The Edmond Sun

Local News

February 24, 2014

Peppers Ranch offers a forever family

GUTHRIE — From horses to a donkey to a stuffed buffalo head, the children at Peppers Ranch are surrounded by animals. They can ride horses or fish in the pond or just play in the wide open spaces.

For many of the children who make their home at Peppers Ranch, being outdoors is one of the things they enjoy most, second only to having a forever family that they can call their own.

Santa Fe High School’s annual fundraising week, Double Wolf Dare Week, will benefit Peppers Ranch as the students “Make a Difference” and have an impact on children’s lives.

Peppers Ranch originally opened in 1999 on 160 acres north of Edmond and west of Guthrie on land donated to the facility with the idea of developing a long-term residential care facility providing quality, planned care for abused and neglected boys.

By 2006 the ranch had built two homes, the McClendon Equestrian Center  and the Watts Ag Center.

Seven years ago the ranch started going through a metamorphosis.

In January 2008, Peppers Ranch began researching how to maximize the investment of the donor base. Following the lead of Illinois, Washington and Texas, Peppers Ranch became the first foster care community in Oklahoma in early 2009.

“We realized we can be so much more effective doing it the right way,” said Tonya Ratcliff, director of programs, services and family support. “In 2009 there were 17 children at Peppers Ranch and since we became a foster care community we are helping 75 children, 21 of them are sibling groups.”

The Peppers Ranch is self-funded and receives no state or federal funds nor money from the United Way.

When Peppers Ranch was a therapeutic care group home receiving money from state and federal funds, it cost $56,000 to care for a child annually.

“We wanted to help more children, and by going to a group home with foster parents we can care for a child for $8,000 a year,” Ratcliff said.

Foster parents do not receive any other pay for what they do, and when they are chosen to be a foster parent they bring a minimum of five or more children with them out of the Department of Human Service system. At this time there are 12,000 children in Oklahoma DHS custody.

There are now 10 homes on Peppers Ranch and a 9,000-square-foot Multi-Purpose Learning Center, completely debt free. Additionally, 80 acres was donated to the ranch, growing the ranch to 240 acres.

The ranch boasts an 8-acre stocked pond, baseball field, playground, campsites, Equestrian Center, Ag Barn FFA program and its own 4-H Chapter.

“Since we are self-funded we are hoping to be able to use the money that Santa Fe High School is raising during their DWDW fundraising week to purchase a new home,” Ratcliff said. “We normally build three homes every 18 months. We do not break ground until the financing is in place and when the homes are finished they are completely paid for.

“We are looking for long-term placement of these children and a forever home,” Ratcliff said. “We feel this is the only way to break the cycle of abuse and neglect.”

Another positive factor in the foster home placement is that siblings do not have to be separated from each other.

Recently Anne Engelbretson moved to the ranch from Montana and she is now the resident grandmother. She bakes with the children, takes them to movies or just hangs out with them.

“Since we began more than 500 children have found a safe place in a home,” Ratcliff said. “As the children age we start transitioning them to be on their own.

“We will build until we run out of land, and then we will buy more land and keep building,” Ratcliff said. “Our mission will not be over until there is not a child left in DHS custody.”



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