Youth Catalytics periodically selects programs to showcase based on their unique or illustrative approaches. These showcases serve as a window into how individual organizations are responding to opportunities and challenges that may be relevant to others in the field. Take a look and see what you can learn!
Laraway Youth and Family Services
It’s a quaint tale from days gone by: sending a troubled teen to the family farm for the season to learn about life, hard work and responsibility. Exposed to the rhythms of the seasons and the soul-centering work of caring for plants and animals, the young person comes home transformed.
But does this story have a place in today’s world, with today’s youth? Yes, according to the staff at Laraway Youth and Family Services in Johnson, VT.
The agency, which provides educational, substitute foster care and therapeutic services to young people and their families, moved its school and offices to a 39-acre farm last year. Although their experience in the field goes back almost 40 years, their journey working the fields has just begun and has interesting implications for how services are provided to youth. Executive Director Greg Stefanski spoke with us recently about the impact of place on their work.
Our interview with Stefanski explores how the agency made the move and what kinds of resources it offers young people. For example, Stefanski describes a tree-planting ceremony, walking paths and the chance for families to go fishing during supervised visits. We talk about the therapeutic benefits of an expansive agricultural space for youth and how being on a farm dovetails with the mission of teaching stewardship, personal responsibility, self-care and job skills training. Finally, we get technical in terms of what personnel and expertise are needed to blend youth and family services with farm life, and how Laraway plans to develop resources in the future while keeping in line with the organization’s mission.
Although we know most agencies aren’t going to make a move to the farm, the lessons Laraway has learned may encourage workers to consider ways of incorporating agricultural or outdoor activities into services, as well as to consider how they can maximize the resources their own environments have to offer.
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