Author Topic: Tierra Blanca Ranch  (Read 7069 times)

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Offline Reddit TroubledTeens

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Tierra Blanca Ranch
« on: April 01, 2012, 06:01:33 PM »
http://www.scsun-news.com/ci_20301184

Their View: Learning boundaries in wide open spaces
By Claudette Ortiz / For the Sun-News
Posted:   04/01/2012 12:38:48 AM MDT

On Highway 27 outside of Hatch, past the sea of solar panels and just before the whirly-gig wind turbines, is a road that snakes, dips and climbs the Geronimo Trail to where 22 teenage boys are housed at Tierra Blanca Ranch.

Some of them made bad choices, and some of them had bad choices made for them but out on this working ranch, at-risk or troubled teens can unplug from all that in order to focus on who they are. It's a place to stop merely surviving and begin thriving.

Pictures on the refrigerator say it all ... there is a new kid around the campfire looking down at his feet, but a later picture of him has him looking straight into the camera. Now he is seeing his surroundings and feeling connected to them. And whether he will be at the ranch for one year or more, whether his parents paid his tuition or he is here on a scholarship ... he will learn life skills, he will receive an education as well as love, and he will find he can respect himself and others when he discovers what relationships are all about.

What they are accomplishing out here takes people like Scott Chandler, director of the Tierra Blanca Ranch High Country Youth Program; it takes people like June and Bill Halsell who sponsor its team in the Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands; it takes the families trying to heal who can pay tuition for their sons ... but it is staff members like Emily Campbell who make it work.

Building relationships is the key to feeling loved and connected, and Emily happily lives and works and listens to the boys. As she explained to one boy recently at midnight, "We don't not want to be some white-walled institution; we want to meet you where you are at, so you can be productive in this society."

As I walk through the house with Emily, there are boys studying together at the table. In home-bound schooling through Deming Public Schools, two teachers come out twice a week for individual tutoring. Otherwise the kids take their textbooks along with them whether they are branding at cow camp, moving hay, moving cattle or mending fences.

It is hard to imagine any of these students as sullen or combative as some were when they first arrived. Nor does it feel like a white-walled institution: Some of the kids have their own dog, and the ones who join Deming High School's football team or baseball team get carted back and forth for practice.

None of these kids want to be here when they first come. It was certainly not their idea to leave their friends, fast food and the Internet behind. Some feel angry or in shock when first taken to a camp into the middle of the woods. But like Emily says, these are kids with bad choices, not kids with bad hearts. The first thing everyone does at camp is take a really long hike. And they camp until the new arrival is finally ready to go to his new home.

For a few boys, it is their first real home. Dmytro came to the ranch when he was 12. He was adopted from a Russian orphanage and then given up by his adopted family. Emily tells Dmytro it was they who missed out on knowing him; she and Dmytro grew close during the six years he was at the ranch and she recently saw him in Arizona, where he is working full-time while taking a break from college. It was Emily who taught him to read. They sat on the back porch as they read from the Bible, "Like how people learned to read in the old days," she says. On May 18 at Deming High School four more kids graduate this year and one of them is in the top 10 percent of his class.

I asked Emily how she and the ranch found each other since they seem such a perfect fit. She said she interned here 11 years ago. Majoring in Forest Recreation Resources, she was told she could intern anywhere in her junior year, as long as it was outdoors, and found the Tierra Blanca Ranch advertisement for parents with troubled children in Sunset Magazine. Her internship was mentoring 12-year-olds in week-long summer camps coordinated with NMSU, and the goal was to see how outdoor activities affect future choices toward drugs and alcohol.

Emily said that "loving on the kids seemed far more necessary than the last year of school" at Oregon State University but that it left her eager to return after she graduated in order to work for the Chandlers in their faith-based program.

The afternoon I left, Emily and the 16 boys who volunteered to march in the Bataan Memorial were preparing to put in the last of their 180 miles of training (it is "Team ZX," named for Scott and Colette Chandler's ZX Land and Cattle Company). And they train knowing they have sponsors, staff and parents to cheer them on.

Claudette Ortiz is a monthly columnist for the Sun-News and lives in Hatch. She can be reached at www.krwg.org by clicking on the "Local Viewpoints" tab under the "News" menu.)
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 07:00:00 PM by Guest »

Offline Oscar

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Re: Tierra Blanca Ranch
« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2013, 10:14:30 AM »
Here is an update:

Quote from: New Channel 10
NM probes possible abuse at youth ranch (News channel 10)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Reports that teenage boys living at a ranch for troubled youth in Sierra County were physically abused have led to an investigation by state officials.

Investigators are looking into reports that boys were beaten by a former staff member and forced to wear leg shackles and handcuffs for minor infractions of ranch rules.

The Albuquerque Journal reports (http://bit.ly/GEaIHk) in Saturday's editions that the program is run from the Tierra Blanca Ranch north of Las Cruces near Hillsboro. It caters to parents who can't deal with their children's drug use or other behaviors.

State police and an official with the state child welfare agency confirmed the investigation.

A statement from ranch owner Scott Chandler said he is "proud of its success in serving families and their at-risk children over the years."

Offline Oscar

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9 boys missing (Final solution used)
« Reply #2 on: October 12, 2013, 08:52:13 AM »
9 boys are missing from the ranch. They were last seen together with the director. Have they become lost in the wilderness or has the employee utilized the use of a final solution as the Germans once called it in order to help the parents from having at-risk teens return home disappointing the family?

Quote from: KSDK News - Associated Press
Scott Chandler 'person of interest' after 9 boys disappear

HILLSBORO, N.M. (AP) - State police say they're still searching for nine teenagers reported missing from a ranch for troubled youth in New Mexico.

That's despite an earlier statement from an attorney for the Tierra Blanca High Country Youth Program that the nine boys are safe and being returned to their parents.

State police say they executed a search warrant at the ranch early Friday as part of an investigation of abuse.

But they say the teens between the ages of 13 and 17 were not at the compound and neither was program operator Scott Chandler.

As of Friday night, police say they haven't been able to confirm a location of the safety of the boys and Chandler is considered a person of interest in the case.

Offline Oscar

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New Mexico's Governor supports investigation
« Reply #3 on: October 16, 2013, 02:53:26 AM »
Quote from: KASA news
Gov. Martinez: evidence at Tierra Blanca Ranch backs up abuse allegations (KASA)
By Chris McKee, October 14 - 2013

HILLSBORO, N.M. (KRQE) - New Mexico’s Governor Susana Martinez addressed the ongoing investigation at the Tierra Blanca Youth Ranch Monday, revealing new details about what investigators uncovered at the ranch property and firing back at allegations from the ranch owner's attorney that the teens at the property were never in danger.
Defending the state’s use of the Amber Alert, Governor Martinez gave an emotional response to the media on Monday, underscoring the state's response in the search for the nine teens that went missing from the ranch in southwest New Mexico on Friday.

"Absolutely I stand behind this alert, I will never apologize,” said Governor Martinez. “We felt they were in imminent danger because of what was discovered within those buildings in Tierra Blanca.”

In her address, Governor Martinez said that evidence was collected Friday in relation to recent allegations
that kids may have been abused at the ranch over the past few years.

“The search warrant revealed evidence that I cannot tell you precisely what it was but did corroborate some of the allegations of some of those boys,” said Governor Martinez.

When that search happened, New Mexico State Police say none of the teens were on the property, something the Governor says was troubling.

“They (the ranch) had had contact with Children Youth and Families Department the day before and all of the sudden all of the boys are being returned home,” said Governor Martinez.

The attorney for ranch owner Scott Chandler, Pete Domenici Jr. insisted over the weekend that the boys were on a wilderness trip.

“They've been on many, many of these similar kinds of trips that have been safe productive, they've allowed continuity, so there's nothing unusual about this,” said Domenici Jr.

However, Martinez says the ranch owner Chandler drove the boys home across multiple states.

“When they're being delivered home, they're not on a pre-planned wilderness program,” said Martinez. “For him to have stayed put and let police and social workers do their job would have been much better than to go around amongst three states dropping off children.”

As the investigation continues, New Mexico State Police still haven't talked to Chandler.

“We're still looking for him, my understanding is that no one has spoken to him as yet, he's still a person of interest and they're still a lookout for him,” said Governor Martinez.

News 13 spoke to Chandler's attorney Pete Domenici Jr. today over the phone. He would not say anything about Chandler’s whereabouts or whether or not he’s even in New Mexico. He says Chandler will give a statement to authorities though.

New Mexico State Police say all of the teens involved in the Amber Alert are OK but according to the Governor, the teens will have to undergo in-depth interviews with specially trained child safety workers.

Offline Che Gookin

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Re: Tierra Blanca Ranch
« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2013, 09:27:58 AM »
What triggered the investigation in the first place?

Offline Oscar

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Re: Tierra Blanca Ranch
« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2013, 02:32:57 AM »
A parents investigation, combined with several reports at the sheriff's office. Suddenly there was a pattern. Otherwise programs owners normally insist that it is single cases with teens and individual parents.

Here is an article:

Quote from: Albuquerque Journal
Trouble on the Tierra Blanca
By Mike Gallagher / Albuquerque Journal Investigative Reporter

San Diego lawyer Steve Cowen was never comfortable with his ex-wife’s decision to send their son Josh to Tierra Blanca.

After Josh graduated from the program – he now attends Western New Mexico University in Silver City and is held up as a poster boy for the ranch program’s success – Steve Cowen criticized the program on the Internet.

In response, several teens who had been at the ranch contacted him.

What they told Cowen disturbed him, and he interviewed the boys and others in detail. He cross-checked times and locations and other facts from the telephone interviews.

He said the interviews corroborated one another.

Cowen prepared a detailed report of alleged incidents that mostly occurred between October 2011 and September 2012 and sent it to the Sierra County Sheriff’s Office, the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department and others.

Among the allegations:

  • A boy beaten in the face by an adult employee of the ranch with a Kubaton (a small self-defense weapon). Several boys told Cowen that the boy’s head swelled up like “a Martian.”
  • Boys being ordered or encouraged to beat other residents who were not cooperating.
  • The program used a remote “satellite” ranch in the Sacramento Mountains in Otero County as a punishment camp where boys lived on short rations (rice and beans), worked most of the day building fence lines and were forced to run when not working.
  • While being held at the satellite ranch for months, the boys there had little or no contact with teachers, no medical care, and considered themselves “slave labor” for ranch owner Scott Chandler.

“The residents I interviewed corroborated each other,” Cowen said in a telephone interview with the Journal. “As an attorney, that’s the type of thing you look for when you’re working on a lawsuit.”

Cowen sent the report to New Mexico authorities last December, setting in slow motion a chain of events that led to the dramatic attempt by the state to take nine boys into state custody and the ranch into hiding them until they could be returned to their parents – where it would be more difficult for authorities to question them.

After receiving Cowen’s report, Sierra County Sheriff’s deputies interviewed some of the same boys and were told similar stories.

Sierra County Sheriff Joe Baca said the case was turned over to State Police earlier this year.

“We’re a young department,” Baca said. “Our deputies have been in law enforcement an average of three years.”

While the State Police reports released to the media are less detailed than those produced by Cowen or Sierra County deputies, they do show the boys Cowen interviewed repeated the same abuse allegations.

In public filings, CYFD claimed to have “significant evidence” that teens at the ranch had suffered systematic emotional and psychological abuse; were not receiving adequate medical care; and were shackled, handcuffed and hooded for months at a time.

Some ranch residents claimed that food was withheld as punishment.

Chandler denied allegations of child abuse during a press conference on Oct. 10.

He said parents had placed their children at the ranch voluntarily and accused the state of trying to take away “their god-given fundamental right to parent their children.”

Old-fashioned experience

The Tierra Blanca Ranch High Country Youth Program promised parents willing to pony up between $80 and $150 a day that their troubled teens would start the day with Bible study, then breakfast, schoolwork and outdoor activities later in the day.

It advertised an old-fashioned ranch experience that would teach teens “respect for themselves, their families and others, and learn about responsibility, self-discipline and the existence of consequences.”

Some of these values would be taught through “behavior modification” techniques, which were not described in the materials.

Most of the teens sent to the ranch by their parents spend two years there.

They are home schooled with a teacher visiting twice a week but get their diplomas from the Deming School District.

The Tierra Blanca Ranch youth program has been taking in children ages 11 to 16 for a number of years until the latest investigation.

Exactly how long the program has been operating is open to question.

A ranch brochure says 20 years. Scott Chandler said “15 years” at one point in his press conference and “17 years” later in his press conference.

The program doesn’t appear to have been incorporated until June 2009, when the state corporation filings for the Berean New Baptist Church in Deming were amended and renamed Tierra Blanca Ranch Youth Program.

The ranch is not licensed by the state and, while advertising says the ranch was able to handle children with a wide range of psychiatric disorders, there are no licensed medical personnel on the staff.

The headquarters is near Hillsboro but the ranch spreads out across 30,000 acres into the rugged Black Range Mountains.

A frantic attempt

The day before State Police and state social workers raided his Tierra Blanca Ranch youth program, Scott Chandler put his hands on the shoulders of two of the program’s graduates and introduced them to reporters.

One of the young men, Jon Cowen, talked about how Chandler had been like a father to him and denied allegations of child abuse at the Tierra Blanca Ranch High Country Youth Program.

Jon Cowen declined to answer any questions from the media at the press conference but volunteered that his mother was very proud of the man he had become.

During his brief comments at the press conference, Jon Cowen didn’t mention his own father, who had been working hard to compile a case against Tierra Blanca and Chandler.

The press conference was followed by the frantic attempt to take boys currently at the ranch into custody in a confrontation, ranch attempts to thwart that effort and pointed barbs from Gov. Susana Martinez, who said she would never apologize for investigating alleged child abuse.

Chandler and his attorneys, meanwhile, have sought to discredit the state investigation and the former residents who allege abuse at the ranch. They also filed a lawsuit on Oct. 8 seeking to block CYFD from taking any action against the ranch. Their petition for an emergency order wasn’t granted.

On Oct. 10, while Chandler, his supporters and attorney Pete Domenici Jr. held the press conference on Albuquerque’s Civic Plaza, attorneys for CYFD were in closed courtrooms obtaining court orders giving the department legal custody of nine boys living at Tierra Blanca.

But when the State Police and CYFD workers showed up at the ranch to take custody of the boys and serve sealed search warrants to look for evidence of child abuse, the boys were not at the ranch and State Police couldn’t find them.

Later in the day, Domenici announced that Chandler was in the process of returning the boys to the custody of their parents.

Domenici insisted the state was unfairly escalating its campaign to shut the ranch down.

The state issued an Amber Alert for the boys, canceling it only after State Police said all nine boys were physically safe and in the custody of their parents.

Licensing issue

There have been disturbing reports emanating from Tierra Blanca over the years.

In 2006, a teen escaped from the ranch wearing shackles and called 911 on a telephone he had taken from the ranch.

State Police returned the boy to the ranch but, because the program wasn’t licensed by CYFD, department officials concluded they couldn’t enter the ranch. For at least the last decade, CYFD has interpreted the state Children’s Code as giving the agency primary jurisdiction in child abuse cases involving family members while law enforcement has primary jurisdiction when the alleged abuse involves non-family members.

State Police then served a search warrant to retrieve the boy from the ranch and returned him to his mother.

The incident led CYFD to step up efforts to get the program licensed, but Chandler resisted.

CYFD offered to allow the ranch to get licensed as the lowest and least regulated type of group home but Chandler and his attorney at the time failed to show up for a meeting.

When CYFD staff went to the ranch later that year to investigate allegations of abuse made by one youth, all the children and staff were away on a “previously scheduled outing” and Chandler couldn’t produce any records.

And CYFD wasn’t certain it could force licensing.

Camps, like the Boy Scouts summer camp at Philmont Scout Camp, and other summer camps are excluded under the Children’s Code from licensing, in part because children are there with parental approval.

A child advocacy group appointed to represent the nine boys the state was attempting to take into custody disputes CYFD’s legal interpretation that it is restricted in how it investigates the ranch and argued that CYFD had the authority to license the facility.

Offline Che Gookin

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Re: Tierra Blanca Ranch
« Reply #6 on: October 21, 2013, 11:49:47 AM »
Not sure if I should be pissed at the parents for not investigating before they sent their kids or not. Still, they at least bothered.

Offline Oscar

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Re: Tierra Blanca Ranch
« Reply #7 on: October 22, 2013, 02:35:55 AM »
Finding a treatment option for your child shouldn't be like buying a car or a TV where you complain if it doesn't work.

But the fact is that treatment is seen like purchasing a product. You want your child to be so and so. You find a place there they claim that they can do like so and so. Then you receive your child back and the product is not what you expected. Only then modern parents get into actions. Parents in previous generation did just ignore it hoping that the jails would cure the children now where the money for their education is gone.

It is better because the programs are shut down in larger numbers, but it is very far from perfect.

But then we have to ask ourselves: "Is it possible to get proper information about this dirty business?".

Most of the experts parents meet - counselors and educational consultants - are paid by the programs. A lot of webpages against certain programs have been started, they are not constructed to advice parents. They are constructed to alert authorities about the abuse and bring programs down. It is two different targets.

How can we create a webpage which would be the obivious place for a parent to consult before they abandon their child at a program?

Offline Reddit TroubledTeens

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Re: Tierra Blanca Ranch
« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2013, 06:38:38 PM »
Quote
How can we create a webpage which would be the obivious place for a parent to consult before they abandon their child at a program?

http://astartforteens.org is the best one I know of.

Offline Oscar

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Lawsuit against Tierra Blanca Ranch
« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2014, 02:59:28 AM »


Quote
Family of boy who died sues Tierra Blanca Ranch (KOB 4 News)
Created: 02/10/2014 10:43 PM, By: Chris Ramirez, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The family of a boy who died at Tierra Blanca Ranch is suing the wilderness program and alleging new claims of abuse and torture.

A lawsuit filed in Santa Fe County District Court Monday claims Bruce Staeger was forced to eat horse dung and had jalepeno juice poured into his eyes.  The suit also claims Bruce was handcuffed and shackled and carried from a pole by his bound hands and feet as one would carry a large dead animal.

Staeger died on September 23, 2013 on the ranch.  New Mexico State Police told KOB-TV that he was riding in the bed of a pickup truck when it overturned and he was thrown out.  Staeger died hours later at a hospital.   

The lawsuit names the ranch’s owner Scott Chandler as the man responsible for the abuse and torture.  During previous interviews, Chandler has denied any claims of abuse. 

The Tierra Blanca Ranch is in a remote area of Sierra County.  Chandler claims he can rehabilitate troubled youth, but the lawsuit states Chandler seduces parents to send their kids to the ranch, but instead boys are subjected to abuse and humiliation.  Chandler’s staff is not trained to work with at-risk youth and there are no therapists or counselors on hand.  Some teens have come to Chandler’s defense, others have said living on the ranch was like living in hell.

This lawsuit also holds the ranch’s auto insurance accountable as well.  The suit claims the Progressive Insurance policy that the ranch had was supposed to pay Bruce Staeger’s estate $3 million, but the insurance company is only willing to pay $250,000.

There are no criminal charges filed on anybody working at the Tierra Blanca Ranch.