"We sent our son to the ranch hoping for a miracle... and we received one"
Dee (Satisfied Mother)
This is a relationship-based program
Review of Arivaca Boys Ranch by Tom Croke – National Ed Consultant
This program is a true diamond in the rough. It is a true diamond first and foremost because of the relationship basis of the program (staff with staff, staff with student, and student with student). I have frankly never seen a teen program with a more outstanding relationship basis, and there are clearly a number of programs that in the range we usually deal with that are outstanding in this regard. This exceeds the best of them... Frankly, if I had not seen this myself, I would not have believed it. The loyalty of these boys to each other and to the program staff was far beyond what I would expect to see from a teen who is regarded as an outstanding student and citizen relating to parents, teachers, others in authority, and peers.
I suspect that manner of interaction among the adult staff and between the adult staff and the boys… is the real reason why the relationships are so firm, leading to students becoming so thoroughly loyal to the staff and to each other.
…What Arivaca has accomplished with a population of mostly severely oppositional boys (at least that is what they were prior to going to Arivaca) who are otherwise very different from each other is to have a community of young men who are guided responsibly by their own more senior peers in the program and interact with the key staff as teenage boys would generally interact with their father or favorite uncle when both the adult and the teen in the relationship are coming from a very healthy place.
When Loi Eberle commented on the program to me in an email, she explained that “The student residents are given a lot of room to choose to cooperate, which sometimes involves someone riding off into the sunset on their horse, and ultimately turning around and coming back.” She expressed it better than I could. The boys are not molded or forced to do much. They are kept safe. Physically and emotionally safe. They are invited and encouraged to do things the program thinks will be good for them. Some do not do so immediately, but after a time, they all do. The boys do not at any time feel coerced or put down. When we describe flexibility, it sounds like anarchy, but it is not. This is the most self-regulated group of boys I have ever seen, not just in a therapeutic environment, but in any other place that boys congregate.
… I have never seen teenage boys – even teenage boys who were not previously severely oppositional – develop such intense loyalty and frankly affection for the adults to whom they are responsible. I have seen programs with comparable or equal peer-based self-regulation, but I have never seen better peer-based self-regulation. Where I have seen comparable peer-based self-regulation I also usually see a positive peer culture being set up deliberately by staff. At Arivaca, there is not such a structured approach to positive peer culture. It just happens. I think it is a result of a very caring relationship with staff, but perhaps Arbinger's teachings help.
Some will be “turned off” by the rustic nature of the program. The boys sleep ten to a bunkhouse. While in the bunkhouses, I saw some unmade beds and some sloppily made beds. While it did not appear to be excessive, I saw more evidence of free time being used recreationally than I usually see. I also understand that all of these things are deliberate and not due to inattention. Consistent with the Arbinger teachings, staff will not “get in the box” with a boy in the program over an unmade bed. However, after a time each student will make his bed if for no other reason than out of respect to staff and peers and most importantly, himself.
Being at Arivaca Ranch has been a GREAT experience. I have learned how to handle my emotions. I love working with the horses, they mirror your personality, such as if I am angry and being stubborn then my horse will act the same way. My parents and I have built a great relationship and I know it would not have been possible unless I would have come here. I have met some true friends here and I know they are true friendships. I will never forget the Arbinger lessons and the “getting out of the box” techniques I was taught… and working with horses. I have learned to think of others before myself. I know I am capable of being much more than a thug- stealing and smoking weed. I am going to be somebody. I am comfortable with myself.
- Former Student, from Tennessee
"This is a great program that really helped our son-- actually, our whole family-- at a time when we needed it most. The program doesn't change your son, it gives you back your son. It lets him be the great person he was (is!) in spite of recent troubles, be they (as in our case) drugs and behavioral issues, or many other problems. This is not a place where you just "park" your child for a year and forget about him; no, this is a place that works with the whole family to change the dynamics, which changes the relationships, which changes the family. I was a little unsure of the equine therapy part initially (this whole thing was new to me), but they know what they're doing and it works. If you're looking at these sorts of places, odds are you're in a dark place. You have my sympathy, as I've been there. I can't promise that Arivaca is right for you (because I don't know what's going on with you and your son), but I can say you should check it out, because it's a great program. My family is living proof! Can't say enough good things, thanks to all!"
- Satisfied Father