This is the fifth in a series of stories about a day in the life of a staff member at Ranch Ehrlo.
Karlyn Kenny says it’s important to bring your personal interests to work with you.
Karlyn has worked at the Ranch since 2019 and has been a youth care leader (YCL) at Woodward House since December 2022.
“I would tell someone who is thinking about working at the Ranch to bring their passions with them. It’s a really fun way to keep our participants engaged,” she said with a smile.
Karlyn has used her interest in physical activity and bike riding to get the youth excited about group cycling around the neighbourhood.
A typical schedule for Karlyn is 3 p.m. to midnight, unless the youth are off school, in which case she works from noon until midnight.
When working with the youth, planning and organization are key. She checks the calendar and speaks with her program manager before making a to-do list for the day. YCLs are sort of like a liaison between the manager and the youth care workers in the house.
She also checks the program planning book. Plans typically include some kind of life-skills-based learning. YCLs are responsible for program planning which also includes planning the outings the youth take almost every day.
When the youth get home from school, they will have the staff help them with their homework, or they will work on their resumes, apply for jobs, book appointments, or look for apartments if they are transitioning out of care.
She said the youth at Woodward House are 16 to 18 years old, so they are being prepared for life after the Ranch. Woodward House staff are prioritizing authentic life skills that the youth will need when they transition out of care. Each youth will need these skills to live independently.
“One of the biggest issues for youth transitioning out of any kind of care is they don’t feel like they’ve been equipped with the tools they need to be successful in their independence, and I feel like that’s something Woodward as a whole is really good at doing,” she said.
She went on to explain that her team has worked really hard on playing an integral role in transitioning youth into independence. She has recently started an education board within their program that they change every three months. The topic right now is ‘community resources,’ and the youth have really used it a lot. They’ve also referred their family members to these resources, such as safe shelters and clothing resources.
Every day, one of the youth cooks supper to develop their independent skills and abilities. After dinner, they listen to music, dance, and sing while doing their chores.
Following chores, there is a group session usually run by the caseworker, which can be intensive therapy, group life, skills group, or rights and responsibilities group. Staff always try to incorporate an educational component into all the group work.
In the evening they like to get out of the house and go swimming, go to the library, or there might be an interesting event going on somewhere in the city.
Something new the youth have been doing is spending time with the younger children who live at Hilsden House, a Ranch group home in the city for boys aged eight to 12.
“It’s great for our youth to show that sense of responsibility and maturity and take part in activities to help out the little guys,” Karlyn smiled.
When they get back to the house, everyone takes turns doing their hygiene while working on homework, watching tv, or playing a game.
Bedtime is at 10 p.m. at Woodward. Once everyone is in bed, Karlyn writes all her reports. She takes notes during her shift, so she compiles those into her reports, writes her daily log, completes attendance, then does anything around the house that needs to still be done.
On the weekends, the youth will often go to the library to work on their resumes or hand out their resumes to different businesses. The weekend evenings are free for the youth to relax. They also take part in a pilot project Karlyn introduced to help them learn about budgeting and grocery shopping.
“They usually have a recipe in mind for the meals they want to prepare, so they look through what we already have in the house and make their shopping list. They budget accordingly based on what they need for their groceries, they take the bus to Walmart on the weekend, and they then bring us the receipt and the change,” she explained.
Karyln feels very fulfilled being a YCL, and she’s really enjoyed taking a leadership role, developing CARE-based planning, and creating opportunities for developing life skills for the youth. She goes home at the end of the day knowing that she did something good.
She also stated that she feels very lucky to work at an agency that prioritizes holistic health and work-life balance and offers health and wellness benefits.
The other benefit she said she has gained from working at the Ranch is the personal relationships she’s built. “It’s not just the wonderful relationships that I’ve built with the youth. I met my fiancé working at Ranch Ehrlo. Some of my best friends I’ve ever had in my life work here,” she said.