Over the years, working with the children has been very rewarding, says Davis. “I hope we’ve helped them but, truth is, it’s been great for my own kids, for other 4-H kids that have done projects and interacted with the residents.”

Before arriving on campus, many of the residents have never even stood beside a horse or lamb. “This is the first opportunity they’ve had to care for the animals, wash them, feed them, show them – all of it,” says Davis. “I see them learning a lot of responsibility and, frankly, they bond with the animals.”

There is a very competitive 4-H livestock program in the county. “I used to think ‘You have to win. That’s it,’” says Davis. “But I’ve had to learn to adjust some of my goals, my mindset. For some of these kids, just placing in a competition may be the best accomplishment so far in their life. Sixth place to one child may be better than being grand champion to another.

“I’ve seen children come into the program withdrawn and not willing to even talk. But after they take care of an animal successfully, it provides a sense of pride and you can see the positive emotional shift.”

Cupp agrees. “Allen gets it. Children’s Home has always had animals on campus – even pets. That’s very important, especially for children with a detachment disorder. If you can’t relate to people because of past abuse, you can still trust an animal.”

Animals have provided a kind of bridge for children with problems. “It’s therapy we’ve seen work,” says Cupp. “A horse or dog or goat doesn’t care what your baggage is, what color your skin is. Children attach to the animals and, in turn, are able to later attach to people.”