Trudy BoschSpending time in a group home can seem like a strange experience from the outside looking in. What you may be surprised by is how ordinary it actually is.

Ranch Ehrlo has always believed in creating normalcy in its residential group homes. The principle was reinforced when we introduced CARE (Children And Residential Experiences: Creating Conditions for Change), which is a multi-level program aimed at improving services for children and youth in care.

Yes, our homes may be larger than your typical family home (ten beds means ten bedrooms) and we have staff instead of parents, but step into one and the day-to-day actions and routines will seem very familiar.

All our houses are focused on routines - just like in your home. Kids and staff will sit down for family-style meals, residents will have chores to do at certain times of the day, and bedtimes will be scheduled (maybe even with a bedtime story). There will also be times for snacks, time to play, and time to do homework.

We also work hard to make sure the house looks like a home. You will see pictures on the walls, personal belongings, toys on shelves, and comfortable furniture arranged to encourage discussion and interaction. What you won’t see is a staff room. While it's not a family, we do always encourage staff to eat, play, and interact with clients while they are on shift. This is so important. We need to be in the life space with those in our care. When we spend this quality time together, we have an opportunity to build relationships and teach new skills.

You will hear normal everyday conversations like ‘How was your day?’ and lots of attentive listening because that’s what caring adults do in a family setting. You will hear words of encouragement and lots of joking around together.

You will also see the typical celebrations and milestones like visits from the Tooth Fairy, birthday parties, drivers’ licence celebrations, and epic games of monopoly.

We want our clients to have skills and resources to live in the community which means we want them to have community experiences like using the library, having a meal in a restaurant, and shopping for groceries or clothes. We try our best to ensure that a client’s life is similar in life experience to their peers. Providing these typical experiences is a bridge for clients to return to their home communities and one that we pride ourselves on doing well.