Idaho Youth Ranch closed its ranch for at-risk kids. Now it’s building new one near Boise

·4 min read

The Idaho Youth Ranch shuttered its residential treatment center seven years ago. Since then, many at-risk children and young adults have had to seek residential treatment out of state.

The organization is working to change that. It has raised $18 million for a new residential treatment center in Canyon County to serve more than 100 youths each year.

The center will allow the Youth Ranch to expand its mission to serve the mental health needs of young people and their families, CEO Scott Curtis said.

The Youth Ranch serves young people, ages 9 to 24, who are struggling with depression, anxiety or trauma. They typically stay for 6 to 9 months. The ranch has trained therapists and offers individual, family and group therapies.

In 2020, the Youth Ranch served 1,548 Idaho youths and their families through a crisis shelter in Boise, outpatient and remote health services, and therapeutic work with horses.

It also has an emergency shelter and offers short-term residential care at the Hays House in Boise.

The Idaho Youth Ranch is starting to build a$20 million residential center for at-risk youth on a former tree farm northwest of Middleton in Caldwell. CEO Scott Curtis on Thursday thanked the people and organizations that helped raise money.
The Idaho Youth Ranch is starting to build a$20 million residential center for at-risk youth on a former tree farm northwest of Middleton in Caldwell. CEO Scott Curtis on Thursday thanked the people and organizations that helped raise money.

The new ranch and residential treatment center, unveiled Thursday in a groundbreaking ceremony, is located on an old tree farm outside Caldwell. The location is thick with trees and is often visited by birds, elk and deer, Curtis said.

The center will be alongside the Hands of Promise campus, a horse park opened in 2019.

“Folks will enter the campus and they will immediately cross a stream that is running between two ponds,” Curtis said. “They’ll see green and horses all around them.”

The Idaho Youth Ranch Residential Center for Healing and Resilience will include a welcome center, a year-round school, a wellness center, a dining hall and living units. The residential center will be made up of two large buildings with two wings of 16 rooms each, Curtis said. The center, set on 258 acres, can house 64 youths at a time, two per room.

Idaho Youth Ranch said in a news release that construction will take around 18 months, with opening expected in late 2022.

The Youth Ranch previously had its ranch and residential treatment center in Rupert, but the rural location made it difficult to staff and made it hard for families who were not in that area to be part of the treatment process, Curtis said. Moving the center to Canyon County will help address those problems, he said.

The Rupert center closed because of financial constraints. The Times-News reported that the ranch needed to repair buildings and infrastructure, and had staffing problems.

Since then, low-income Idaho families in need of residential treatment for their children have likely had to send their children out of state. There are “really no options” for families with a child on Medicaid in need of residential treatment, Curtis said.

Idaho Youth Ranch CEO Scott Curtis said that for years, Idaho families on Medicaid haven’t had an option to keep their at-risk children in Idaho to get needed specialized services. With a new residential center in Caldwell, those needs can be met in state, where families can be closer.
Idaho Youth Ranch CEO Scott Curtis said that for years, Idaho families on Medicaid haven’t had an option to keep their at-risk children in Idaho to get needed specialized services. With a new residential center in Caldwell, those needs can be met in state, where families can be closer.

Since the Idaho Youth Ranch residential treatment center closed in 2014, Curtis said around 120 children from Idaho were sent out of state for treatment. On average, every three days an Idaho family on Medicaid sends a child out of state in search of treatment, the youth ranch said in a news release.

The ranch is a Medicaid-approved provider. It also accepts private-pay clients.

Over the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has “worsened an already difficult situation,” Curtis said.

“Idaho is actually one of the most challenging states in the nation for youth,” Curtis said. “In terms of adverse childhood experiences, every year we are among the top 10 in the nation for adolescent suicide. Bullying is rampant. We have to address this as a state and come together.”

A rendering of the Idaho Youth Ranch Residential Center for Healing and Resilience. Idaho Youth Ranch CEO said the new center will bring back the “heart and soul” of the organization. The Youth Ranch has been without a residential center for five years.
A rendering of the Idaho Youth Ranch Residential Center for Healing and Resilience. Idaho Youth Ranch CEO said the new center will bring back the “heart and soul” of the organization. The Youth Ranch has been without a residential center for five years.

“For our campaign to have raised $18 million since August, in the midst of the pandemic, with over 100 donors, is phenomenal,” he said. “I would have thought the pandemic would have slowed down our efforts, but it didn’t.”

Mark Miller, CEO of Miller Family Holdings, a Portland company that operates a fruit-and-vegetable canning business, co-chaired the capital campaign that raised the funds from June 2020 to March 2021.

“This is an Idaho problem, and our kids deserve an Idaho solution,” Miller said in the news release. “Too many of Idaho’s kids are growing up in a world where hopelessness and trauma are a way of life, and it is in our power to change it. When our kids struggle, our state struggles.”

Supporters of Idaho Youth Ranch join in Thursday’s ground-breaking ceremony.
Supporters of Idaho Youth Ranch join in Thursday’s ground-breaking ceremony.

The Youth Ranch is asking the community to donate the last $2 million for the project, with matching funds coming in from the Tomlinson Family Foundation, the JR Simplot Co. Foundation and Duane and Lori Stueckle. People can donate at BringIdahosKidsHome.org.