In January of 2020, Ranch Ehrlo Society embarked on a pilot project designed to meet a specific need in our family programs. 

Foster care services have been part of the Ranch’s continuum of service for over 10 years. We know that all children are different, and some have complex needs that are best met within a family setting. We developed our unique Treatment Foster Care Services (TFC), in partnership with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Social Services, to serve these children.

But just over two years ago, the agency created a new program combining foster care with additional support workers. The family-based treatment home (FBTH) program provides services to participants aged 5 to 11 years who need to access programming but are not ready to be placed in either a foster home or group living home. The program prepares participants to enter foster care, group living, or return home. The home has the capacity for four youth, who stay on average for six months.

Heather Whitequill and Quincy Dustyhorn stepped up to run the new program, named Whitehorn House.

Lisa Neill, manager of Treatment Foster Care explained, “Heather and Quincy are really the heart and soul of the program. It takes a unique family to make this program successful. They have three of their own children, so their home is busy with nine people living under one roof.”

“It’s important for the participants to learn what a healthy family looks like with positive role models. We work with the participants and their families because our priority is reunification whenever possible,” Lisa added.

What also makes this program unique from traditional foster parenting, is the Ranch provides the house and vehicle to the treatment foster care family, as well as around-the-clock support workers who assist with youth care.

The support workers help with transportation, assisting youth to participate in activities, the daily routine, and various tasks associated with running a large household.

Heather explained, “This new program allows us the opportunity to spend more one-on-one time with the kids because we have that extra support. Our support workers are also our son and niece, so it’s really great for the youth to see a whole family working together.”

Heather and Quincy also provide the youth in their care and other parents in the FTC program with cultural resources and knowledge. They have shared their knowledge of powwow, star blankets, the medicine wheel, and balance in life. Quincy makes all the ribbon skirts and regalia for the youth in his care as well as for his own children.

Everyone at Ranch Ehrlo believes that it is extremely important Indigenous children in care know and are proud of their culture and heritage.

Recently a youth in Heather and Quincy’s care expressed interest in connecting to her home community. They took her to a naming ceremony at her First Nation where she received her name, colour, direction, and spirit animal.

Two years into the pilot project and the model is working extremely well. Family is the focus whether the youth still reside in the home or not. Heather and Quincy have a motto: once you’re connected to our family, you’re always our family. They keep in contact with every participant who has been in their home.