Spirit of the Pioneer

BHS Student Newspaper 2008-09

Arkansas Sheriff’s Youth Ranch: A Place to Call Home

Posted by abittenbender on April 28, 2008

By Ashley Bittenbender, senior

            When people think about the Arkansas Sheriff’s Youth Ranch, they have the idea in their head that kids have been in trouble with the law or have been kicked out of their homes because their parents could not handle their living there. But here goes a story that may change your mind.

 From the outside she was a normal little girl growing up with a mommy and a daddy who just could not get along so they split up. This girl was physically abused by her dad until she was 13 and was sexually abused by him at 16. She had a mother who was just too scared to stand up for her kids let alone herself. With her parents splitting up, everyone thought that everything would be so much better. The family moved in with her grandparents and she was right back in the same situation with her grandmother hitting her and screaming at her. The little girl would run away and then DHS would take her right back home because no one ever wanted to believe that a grandma would ever hurt her grandchild.

            Finally, the young girl was put on probation for running away and she ran just a couple more times and the cops picked her up for the last time and she got the guts to finally say she was not going back to that house. She was put into foster home after foster home and went to court time and time again.

            With referrals from everyone for hospitals and further foster care finally someone said something about a youth ranch and on January 3, 2007, the child was sent there. She was welcomed into the home with loving and open arms and finally had people to rely on and a safe place to call home.

            Many children at the ranch come from similar backgrounds. Very few kids come because of things they have done; it is usually the situations that their parents and families put them into. But, even when you ask ranchers if they would rather be at home they are almost always going to say yes.   

            There are over 50 staff members and none of them would trade their jobs for anything. “It is the most mentally tough job I have ever had. Everyday I have the opportunity to hopefully make a positive impact in a young person’s life,” says David Ward, superintendent of the ranch.

            Kids come out to the ranch needing the love they either hadn’t been getting in a while or had never received and they try to fulfill that need for the children to feel loved, safe, and cared for.

            There are five campuses around Arkansas that can hold up to 112 children in all, from age six through college or job training. “Throughout its history the ranch has provided a home for more than 750 children who live in cottages as a family unit,”states the Arkansas Sheriff’s Youth Ranches online homepage.

            Having lived at the ranch myself for over a year now, I do call it my home, and I feel safe there just as many other kids do. I have never felt so loved in my life. I always have someone that I know I can rely on. Without the ranch I know I would definitely not be graduating this year or be as strong as I am right now.  


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