In 2017, SAFE partnered with Monroe Harding and hosted a summer camp/retreat for foster youth preparing to age out of the system and those who had recently entered EFC (Extended Foster Care). Youth had the opportunity to attend camp at no cost at Gratidude Ranch where we took time to navigate the aging out process while focusing on the benefits and opportunities if choosing to stay in extended foster care until they are 22. Even if they choose not to stay in EFC, our hope is to help them define a path and set goals and benchmarks as they prepare to age out.
Future camps are already in development where we will partner with other agencies and organizations offering a safe space for youth to explore and face issues in their lives, whether it be aging out, living independently, career building and assessing, dealing with being diverse or feeling 'different', etc. We believe having the youth outside of a ‘classroom’ or 'office' setting in nature with animals, land and activity provides a space to create these discussions in a fun and peaceful environment, where they are a part of the conversation and more importantly, plan for their life.
Evenings are filled with music and spoken word around a bon fire where youth are given an opportunity to share their stories, their hopes and their dreams. Meals are shared in community and youth are invited to be involved in the preparation. Meals and lodging are also included at no cost to youth and counselors.
Our long-term vision is to 1) establish a local SAFE HOUSE for teens working diligently in preparing them for the aging out process. Onsite foster parents or house parents will oversee the home and these youth will be involved in the ranch's daily activities, events and have a support of volunteers and mentors. If choosing to stay in extended foster care (EFC) they will have a group of support helping them navigate through the process of college, trade school, employment, etc. 2) establish a Micro-Tiny House Village, offering as many as 10-20 homes on property purchased in close proximately to the ranch, offering transitional housing to youth aging out of our SAFE HOUSE that choose to stay in extended foster care and youth referred by the State who qualify for our transitional living program. Although living off-site, young adults can still choose to be involved in events and other activities on the ranch.