What happens when . . . . kids leave.

by | Oct 5, 2018 | Houseparent Blog | 4 comments

Since we have talked about what happens when kids come to join us at Joy Ranch, the next logical question is:

What happens when they leave?

When kids leave is determined by a lot of factors – in the end there are times when our kids leave having completed a transition plan (meaning it has been planned and we know to expect it) and there are times when they leave us suddenly (perhaps a foster home has been located or there is a change in circumstances). Either way, it’s hard.

Just today, for example, a girl who had been with us for a grand total of six days was moved to a foster home. I cried when she left, and so did she. Six days you say. That’s not enough time to get attached (especially since we were off for two of those six days). Part of me wishes that were true, part of me is glad that it is not.

All our kids, while they are here, earn a spot on our ‘family tree’ in the hallway. They add their hand-print to the collage by the front door. And are given a spot in our hearts. So, when they go, we like to do what we  can to shine a spotlight back on all the cool things they’ve gotten to do and the ways that they have grown. One of the ways we do this is through a photo book.

So, when they go, we like to do what we  can to shine a spotlight back on all the cool things they’ve gotten to do and the ways that they have grown.

After one of our residents is discharged staff will sit down at the computer and collect photos of the resident who has left. Then, using an online site we put together a book full of photos, their favorite recipes from their time here (we ask them which ones they would like included) and leave places for signatures. When the book arrives, EVERYONE who works here at Joy Ranch signs it; then we send it to the child.

When each of our children leave we remind them that we love them and will remain in their lives if they chose. The kids know they can find us on Facebook, by calling Joy Ranch, or using our business card which has our cell phone numbers. But, we leave it up to them if that is what they want. Why? Because for some children this is a particular difficult time in their lives and, at least for a time, they would like to not have to remember that they were not able to stay at home.

With scheduled discharges we take the time to plan an evening to celebrate the resident. We have what we often refer to as ‘the last supper’ where the resident leaving can chose the meal. Sometimes we go out to eat, sometimes they request we make a certain meal at home. Additionally, we buy them one or two personal gifts. Currently a resident is scheduled to be discharged near Christmas and we have purchased a set of Narnia books – because she loves the movies and loves to read; as well as a copy of a book she brought from home – a board book of nursery rhymes illustrated by Tomie dePaola. While she was with us this book, having arrived already well loved, fell apart. A couple weeks ago it “just so happened” that we found a copy of this book, in paperback form, brand new, at the Goodwill; and we got this for her as well.

A Reason and A Season

There are also, times, when a discharge, scheduled or not, does not end up happening. (Again, reasons why are many, and varied.) At these times, as at all times, we are straightforward with the child when explaining what has happened and what it will mean. Most often discharges are delayed, not canceled and the children do well handling this. A small part of that is because we prepare them from the beginning, as we do with all things, by being honest. Anyone who has ever made plans knows that even those best laid can fall apart and I cannot even begin to tell you how many sentences I say each day which begin with the phrase “The plan is, though you know how plans are . . . . . .” We tell our kids they are here for a reason, and a season; and if that season is longer than expected it is still just that – a season.

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)


  1. Carls

    Wow! Bethany, you really grip the heart with your writing. Thank you for shedding light on behind-the-scenes. You and Gene are amazing house parents. So clear to see how you love the kids so much!! May you be watered as much as you have watered and nurtured others. Love ya!

  2. Stacey

    I read your article and I was moved. I understand that your job is not easy. If you don’t believe me than let me tell you that I lived though the 90’S at the Ranch. This was before the state gave us money. I have been down to every local super market to get out of date milk. We all had chores to do to help the Ranch continue to operate. All of the grounds that you take for granted we had a hand in building. We did all of the grounds works. I remember going out to the local hay fields and helping the farmers bring it in, for free. I was there before the Pratts moved in. I just wanted you to know that it is so very hard to move on from this place. You talk about how hard this has been for the kids now, but your never talk about the past kids. We are out here watching what you do. I want leave you houseparents with a Christmas memory of mine. All the old school Ranchers will know this guy when I tell you what he did. In the old days the Ranch would travel to churches on Sunday night to ask for money. This help us continue having a Christmas for the children at the Ranch. Every year this old man would stand at the end of the service and hand each of us a fresh twenty dollar bill. He would start crying at the beginning and continue until after we were gone.
    If you want to find out what will happen to the kids now then ask the kids of yesterday.

    • Hannah Lee

      Hi Stacey,
      Thank you so much for your response, and we apologize for not getting back to you sooner. We are so appreciative of all of your hard work here at Joy Ranch. In the past few years, several aspects of JR have changed. We try to make our cottages feel like a home and a family, and we hope that you felt cared for and loved when you lived here. We would love to hear more of your stories from when you lived at JR and we would love to tell you more about the new changes here as well; we can set up a time for you to come out and tour your old stomping grounds! Thank you for reading our blog and taking the time to respond!


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