Becoming whole: Jason’s story

An interview with Jason

“What is the best thing about the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches?”

One of our children at the Ranch (whom we lovingly refer to as Ranchers) sits calmly across from me. He doesn’t miss a beat.boy young man Arkansas Sheriffs' Youth Ranches

“My parents,” he smiles.

“Do you mean your houseparents?” I clarify, not knowing that his biological parents are deceased.

“Um yeah,” he stares back at me, as if I should have known that for Ranchers, houseparents are never simply staff members. “Of course. The best thing here is having a home and a family.”

For foster children who call the Ranch home, houseparents become much more than care providers. Because many Ranchers reside at the Ranch for years, their houseparents hold a special place in their hearts and lives. They feel like family.

*Jason’s experience is exactly what the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches offer to all Ranchers: a loving, supportive, safe, and healthy place to call home.

A troubled past

When Jason arrived at the Ranch a few years ago after bouncing from home to home in foster care, he was not the same young man he is today. He wept through his entire intake interview during the admissions process at the Ranch, overcome with fear. This now 4.0 high achiever, involved in FBLA, theatre, and choir at school, had been severely abused or neglected by his biological family.child abuse domestic violence

Prior to Ranch placement, Jason’s life was in constant flux.

“When I was seven, my parents split up. I stayed with my dad because my mom wanted to be with her boyfriend. Everything was fine,” Jason reminisces.

However, one morning Jason woke up to a house full of people crying and mourning. His father was killed in a vehicular accident.

“I was hurt and sad. I didn’t know what was really going on at that age. But I knew my dad was gone, and I knew life wasn’t going to be the same,” he recants.

He was right. After moving in with his biological mother and boyfriend, Jason began witnessing the boyfriend beating his mother, often belittling her—and her children, including Jason. In addition, Jason’s mother and boyfriend began manufacturing methamphetamine.

“Once drugs took over, we didn’t have food. Roaches crawled everywhere. We couldn’t wash clothes and didn’t have a car,” Jason remembers.

The beauty of Ranch life

After several years of living in these conditions, the Department of Human Services gained custody of Jason and his siblings. Jason’s mother died from unknown causes a few years later.

Jason’s story represents the gut-wrenching reality—and beauty—of Ranch life. Many Ranchers arrive full of fear, anger, and unprocessed trauma. Like Jason, they’ve witnessed addiction. They’ve lived in the throes of domestic violence, inhabitable housing conditions, and even homelessness. They have acquired survival skills but have never learned to set boundaries, expect reasonable treatment from others, or process emotions fully or healthfully. Many have never slept soundly in secure, clean homes.

But the beauty of becoming a Rancher is the becoming: healing from the past and transforming into a healthy, happy individual. Ranchers receive therapy and emotional support from staff. They live in the same family-style foster care home as their siblings. Tutors provide academic assistance each afternoon, and during the summers, Ranchers participate in engaging, educational programs when they’re not enjoying the nearly 600-acre Ranch. Ranchers learn to embrace the moment, no longer afraid of constant chaos or continually haunted by the traumatic past. Ranchers discover true personal fulfillment as they find serenity and hope.Arkansas Sheriffs' Youth Ranches

Jason isn’t finished growing or transforming. He plans to attend college after high school graduation.

“I want to be a teacher. 10 years from now, I think I’ll be a teacher at a school like Batesville and have a house,” Jason asserts confidently.

I have no doubt he will accomplish all these things while becoming the best version of himself.


Help Ranchers, including Jason, to become healthy, happy, and whole by supporting the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranches as a Hope Builder.

*Jason’s name and details of his personal story have been changed for privacy purposes.


Ranch life fosters growth

Thriving through Ranch life

Thanks to the hard work and determination of our sheriffs more than 40 years ago, the Ranch is a place of hope and healing for Arkansas children. These children, whom we call Ranchers, have simply needed a place to call home. At the Arkansas Sheriff’s Youth Ranches, children experience Ranch life. Set on an idyllic 568 acres in the foothills of the Ozarks, the Ranch serves about 60 children per year.

children play in field ranchEach morning, the sun radiates across campus, highlighting rolling pastures, sturdy barns, secure cottages, and herds of cattle. Children attend school. When they return, they enjoy life full of laughter, play, sports, homework, and chores. The Ranchers thrive through Ranch life.

“At the Ranch, I am able to spend time with people I love,” one Rancher says.

Cheyenne Ingram, a houseparent at the Ranch for more than 35 years, partners with 22 other staff members.  Together, they manage the Ranch and care for current Ranchers. It’s a huge job and is deeply rewarding.

“Ranch life provides a really stable environment. It’s one of the things kids need most. With stability, love, and support, they thrive,” Ingram asserts. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, ‘my mom never cared if I did my homework.”

Fostering growth through Ranch responsibility

Ranch staff do care. And they work daily with Ranchers to foster growth.

child cattle

Tending Hereford cattle at the Ranch

The Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranch is a true working ranch. The children help tend to a registered herd of Hereford beef cattle as well as other farm animals, including chickens, ducks, and goats. At the Ranch, children perform regular chores, including caring for animals. The Ranch staff encourage children to develop a strong work ethic, sense of responsibility, and spirit of collaboration by expecting them to complete regular chores.

While many children detest chores and attempt to shirk responsibility, this isn’t the case at the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Youth Ranch. One Rancher recently noted that she loves chores because “they keep me occupied.” This attitude toward pitching in and contributing to the cleanliness and maintenance of the Ranch is shared by many Ranchers.

“Chores make me more mature,” one Rancher claims, and another notes that “doing chores has taught me to be more responsible and cleaner.”

Gaining life skills on the Ranch

girl study schoolThe Ranchers gain invaluable life skills through participating in daily Ranch life. Ranchers fulfill regular chore duties, participate in tutoring, complete homework assignments and study for tests, and attend church on Sunday with houseparents. In this way, Ranchers become well-rounded individuals, growing spiritually as well as mentally, physically, and emotionally. A Rancher mentioned recently that “going to church teaches me to be closer to God,” and another Rancher enjoys “getting to be at church and listen to the pastor.”

Supporting the Ranch

Housing, counseling, guiding, and caring for 60 Ranchers each year while operating a ranch is an enormous undertaking. Thankfully, generous people and organizations support the Ranch through financial giving, corporate sponsorship, gifts of goods and services, and planned giving. Because of supporters, we are able to improve children’s lives and help them become responsible adults.

How can you support the Ranch today?

There are countless ways to support the Ranch. You can make a one-time or monthly financial gift of $10, $50, or more. Every bit of support we receive impacts Ranchers’ lives. Consider making a tribute gift or a non-cash gift, or you can leave a legacy. Reach out to us at to make a difference in children’s lives.

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