Adopting from the Ranch: Providing a forever home

How they met

Emily and Philip Ives met when they began working at the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches nine years ago.

“Before we were hired at the Ranch, we worked across the street from one another for years unknowingly,” Emily laughs.

Emily and Philip Ives

Emily and Philip Ives

Emily graduated from Lyon College, and Philip graduated from Arkansas State University. Emily, who is now the Ranch’s Business Manager, joined the Ranch team as Director of Communications and was recently promoted to Business Manager. Philip, originally hired as Program Manager, was promoted to Chief Operating Officer a few years ago.

Over time, the two became quite a team. Emily and Philip collaborated to keep things running smoothly on a daily basis at the Ranch.

“I was born and raised as part of the Ranch family. My parents have been houseparents for literally over 1000 kids over the course of my life. Being here as part of the Ranch has always been my normal, but as I grew up, I realized that other families do not help take care of kids like my family did,” Emily says.

Becoming a family

adoption family Arkansas Sheriffs' Youth Ranches

Celebrating becoming a family of four

Emily and Philip’s relationship evolved over time. They married and celebrated the birth of their son, Dash, a few years later. They adopted their son, Isaac, from the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches on November 1, 2018. Isaac came to the Ranch as a foster child four years prior to adoption.

“We spent time around him often since we work at the Ranch, but we didn’t build a strong relationship immediately. Since he lived in the home where Emily’s parents work as houseparents, we had ample opportunity to interact with him,” Philip recalls.

When Philip and Emily learned that Isaac would be eligible for adoption, they were concerned for his well-being.

“We thought his quality of life may decrease. He does not adjust well to change. Also, we hated to see him separated from his siblings,” Emily shared.

Life for foster children at the Ranch

The length of stay at the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches varies for children who call the Ranch home. Some stay for a few months before transitioning to traditional foster homes, while others stay at the Ranch and remain for years. Others, like Isaac, are deemed eligible for adoption and leave when they find forever homes.

The Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) or The Department of Human Services (DHS) retains legal custody of foster children who call the Ranch home. The Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches provides more than just foster care for Ranchers. Ranch staff offer loving, supportive family-style homes and keep siblings together. The Ranch provides therapeutic services, academic support, and life skills training. And in the summer, Ranchers enjoy fun, educational programs and activities on the Ranch’s nearly 600-acre campus.

Isaac, like other Ranchers, enjoyed living at the Ranch. The Ranch provided stability, security, and support. His previous living environment lacked these key components to emotional, mental, and physical well-being. When Philip asked Isaac if he would like to be adopted, he looked at him blankly, as if he’d never considered that option. After several minutes, he said yes and asked several questions.

Adopting Isaac

Ranch kid

Isaac as a Rancher

The process of adoption began—but the adoption process takes time. The Ives family first expressed their intention to adopt Isaac. Then, they agreed to participate in several weeks of fostering and parenting courses through DHS. The series of courses educates potential adoptive parents about what to expect when fostering and adopting, provides parenting tips and techniques, and helps parents manage behavior problems, including power struggles. Philip recalls hearing many stories from course teachers about difficult situations.

“Our teacher he let us know it was not going to be all rainbows,” he remembers.

In addition to coursework, Emily and Philip underwent CPR certification training and DHS home visits.

“We let Isaac visit our home before fostering. When we showed him his bedroom, he jumped on the bed and spread his body across it. He really seemed at home,” Emily muses.

Adoption celebrations and challenges

While Emily and Philip share fond memories of Isaac’s adoption, they also admit to difficult moments.

“The first night felt very awkward. We told him he may be bored at our home because life is normal in our home. And all of a sudden, we realized we had a teenage stranger walking around. We needed to create more boundaries,” Philip notes.

Isaac today

The first six months required adjustment for everyone, including Dash, the Ives’ biological son, now five years-old. Emily and Philip agree that the greatest challenge was proving to both boys that they were equally loved.

“We had to help Isaac believe we loved him as much as Dash, that he wasn’t just a side note, that we valued his thoughts and interests, that life would be fair. And we had to do the same for Dash,” Philip shares.

Over time, the couple found balance with the children but faced struggles in the process. The couple also helped Isaac cope with anxiety. Prior to adoption, Isaac struggled academically and behaviorally in school due to anxiety. However, after the adoption was finalized, many of his fears about the future subsided. Isaac now remains on the Honor Roll at school, and his parents do not receive negative feedback from teachers or administrators.

“Now we argue about cleanliness and normal things,” Emily comments.

Life today for the Ives family

Isaac and Dash spend time together attending church, watching television, playing video games, and pestering one another. Dash loves playing with his goats, pigs, and prize cat, Ricky Bobby. Isaac enjoys football and basketball. In fact, he has always dreamed of attending a NFL game. Philip and Isaac will attend one together this fall to see the Atlanta Falcons and Dallas Cowboys go head to head.

Emily and Philip offer tips and advice to other families considering adoption.

“Even after working at the Ranch, I remained naive about the process and had unrealistic expectations. Past trauma will come out. Personalities clash. Gratitude will not overflow. Just be realistic,” Philip urges.

“And I didn’t know my child’s love for his biological parents would remain so strong. But it has helped me tremendously to look at all things through my child’s eyes,” Emily shares.

Thank you, Philip and Emily, for your daily contributions to the lives of children at the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches. We hope all readers will consider joining us in supporting children who call the Ranch home by becoming a Hope Builder and making a monthly donation toward building better lives for Ranchers.






Ranch Response to Coronavirus

How we are keeping our Ranchers safe and healthy:

Due to the increased threat from the coronavirus pandemic, the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches is taking social distancing measures to isolate children and staff in an attempt to reduce the risk of spreading the infection.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson has ordered schools closed through Spring Break, so all of our Ranch children will remain on campus for at least the next two weeks.

Our houseparents will be keeping children close to their homes, and they will increase sanitation measures, making sure all surfaces are disinfected and that children are washing their hands often and effectively.

To keep our houseparents healthy so they can best care of our children, other ASYR staff will make grocery runs and make sure that each house has needed food and supplies. We are grateful to our donors for always helping us keep our pantries stocked and our children well taken care of. Click here to support.

ASYR administrative, business, and maintenance operations will be altered for at least two weeks to allow staff to remain in their homes as much as possible. We will continue essential functions but are asking staff to reduce their time in the office and on campus to reduce the chance of staff inadvertently spreading the virus on campus. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we return calls and messages as quickly as we can.

How you can help

Thank you to our donors, volunteers, and other Ranch friends for your ongoing support during this time, and we ask for prayers for our houseparents and staff as we work to keep our Ranchers safe and healthy.

You may also support our Ranch family with a donation by clicking here, or you can mail your gift to ASYR, PO Box 3964, Batesville, AR 72503. We also have an Amazon Wish List that you may shop to help take care of ongoing grocery and household needs if you would rather make an in-kind donation. Thank you for supporting the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches!

Help children at the Ranch celebrate Easter

Spiritual growth for Ranchers

Arkansas church

Did you know that children who call the Ranch home attend church every Sunday? It’s one of the basic requirements for admission at the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches. Each child age 6-17 at the Ranch agrees to attend church weekly with their houseparents. If a child already prefers a particular denomination, the Ranch staff do their best to help the child attend respective services. Many Ranchers cite regular church attendance and spiritual growth as one of their favorite aspects of Ranch life. Not only do they learn about spiritual matters and gain insight into the meaning of life, but they also have opportunities for service and community fellowship. The Ranchers love Sunday School and youth group activities, building great friendships with their church friends.

When the sheriffs of Arkansas founded the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches in 1976, they dreamed that children in need would be able to have a place to call home. But more than just a place to lay their head at night and three meals a day, they dreamed that children would find stability, love, and purpose. And that’s exactly what Ranchers find at the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches. Attending church is just one way Ranch staff ensure that children at the Ranch find joy and meaning.

Easter at the Ranch

Because Ranchers participate in church services regularly, they understand the true meaning of the Easter holiday. They certainly enjoy Easter eggs, bunnies, baby chickens, and candy. But they also appreciate the spiritual truths behind the commercial hubbub. Easter is a season of rebirth and renewal; a time when seeds planted in the earth die and sprout anew. It’s a time of new life. This is exactly what children who call the Ranch home experience, so Easter is a big deal around here.

Each year, our houseparents have traditionally crunched numbers to find a way to provide Easter baskets for Ranchers. With tight budgets, this is no easy task. The cost of providing Easter baskets for eight children (the maximum number of children in one family-style cottage at the Ranch) is $200. Yet houseparents always go out of their way to ensure that holidays do not pass by unacknowledged at the Ranch. For children who come from unstable, traumatic backgrounds, it’s pertinent that they experience life in a new way. It is important that they have “firsts” full of wonder and excitement rather than dread and pain.

Help Ranchers celebrate Easter

This year, we’re trying to help houseparents build happy memories on Easter Sunday. We’re asking kind-hearted community members to donate an Easter basket full of goodies. Or, if you would rather donate cash and allow us to build a basket for you, you can donate $25 per basket.Easter basket

We need 26 baskets (or $650) to provide current Ranchers with special Easter baskets. Baskets should be for boys and girls ages 6 to 17. Below is a breakdown of needs per gender and age group:

Female baskets: 1 ages 5-9, 3 ages 10-13, and 7 ages 13+.

Male baskets: 2 ages 5-9, 7 ages 10-13, and 6 ages 13+.

Would you like to make Easter special for one of our Ranchers?

Drop off your $25 donation or a furnished Easter basket at any Citizens Bank location in Batesville or Southside from now through April 6. Bank employees will be ready to accept your donations. Thank you, Citizens Bank, for your help in this effort!

Click here to make a one-time or monthly contribution or find out how to volunteer at the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranch.

Baking for kids: Making birthdays special at the Ranch

Alishia Baker truly lives up to her last name.

birthday cake Alishia BakerAn avid, creative baker, Alishia started baking at a young age and has always loved it. Recently, she began volunteering her time, talent, and baked goods to the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches.

About birthdays at the Ranch

Founded in 1976 by Arkansas sheriffs, the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches provide a loving, supportive place to call home for about 60 children per year. Located near Batesville, Arkansas, the Ranch operates family-style cottages, helping children feel secure, stable, and comfortable. The Ranch provides multiple programs and services for Ranchers, including therapy sessions, an educational summer program, and outdoor activities. Children at the Ranch also participate in chores and attend church weekly.

When children who call the Ranch home celebrate birthdays, they receive a gift from the Ranch and a birthday cake or cupcakes. Alishia makes this celebration time sweeter by creating cakes tailored to individual children’s preferences for flavor, color, and theme. She recently donated a custom-made vanilla “kitten” cake with pink frosting, complete with ears, a nose, eyes, and whiskers for a child’s birthday party. The recipient, a young birthday girl, was thrilled. At about $40 per cake, volunteer bakers save the Ranch $2,400 annually while providing children with special experiences.

The making of a baker

Alishia Baker first realized her talent merited attention when she baked a cake for her church in 2014.birthday cupcakes Alishia Baker

“For our pie auction, I baked a chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream frosting. It brought some of the highest bids,” Alishia recalls.

After the auction, two women from church requested that Alishia bake their birthday cakes. Alishia also hosted a fundraiser and prepared a cake for a Miss Arkansas candidate. Her fan base grew. The more people tasted her cakes and recognized her cake decorating abilities, the more they requested to purchase her creations.

Making birthdays special

In January 2020, we posted on Facebook about the need for bakers willing to bake custom birthday cakes for Ranchers. Alishia jumped at the opportunity and immediately responded.

“I have a very soft spot for kids who are less fortunate. Birthdays are a HUGE deal to me. I wanted the rose cupcakes birthday kids at the Ranch to feel extra special on their day,” Alishia shares.

Thanks to volunteers and donors like Alishia, our Ranchers do feel special.

Do you have a special talent, business service, or product to donate to children who call the Ranch home? Please consider volunteering or giving to the Ranch. Contact us at 870-793-6841 or via email to find out how you can build hope in children’s lives.

You may also make a charitable contribution to Ranch, which helps pay for things like shoes, clothing, and even birthday presents. As an organization that is almost entirely privately funded, we would not be able to provide these special occasions for our Ranchers without support from donors. Click here to make a one-time or monthly gift.