Investing in family

Investing in family

Posted by on Jul 31, 2017 in Then and now, Whats-new | 2 comments

A family from the Yukon has made Regina home while they heal.

familyTara Fraser and Shaun Smith, who are from Whitehorse, have one son named Rylee. He began exhibiting negative behaviours nearly seven years ago. He was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome (a brain-based condition that causes people who have it to make involuntary sounds and movements called tics) plus other associated disorders including anxiety, sensory obsessive compulsive disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and sleep problems. Eventually, things with their son got so bad that Tara was forced to quit her job to stay home with him, leaving the formerly two-income family’s entire financial load on Shaun’s shoulders.

Tara and Shaun tried a number of services to help their son’s behaviour, but quickly realized that they needed something that would allow their whole family to participate in the healing process.

“We’d done other programs – they were great programs, but I was really looking for something family-based,” explained Tara, who advocated for two years for her family to attend the Ranch’s Family Treatment Program (FTP).

The program aims to improve safety and functioning so families can remain together. Intensive in-home services are provided that assist the family in obtaining knowledge and skills including: counselling in child development, effective parenting, mood management, communication, life skills, budgeting, and how to access community resources.

Eventually, their son was referred to Ranch Ehrlo’s residential treatment program and began living at Appleton House in Pilot Butte in January of 2017.

“He did really well there,” Tara said. “That’s part of the routine with him – he did really well in any program he was in, with other people. That’s part of the reason I was looking for a family program, because it’s us that he takes his anger, frustration, and anxiety out on.”

In April, Tara and Shaun made the move to Regina and the entire family entered the Family Treatment Program. While no two families who enter the program are alike, Tara and Shaun are unique in that they do not face many of the issues that confront other parents in the program. Rather, they were simply looking for a family-focused way of helping their son.

“We had more support in the first three days here than we had in years at home,” Tara said of the FTP.

The pair had an immediate appreciation for the approach taken by FTP staff to helping their family.

“We’ve made so many great connections with the staff,” Tara explained. “They aren’t there to tell us what to do; they’re there to support us and help us learn new strategies. But it’s all up to us, really.”

The program’s equine therapy component was a favourite of the family.

“Deanna (from the Regina Equestrian Centre) is really good at incorporating how you work with a horse, and turning that around to learn how you can communicate with your children,” Tara said. “You’re learning how to work with something that can’t communicate with you, so you have to think outside the box – that just really resonated with us.”

They credit the FTP for teaching them communication skills as well, a necessity with Shaun working out of town.

“It’s hard to communicate over the phone,” Tara explained, noting that they learned the importance of debriefing with one another.

“We gained a lot by coming down here,” Shaun added, explaining that they now feel confident they will be able to continue the positive habits they learned once they return to their regular routine.

“We fought to be here so we’re 100 per cent in. We participate in everything. We’re focused,” Tara said. “When we fight that hard for something you’re definitely going to give it your all.”

While Shaun has returned home to go back to work, Tara and their son will remain in the FTP until a discharge date has been set.

“If you looked at our family a year ago, we couldn’t have imagined this change,” Shaun said. “(The program) is life changing.”

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Writing to release the past

Writing to release the past

Posted by on Jul 13, 2017 in Then and now, Whats-new | 3 comments

One of the more expected, but no less important, aspect of Ranch Ehrlo’s Family Treatment Program (FTP) is the treatment groups that families have the option to participate in weekly. Each group is led by one of the FTP’s highly qualified clinical supervisors or managers.

The groups cover topics from parenting skills, yoga, horse therapy, recovery, dad’s topics, and a group for parents to share and talk about their week.

One group that was recently created focuses on writing. FTP participant and mom of five, Felicia Kakakaway, has been a regular participant of the group since it began a few weeks ago.

“All of the hurtful (experiences) that you can’t get out verbally, you can write it down on a piece of paper and release it,” Felicia explained.

“In my situation I had a very rough start to my adulthood,” she said.

Felicia was a user of alcohol, suffered from depression and anxiety throughout her early adult years. She was also a victim of domestic abuse at one time of her adulthood. Her eldest child, now 13, was diagnosed with autism at four years old, and her 9-year-old is epileptic. After suffering a stillbirth six years ago, Felicia found herself in a dark place and contemplated suicide.

“And then I thought, I have two children here – what am I doing, what am I thinking? I thought, ‘how are my kids going to react, and who’s going to be here for them if I did that?’”

It was then she realized she needed help and began the process of reaching out to get it. She started counselling with a mental health therapist, took a suicide prevention training course and life skills, and got a part-time job.

But working on herself wasn’t all that Felicia needed to do – she worried her oldest son may be placed in a group home because of his autism.

“I didn’t want that, because no one knows him like I do,” she said.

Felicia learned of the Ranch’s Family Treatment Program, where families remain together to heal as a unit, through her social worker and knew it would be the perfect place for her family. They began the program in February of this year.

“It’s been really, really good,” she said. “I was a very angry person because of all the stuff that’s happened, and now I can calm myself faster and easier and I have the support of the FTP therapists if I need someone. I realized I celebrated five years of sobriety and plan to make it a permanent goal. Back home there was nobody to talk to.”

She is anticipating returning home in August and admits to having some trepidation, but says that FTP staff have been instrumental in helping set up aftercare supports to ensure her family can continue their road of success.

She continues writing about her experiences, and plans to share some of her work through our blog in the future.

“I feel like if I get my story out, it might help some people,” she concluded.

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Recalling the Wilderness Challenge

Recalling the Wilderness Challenge

Posted by on Jun 30, 2016 in Then and now, Whats-new | 1 comment

Terry Pashe came to Ranch Ehrlo in the early 1970s when it was just a fledgling organization, far smaller in scope than the organization we know today. A residential school survivor originally from a reserve in Manitoba, Terry found himself tangled up in the justice system at a relatively early age.

“I made some bad choices,” he said simply.

His social worker suggested Ranch Ehrlo as an alternative to foster care or a treatment centre close to home, knowing Terry would do better in an out-of-province placement. He agreed, and spent the next three years at the Pilot Butte campus.

Terry was one of the youth who took part in the Wilderness Challenge, established in 1973 as a way to treat seriously disturbed or angry youth, those whom society had deemed all but unreachable. Participants took part in constructing residences, hunting and fishing for food, and sharing tasks required for survival in remote northern Saskatchewan.

Terry recalled horseback riding and canoeing long distances in addition to other survival tasks.

The Wilderness Challenge ended in 1977 amidst allegations of abuse that later proved to be untrue, but the damage was done. Ranch Ehrlo’s reputation was seriously compromised, and it would take years to build it back to where it had been before the accusations. The Wilderness Challenge closed its doors for good.

Today, past participants like Terry recall how the Wilderness Challenge helped them to find independence and to learn the importance of trust and loyalty in their relationships. Looking back, Terry realizes that while at times he saw the Ranch as a rigid environment, ultimately, it helped him find his way to a better way of life.

“The Ranch was a harsh place, but sometimes in life we have to go through hard things,” he said. “It was a place I had to go to learn new ways.”

Ranch Ehrlo was the first treatment centre Terry had attended that promoted First Nations cultures and ideas, something he believes to be of great importance in fully healing from past trauma. He recalled the annual awards night and how being recognized for his accomplishments bolstered his self-esteem and helped him realize he was on the right path.

Today, Terry works as an addictions counsellor for his reserve, Dakota Tipi First Nations in Manitoba.

“Traits like strength and courage, I learned at the Ranch,” he said. “I don’t think it helped me, I know it did.”

We invite you to join us in celebrating success stories like Terry’s at our 50th anniversary celebration, Sept. 29th at the Queensbury Convention Centre in Regina.

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Still feels like home

Still feels like home

Posted by on Apr 27, 2016 in Then and now, Whats-new | 1 comment

Sandra Bird was 13 when she came to Ranch Ehrlo Society after a tumultuous childhood. Abandoned by her mother when she was just an infant, Sandra was raised by the babysitter her mom left her with for the first years of her life.

“The babysitter kept me until I was 12 years old,” Sandra explained. “A lot of things happened in that home, so I was removed by social services.”

After bouncing around several foster homes, Sandy found herself at the Ranch.

“I remember they asked me if I wanted to go (to the Ranch), and it sounded like a place where everyone else was like me. I wasn’t ‘the foster kid’,” she said.

When she arrived at Ranch Ehrlo, Sandra described herself as a “little fireball”. She credits the Ranch’s dedicated staff for helping her turn her life around.

“Some of the best things were the workers. There’s a few I really, really love,” she said. “Things like group meetings and going out on the camping trips – that was the first time my life I’d ever went camping.”

While at the Ranch, Sandy learned to play guitar. She also learned about her First Nations heritage, taking part in the powwow club and working with elders to learn how to make dresses, mittens, and moccasins.

“The Ranch helped me deal with my issues. I had to learn how to confront them head-on, I couldn’t just not talk about them,” she said. “One of the first things I learned was that you can trust people.”



Sandra stayed at Ranch Ehrlo for two years, and upon discharge, moved out to Montreal Lake to live with her biological grandfather. She gave birth to a son while living there, and he was the driving force behind her deciding to finish school and get a diploma in resource and environmental law.

Over 20 years later, Sandra still has fond memories and a feeling of home connected to the Ranch.

“I was driving past Regina once, and it was so familiar. I just ended up turning, and I went out to the Ranch.”

Sandra is presently living in Saskatoon with her partner and raising her son, who is now in the 11th grade. She works as a building manager for nine apartment buildings.

In 2016, Ranch Ehrlo Society is commemorating 50 years of helping youth succeed like Sandy. A celebration event is planned for September 29th at the Queensbury Convention Centre in Regina.

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More than an average life

More than an average life

Posted by on Mar 17, 2016 in Then and now, Whats-new |

Twenty-one year old Emilio Bear is a foreman at a construction company. He lives in a nice house in a nice neighbourhood, with his girlfriend and his girlfriend’s child, whom he is helping to raise.ranch-ehrlo-50-years

To some, it might sound like just an average life, but for Emilio to get where he is today it was far from an average amount of effort. Emilio spent the early years of his childhood moving from foster home to foster home, seeing 21 placements before the age of six. At 10, he arrived at Ranch Ehrlo Society.

Emilio spent the next eight years at the Ranch, and today credits that stability for helping shape him into the successful man he is.

“Every day I think about my time at the Ranch. I grew up there,” he said. “(At first it felt like) they took me away from my family, but I had to adapt – like everyone. Humans are meant to adapt.”

Emilio says he wants people to know how the Ranch helped him.

“People don’t always see the successful Ranch youth,” he explained. “When I left the Ranch at 17 I had a little struggle and went downhill a bit. But then I learnt how to adapt, and I’m doing pretty good.”

Soon after leaving Ranch Ehrlo, Emilio began working as a framer in a construction company. He spent a few summers landscaping and winters shovelling snow and even had a stint as a paver.

“But then I went back to (construction), and today I’m the foreman. I have a big truck and a big house – three bedrooms, with a big back yard and a deck,” he says proudly.

“I love my life right now.”

In 2016, Ranch Ehrlo Society is commemorating 50 years of helping youth like Emilio. A celebration event is planned for September 29th at the Queensbury Convention Centre in Regina.


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In the making

In the making

Posted by on Feb 11, 2016 in Then and now, Whats-new | 1 comment

Chad Beloin stands in MacKay House. He’s quiet while the memories of his time here wash over him. The house has been updated, the walls are different colours, but having spent half his childhood here, Ranch Ehrlo is still home base for him.

“If it weren’t for the staff at Ranch Ehrlo, if it weren’t for the staff at MacKay house, honestly – I don’t know where I’d be, but I don’t think I would be here.”

Chad was born in Saskatoon. For half his childhood, he was raised in Hafford, Saskatchewan. The other half was spent at Ranch Ehrlo Society. Chad spent time in both MacKay and Jewison houses, and on the Corman Park campus, working through anger, depression, and abandonment issues.

“I hung out with a bad crew. I didn’t make the best decisions. Even when I was (at the Ranch), I didn’t make the best decisions,” he admits.

Chad filming in MacKay House

Chad filming in MacKay House

But something great did come out of his time at MacKay – it was here that Chad found his passion for music. He found an online publisher who would produce his work, and using the computer at the house he’d burn the music to CD and print paper sleeves for each copy. He took the CDs down to the local corner store and sell the copies.

Ranch staff supported his talents, encouraging him to perform at the annual award’s nights in Regina and Prince Albert.

Playing the electronic keyboard one day, Chad got the attention of fellow music enthusiast Dallas Elder, also living at MacKay House.

“I’m proof that Chad can develop artists. He’s the whole reason I make music today,” Dallas said. “If I hadn’t come to Ranch Ehrlo and met Chad, I wouldn’t be an artist today. He taught me a lot about music.”

But it wasn’t always smooth sailing for Chad. Just as he was making it big on the music scene, with hits on his ReverbNation and YouTube accounts increasing daily, he found himself with a serious drug and alcohol problem. For five years, he fell off the radar of the music scene.

“To be honest, the last five years is a really big blur,” he says simply.

Chad sobered up just over a year ago and decided it was time to get back to doing what he loved. He started his own company, Vitality Entertainment Group, an independent recording label based in Toronto, and began working

Chad's documentary poster

Chad’s documentary poster

on a new album. He determined that it was time to tell his story through a documentary, In The Making.

Filming the documentary is what brings Chad back to MacKay House. It’s difficult to look back at certain times in his life – the death of his grandfather, who raised him, the health issues that led to struggles vocally, depriving him of his biggest release. Standing in the house where he spent so many years, Chad is overcome with emotion.

Dallas steps in to fill the quiet.

“No matter where Chad is in his life, or where I am in mine, we are all going to make it together because of music.”

Chad and Dallas

Chad and Dallas

Chad is reflective for a moment before saying, again, that he’s grateful for the staff and all they’ve done for him.

“At the end of the day, these people are changing and saving lives. On behalf of all the past youth, and the future youth – thank you.”

We invite you to join us in celebrating youth finding themselves like Chad at our 50th anniversary celebration, Sept. 29th at the Queensbury Convention Centre in Regina.

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