One of the most fulfilling parts of the programming at Foothills at Red Oak Recovery is having clients involved in animal caretaking on our expansive 94-acre working farm and campus. These animal relationships allow clients to experience the unconditional love and acceptance that we all know animals offer as well as assist with the development of relationships, skills, and positive emotional well-being.
Unique to Foothills is a calf weaning program, which allows clients to develop a special relationship with individual calves that need support as they separate from their mother. Clients nurture and care for the calves from the very beginning of their time at Foothills until they are essentially ready to be on their own – this daily care includes bottle-feeding, socialization, time in the pasture, and stall cleaning. Eventually, calves will wean off of the bottle and begin to be able to take care of themselves as they grow more and more independent, much like a client’s journey during their time at Foothills.
This critical developmental period lasts between 60-90 days, which aligns well with the time that our clients are at Foothills. It provides a rewarding opportunity for clients to get involved on a day-to-day basis with the animals on campus, while they also develop a sense of ownership and responsibility in the care of the calves.
“Many adolescents connect to the non-judgmental and consistent nature of animals that provide safe, comfortable, and stable interactions. The calf program at Foothills provides the opportunity for clients to engage with their softer side, nurturing the growth and development of new life which is parallel to the clients’ processes. For some, this will be the first time he is depended upon in a way that fosters a sense of ownership, responsibility, and connection to something outside of himself,” explains Angel Mayes, LCSW, Clinical Director at Foothills at Red Oak Recovery. “Over the course of time, clients will observe growth directly related to their care and efforts. Clients can feel a sense of pride and accomplishment and begin to make connections to their own lives which leads to improved self-concept and healthier emotional, social and behavioral functioning.”
Foothills at Red Oak Recovery has a robust animal caretaking program on campus, which include calves, horses, a sheep, a donkey, and even a pig!
Benefits of Animal Care Taking:
- Increases self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-efficacy
- Requires discipline and commitment
- Decreases stress, anxiety, depression
- Provides hands-on work
- Provides opportunities for reflection and feedback