Some youth avoid detention and rehabilitate at Central Oregon ranch
Since 1968, the J Bar J Ranch in Central Oregon has been a place where at-risk youth could be cared for and learn skills they need to be successful in their communities. The ranch is a residential program that can provide up to 28 youth with court ordered rehabilitative services. Bruce Waldrup, director of J Bar J Youth Services, tells us about how the program works with youth, and we’ll meet Caesar and Luis who are in the program now.
This transcript was created by a computer and edited by a volunteer.
Miller: From the Gert Boyle studio at OPB, this is Think Out Loud. I’m Dave Miller. Since 1968 the J Bar J Ranch in central Oregon has been a place where at-risk youth can learn the skills they need to lead independent, successful lives. The ranch has a residential program that can provide up to 28 young people with court-ordered rehabilitative services. For many of them, it’s an alternative to incarceration by the Oregon Youth Authority. Bruce Waldrup is the Chief of Programs Director for J Bar J Youth Services. He joins us now, along with two of the young men who are in the program. We’ve agreed to use just their first names, Caesar and Luis. Welcome to TOL to all three of you.
Guests: Thank you for having us today.
Miller: Bruce Waldrup first. What was J Bar J like originally when it started back in 1968?
Waldrup: So we’re east of town, and it was basically a working ranch. The idea came about to have wayward youths come out here and basically live, and be able to work out here and kind of keep them out of trouble. So in 1968, you have Jarvis and Johnson started the program. You know, to just get those kids off the street, keep them busy, provide them with the opportunity to work, and working towards being more responsible adults or young adults.
Miller: How has it evolved over the years?
Waldrup: Well, we’re still on 40 acres out here east of town. It has dramatically developed into an exceptional program for these kids. We recently provided them with just upgrades during covid, upgrading their living spaces. We built a basketball court, knowing that we probably wouldn’t be able to go out in the community for a little bit of time, not anticipating it would be 17 months. So just being able to upgrade things for the kids. We have a weight room here, we have a rack room, just being able to provide more for the kids on site.
Miller: How do young people end up at the ranch in the residential treatment program that we’re going to be talking about?
Waldrup: So they’re referred through a system where we would screen those kids through a J Pass system through Oregon Youth Authority. We work specifically through Oregon Youth Authority. We screen those kids, we will accept those kids in our program, place them on a waiting list and set up a time so that we can intake those kids. The kids typically stay between six and 18 months. And dependent on transition sites, sometimes there aren’t many transition sites for the kids that we work with, so sometimes it can stay a little bit longer so that we can find a place that’s going to be right for those kids.
Miller: Caesar, when did you come to J Bar J?
Caesar: I arrived at J Bar J on November 19 of 2020.
Miller: Can you give us a sense for what was going on in your life before that?
Caesar: I mean, I just made some poor choices in the community, which required me … I was homeless, I had a kid, I had my son. I was under a lot of stress and with that stress came a lot of bad things, a lot of bad actions. I had to go to detention for a little bit, and really the only way for me to get out of the detention was to be committed to OYA, and to come to this program.
Miller: Did you have a sense for what you were getting into when you arrived?
Caesar: Yeah. So when they screen, they tell you they have a rec room, they tell you the things that you can look forward to, the level system, the privileges you will have, the kind of things that we do on weekends. So I did have a pretty good idea of what I was coming to.
Miller: What is an average day like for you?
Caesar: So an average day, very routine. You wake up in the morning. Right now we’re on summer break, so there is no school. Normally, during school you’d wake up around six o’clock, get your shower by eight o’clock, do some chores, by eight o’clock you need breakfast, and by nine o’clock you’re in school. But right now with summer, it’s a little lenient. So we wake up at nine o’clock, breakfast by 10:30, 11 and then it’s just free time. So we have the time to go on the basketball court, go lift weights, be in the rec room, play pool, there’s a foosball table in there. And that’s kind of it, that’s really all you do all day. Sometimes, you know, they have outings. So some people go in the community, depending on what level you are, depending on what your daily average is. You can work. They have a crew out here to help work with the horse show that we’re gonna be doing, we move irrigation. There’s a lot of things to do...treatment, it depends on what day, you and your treatment provider will set up some days where you go and work on your treatment, so that you can become a better person [and] enter the community.
Miller: And Luis, my understanding is that for you this is actually the second time you’ve been at J Bar J. Is that right?
Luis: That is correct. Yeah.
Miller: Did you have any choice of where you would go this second time?
Luis: The second time I did have a choice. I had a choice to go out to Pendleton, in Homestead. Either you [have to] go there, or go to Corrections. But I asked if I could come back here, only because I knew that the since the last time I was here, the staff here and everybody who was supporting me here helped me out a lot, and I knew that they were able to get me through my day and help me get through anything that I felt like I couldn’t accomplish later on. So I asked to come back here and that was my choice and so that’s where I ended up.
Miller: Do you think you made the right choice?
Luis: Yeah. I feel like I did make the right choice. I feel like here, they give out more opportunities to be able to work out in the community and really, really focus on yourself the way you’re supposed to, other than focusing on others, when you should be focusing on yourself and what you need to change. And that’s what I’ve been working on, and it’s what a lot of guys have been working on.
Miller: What are your biggest challenges right now? I mean, what do you feel like you need to work on?
Luis: What I need to work on is my honesty, and my biggest challenge is to be able to [go] home. You know, I haven’t been home in a while. So a lot of it was because of the covid, but other reasons was because of my own actions that I have made, and the decisions I’ve made. So, I’ve been working on my honesty and, you know, pushing forward through the bad days and good days and just making a good time out of my day.
Miller: How do you work on honesty?
Luis: I just have to understand myself and how I focus on myself is the way I see myself, which is a lot of the self esteem that someone grows inside of them and so the way I focus on myself is, or how I become honest, is by just telling the truth and just being that trustworthy person and having integrity towards myself and others.
Miller: If you’re just tuning in, we’re talking right now about the J Bar J Ranch in Bend. Caesar and Luis are two of the young men in its residential treatment program, and Bruce Waldrup is the Chief of Programs Director for J Bar J Youth Services. Bruce Waldrup, my understanding is that the young men in the program get to really focus on one particular skill every day. Can you give us a sense for what those kinds of skills are and how that works?
Waldrup: Yeah, I’ll give you an example, a pretty good one. Yesterday, we invited one of the other programs over to participate in a basketball tournament. So we had a five on five basketball tournament. One of the skills of the day that they practiced was sportsmanship. How do you win? You know, are you a good winner? As well as can you provide good sportsmanship? It was a fabulous event yesterday. The kids were great. Sportsmanship, I mean some of the kids that came from our other program, they have known these other kids from different programs and, or the youth correctional facilities. And all the kids were great at practicing sportsmanship and winning appropriately.
Miller: And losing appropriately too, right? Maybe a harder lesson to learn?
Waldrup: Yeah, absolutely. I think as far as what was provided afterwards, all the kids got to go out in the community and have lunch together and just talk about the event, and maybe talk about how well they are doing, and talk about their lives being in lockdown for the last 17 months. There hasn’t been much that these kids have been able to do in the community, and I felt like it was a great event.
Miller: Obviously the name of this overall program is J Bar J Ranch, which makes me think of cattle and horses. How much is that a part of the programming?
Waldrup: So it’s interesting because when we screen kids, they say, ‘hey, can I play with the horses? Can I play with the cows?’ It’s been a long time since J Bar J Boys Ranch has had cows, other than the event that we’re planning for right now, we have horses coming in for our annual fundraiser, the High Desert Horse Show Classic, where the opportunity presents itself that a kid can maybe touch a horse or pet a horse. One of our programs, the girls program east of here has an equine therapy program. And a couple of years ago we were able to bring a couple horses out here for the kids to do equine therapy. Which, if you’ve ever been around a horse, they have a different personality and they can kind of sense the personality of the person that’s working with them. So we provided that for the kids a couple years ago. But yeah, J Bar J Boys Ranch just started in ’68 and the name has stuck with us.
Miller: Caesar, what do you think your biggest challenges are right now? We talked about this with Luis but I’m curious for you.
Caesar: So right now would you like something I think I could work on as well as Luis?
Caesar: So one of the things that I could work on is definitely anger. I have a temper, and sometimes I just hear things the wrong way, and it makes me upset, and there is no in between. I don’t get a little upset, or not upset, or very upset. It’s very black and white. It’s either I’m in a good mood or I’m explosive in a bad mood.
Miller: And how are you working on that right now? It’s one thing to recognize this is an issue that’s been a problem in your life. It’s another to actually change it. What can you do, do you think, to change that?
Caesar: So the things that I’ve been doing to change it is instead of taking feedback as attacking, then I kind of step back, breathe and kind of see where they could be coming from. I just practice listening to what they’re saying instead of taking it offensively. I have a case manager as well, who assists me in that kind of stuff. We do individual skill training as well. So he helps you with that to be able to overcome me taking feedback as an offense. And like I said too, it’s just applying information constantly. I went through an anger management group here, so it’s kind of trying to maintain that and apply it to situations.
Miller: Bruce, how do you think about and how do you measure whether or not your program is successful?
Waldrup: I know the term recidivism is thrown out there as far as a measurement of success and/or failure . . .
Miller: Whether or not people re-offend, get re-involved with the criminal justice system?
Waldrup: Yeah, absolutely. I look at it as this overall process of change. And we look at education, we look at, the kids have been provided with pro-social activities so that they can use those things to deter when they’re out of our programs. I look at, you know, back to earning a diploma, we have a lot of kids that have earned diplomas and GEDs. We have a GED testing site. I look at their interaction with families and looking at how they’re able to consistently apply the information that they’ve learned. We have had kids that go to public school, kids that can go on home visits with approved family members during covid that hasn’t allowed the opportunity to occur. However, it will start up again at the end of this month. But just the consistency with those things, and achieving goals inside the program. The kids are established daily and weekly goals and they meet with their case managers as well as their OYA PO’s to review the goals and see what the progress is they’re making towards those.
Miller: Luis, what are your hopes for your future?
Luis: My hope for me is to be able to continue my success in growing, going to college is one of my biggest. And right now I’m actually doing the fall term for college and I’m really happy I get to do college because it was kind of [indecipherable] you know, or something like that. So I’m really glad that here, they let me have that opportunity. So that’s one of my biggest hopes, was college. And my other biggest hope is to work back towards getting into the community so I can go home and utilizing my time with a job or, just sports, anything that could keep me out of the gutter. It can be from going back to doing what I shouldn’t be doing.
Miller: And Caesar, what about you? What are your hopes for your own future?
Caesar: So one of my hopes for my future is to just be there for my children. I’ve been handed a great opportunity to progress myself and to become a better person and I would really love to utilize that to become a better father. It’s hard, having two kids. I was there for my son, but unfortunately I was not able to be there for the birth of my daughter because of Covid and that was tough and it makes me want to become a better person and to never be back in the justice system and to just always have a good job and support my family.
Miller: Caesar and Luis, best of luck to both of you, and thanks very much for joining us. And Bruce Waldrup as well. Thank you.
Guests: Thank you for having us.
Miller: Caesar and Luis are two of the participants in the J Bar J Boys Ranch programs. Bruce Waldrup is the Chief of Programs Director for J Bar J Youth Services.
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