generosity of Virginia’s donors will allow us to provide partial scholarships for those youth in need. As part of the admissions process, we will work with each parent, guardian and agency representative to determine whether, and at what level, a scholarship is needed.
Three Simple Steps
Step One – The Assessment Phase
To begin the referral process, the following information will be required:
1. A descriptive social history
2. A psychological evaluation
3. Pertinent school information
4. A letter from the youth
More specific information regarding required referral documents will be available in the future.
A clinical psychological evaluation will include a descriptive social history, an individually administered intelligence test, an individually administered achievement test, and a diagnostic impression. More specific information regarding the clinical psychological evaluation will be available in the future.
The parent(s)/legal guardian/agency representative will be asked to submit information that will assist the admissions committee in determining if the needs of the child can be best served at the HMD Youth Ranch. This will include a clinical psychological evaluation, necessary legal documentation, medical and school records and a handwritten letter from the child. The handwritten letter from the child should communicate why the youth wants to live at the Youth Ranch. This is one of the ways that a child can begin to show a commitment to getting better.
Step Two – The Commitment Phase
If a child qualifies for placement, there will be some additional documentation that will need to be completed by the legal guardian. The required forms (based on licensing requirements and sound professional judgment) will need to be completed by the legal guardian. The required forms will be sent to the guardian upon the child’s qualification of placement.
We will ask each guardian who places a child at the HMD Youth Ranch to participate in the Common Sense Parenting (CSP) Program. CSP teaches parents effective methods for handling children’s behavior that is consistent with the HMD Youth Ranch teaching model. The CSP Program will be available to families without geographic restriction.
Step Three – The Admission Phase
This final phase prepares the guardian and the child for the day the child will come to live at the HMD Youth Ranch. An admissions representative will confirm that all of the required documentation has been submitted. Once the final admissions requirements have been met, the legal guardian will be contacted to schedule an admission date for the child’s arrival at the Youth Ranch.