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.
In summer of 2018 we offered a summer camp/retreat for foster teens, ages 14-17. Through our partnership with DCS we offered a day of team building, sharing and educating 19 teens who attended. Gratidude Ranch offered 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 strongly believe that 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, retain the information shared.
In addition to gathering a lot of important information shared by representatives of DCS, youth were also given an opportunity to share their stories through music, art, spoken word and story telling. Meals were shared in community and youth were invited to be involved in the preparation.
These camp/retreats are offered at NO COST to foster parents and are sponsored through SAFE. Staff are all volunteers from DCS or local agencies.
We hope to offer these camps several times per year, establishing an ongoing relationship with teens in care and DCS, supporting these youth through their teen years as they get closer to having to prepare for aging out of the foster care system and being a support to them in several ways.
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.