What is in this article?:
- Children's Home campus outside Paragould, Ark., is changing lives of needy children.
- Extension Service and 4-H programs educating and fostering bonds.
CHILDREN’S HOME IN Paragould, Ark., makes extensive use of Extension and 4-H programs. Among those overseeing the residents are Kisha Clayton, left, and Gary Cupp.
Down the hill, in the school building, a teen-aged boy, unhappy at some minor slight, is venting during a closed-door group therapy session. Although unable to see in, Cupp stands outside the door smiling, clearly pleased at the boy’s high-pitched argument, his systematic laying down of the facts. “This is what we want. He’s not going over the top with confrontation. He’s sticking to the rules and learning how to explain his unhappiness in a positive way. If he leaves here with that skill, mission accomplished.
“We want our children to excel. But that has to happen in the right context – through relationships, through the process of learning to deal with issues in the proper way. We must equip them for a bright future, so they can get out of their previous situation.”
Such life skills, Cupp and colleagues have found, are easier to teach if the children work with animals. Thus, the importance of 4-H and Extension programs to the operation.
“We began integrating ag programs into what we do 15, or more, years ago. This area is very well-respected around the state for its 4-H program. We’re blessed by the Extension office here. They foster a team mentality and make sure everyone shares and helps each other – ‘Hey, if there’s something that can be done to help someone else, do it.’”
Allen Davis, Greene County Extension staff chair, has been along for the whole ride. “The 4-H program at Children’s Home started off with just livestock. Rabbits were brought in, the kids began showing cattle. Then, they began raising sheep – 10 or 15 ewes. They showed those and, later, goats.”
All the hogs and steers shown by the residents eventually end up in the facility’s food pantry.
“We have a system worked out,” says Davis. “There are signs above each of the hog pens – those have all kinds of information written on them: weights, feed. All of that is aimed at trying to get the hogs ready for shows.
“Now, our main livestock thrust is in showing hogs. That fits into the Children’s Home program well. Many of the residents may not be on campus for long but they’re still able to work with the animals. We’ve found that it’s very important for their well-being.”
Broilers are also raised on site. “We’re actually doing a feed research demonstration,” says Davis. “There are two sets of broilers in the same room. One set is being fed a probiotic additive to see if the birds have an increase of muscle mass or growth.”
The Extension office also teaches the residents other things including parliamentary procedure. “That prepares them for running meetings, running a business. We’re teaching food preservation workshops once a week. The children learn to can pickles, green beans or tomato juice and the like. There’s also a garden that we’ve done demonstrations in.”