Camp season has come and gone, and this year we had a lot to celebrate! The 2019 Journey of Hope camp included an additional location in Eugene, Oregon where Holt is headquartered. Holt-Sunny Ridge, Holt’s branch office in Illinois, once again teamed up with The Ranch of Hope Reins.
Through Journey of Hope camp, adoptive families have the opportunity to learn, in depth, the parenting curriculum known as Trust-Based Relational Intervention® (TBRI). Using TBRI, this camp empowers adoptees and their parents with new tools and strategies specifically to help children learn self-regulation skills and deepen family attachment.
After successfully launching the camp in 2017, we took the families’ feedback to improve the camp’s structure and schedule. Parents loved training with the TBRI curriculum, but they wanted more time practicing the strategies and techniques they were learning about.
At the last camp, each child was paired with a volunteer buddy. The parents were in the trauma education classes but separated from their children most of the day. So this year, we decided that the parents would be the children’s buddies!
As their kids’ buddies, parents would have the opportunity to receive hands-on, real-time coaching and mentoring with trained TBRI practitioners.
In 2017, we saw amazing benefits from incorporating animal-assisted therapy and this year, we were excited to work with therapy dog teams at the Oregon camp and with EAGALA therapy horses at the Illinois camp once again. Animal-assisted therapy fits beautifully with what we teach parents and children about their bodies, responses and communication patterns. Both horses and dogs are similar to humans in that they respond to us based on our energy, emotion and behavior, and working with these animals helps families to connect emotionally.
“When children and families are regulated and connected, horses cooperate,” Debra Hirschberg, clinical director at The Ranch of Hope Reins, explains. “When there is not regulation and safety, horses stop cooperating. When working with horses, children and parents have the opportunity to take what they have learned and practice to create felt safety, connection and kind leadership.”
In Illinois, we had children and families asking for more EAGALA equine therapy — as well as more time with the horses. The staff and horses at The Ranch of Hope Reins were amazing, and they completely understood the need and request!
A big part of the Journey of Hope camp is teaching parents how to assist their children when they experience emotional and behavioral dysregulation.
Each family spent quality time with the horses — learning how to observe, read cues and work together to complete tasks. It wasn’t always easy, so the families had to adapt in the moment to gain trust and communicate with one another, as well as the horses.
“We often joke that horses are walking amygdalas,” Debra says. “They can teach us so much about how to maintain the calm and connected posture needed to parent hard-to-reach children. The horses offer a safe way to learn and practice TBRI skills.”
In any relationship, there will be difficult times and roadblocks to navigate around. But for the families who attended the Journey of Hope camp, they learned valuable skills, strategies and techniques to assist them during those difficult times. The time spent interacting with animals was a highlight of the camp for many of the children. And parents appreciated the one-on-one TBRI coaching they received and opportunities to connect with their child in new ways.
By partnering with the amazing staff and animals at The Ranch of Hope Reins and F.E.T.C.H. therapy dogs, the Journey of Hope camps had a lasting impact on children and parents — making their families stronger than ever before.
The Ranch of Hope Reins provides an array of counseling services, including workshops, social skills camps, volunteering, family events and so much more! Click here to learn about their services today!