Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Fulshear Ranch Academy

Fulshear Ranch Academy is located in Nedville, Texas and is part of the Inner Change programs.  This is a beautiful country side residental program for girls. just miles from Sugarland, Texas not too far from Houston.  I toured the program in July to visit this unique all girls program for ages 18-24.  My tour was arrnaged by Ari of Innerchange and coordinated with the marketing director,  Irene Kotter and great staff and director of the program Dr. Gayle Jensen-Savoie PhD.  I intially meet in Irene in Sugarland and drive to the Phase III part of the program where students were actually begining the transition program and has a early breakfast with the girls.  The program actually from this viewpoint was moved backwards to understand the other phases at Fulshear.  We met with the psychologist, in Phase III and the program supervisor. We travled a brief distance to see the girls residence.

The setting is very home like and all the girls share in this setting.  At Phase II there are cottages for living on the property, very similar but also very well organized and scheduled.  The activities for the young women is more structured in Phase I and II.   In Phase III of the program the girsl are workiing toward independence, maintaning jobs or attending school.  My morning meeting with the girls involved speaking to them about the reason for coming to Fulshear?  Most of the girls, has significant challenges in the home setting, before coming to Fulshear including: conflict with parents, challenges with using substances, or difficulty with emotional control in the home setting and very often not having goals.  Each of the girls were very articulate about being at Fulshre and understood the nature of their behavioral challenges before and in the program.  All of the therapist were supportive of the girls and understood those challenge.   We met with Jeff Burgoet, and Kimmie Earley both clinical staff ata the program and discussed in detail the typical girl enrolled at Fulshear. 

When the girls openly discussed their challenges in being in the program, it was clear some has adjusted very well, and others had just entered the program having started new goals. One gial has been in the program previously and told me " she was happy the program invited her back becaqsue most program would not accept a student a second time.   She describes "it was her last chance" after her past in stealing , lying and past substance abuse in the home.  She expressed with deep regret many of the challenges she was facing even talking to her parents, which was helped by her therapist in the program. She admits to having limited control of this behavior in general and needed a more structured enviroment.

As we visited and toured the living apartment shared by the girls we also talked about how living independently was important for their lives.    The program is designed to empower young women toward healthy independent lives.    We discussed some of the challenges girls and young women are facing today, many of the girls had suffered from anxiety, eating disorders, interpersonal conflicts at home, emotional instability, sexual abuse  among other emotional challenges which they can traace back to living at home.

During our visit we had a early breakfast with staff and discussed, the other parts of the Phase I and Phase II of the program.   Phase I begins with basic skills and intensive therapy.  The girls are taught how to plan and cook their own meals,  they are  taught relationship skills, working on peronal prujects, communication skiils, chores as well as responsiblity.  In this phase the mission is clear to allow the gilrs to be more responsible, and to carry out task.  Thre are several therapist on site to work through this process with the girls, hlping them to problem solve and to make decisions on their own .   This phase ic critical to their understanding how to be responsible and developing trust.  In the second phase the girls move toward semi independence, sharing their learned skills from Phase I and also in both phases, equine therapy is implemented.

The program has a professionaly equine therapist working with the girls.  The program is certified and it has several areas where the hores are cared for by the girls.  Equine Therapy is very sucessful for the girls in this age group.  It provides the opportunity for the girls to understnd the connection between caring for the animals and developing trust.   The approach is helpful in all phases of the program.

Academcially, the perogam is individualized for each of the girls.  Most have either dropped out of school or simply not completed course even at the junior college level.  We discussed this with Kandace Nasis,  BA who is head of the Academic Program.  She describes the program as very individualized "working with the girls where they current at academically".  There appears both vocational opportunities and skill development in the program.  Other activies include: exercise and meditation, recreational therapy, field trips, and even frienship dates.  There is a "Rose Cermony" for each of the girls as they pass from one phase of the program to the next.  The cermoney is a very big event for the girls, and while, I was unable to see the entire cermoney, the preparation for the event alone was filled with anticipation.

 I spent at leat two hours speaking to all the clinical staff about the program, the the key to the scuess of the program, appears it well thought out design by the entire team.  The staff includes a a psychiatrist, who visits weekly, and sehedule medical appointment to handle all the need of the girls outside the therapy schedule.  The girls are taught to make their own appointments, to do follow up and to maintina this healthy life-style both at Fulshear and after leaving.   Teh program is located in Nedville Texas.   The focus is on a "bridge to adulthood".  We believe this is an excellent program for young adult girls.  The holistic model is wonderful, and allows the girls to work on a self care management model.

A student who is fqcing challenges with independence, needing direction and support, would find this to be an excellent program for this age group.    As a transition program from wilderness or another therapeutic school, it miight also work for a student not yet ready to return home.   While the need to teach independent living skills is a very important part, assessing these areas is also critical for an educaional consulant.  We have a specific assessment for this purpose and this can be a useful tool in helping those in the admission department.

Admission to Fulshear is a rolling admission policy with guidelines foer admission based on the student IQ  and current challenges.  Current IQ must be at least 90.  As a consultant working with girls  and families in this age group, assessing th complexity of their psychiatric conditions is needed with testing in many cases.  A girl with a life threating siutations, is probably not a good fit until some assessment has been done.

Tuition is just above $7,000 (seven thousand dollars per month) and a registration cost added to this cost.  This does not include: clothing but it does cover housing, meals, tuition for some academic work, not for the cost for atteding college.  Parents will find the program nuturing and supportive.  The single gender transition program works very well with the girls.  The program is very well supervised by the clincial staff and the supervision in the living areas. 

Most students must maintain an IQ above 90 to be in the program.  A girl who maintains chronic challegnes both socially and emotionally would be a good fit for Fulshear.   The staff student ratio is 8:1 licenced recovery specialist work with the girls on addiction issues.   There is college entry and support in the program and also career planning and development.  There are horses, a stable and corral on campus, along with a swimming pool and a welath of activities for doing volunteer work in the community.   Fulshear is the "right program for the right girl".