The milieu at Cherry Gulch incorporates a number of techniques and strategies specifically tailored to this population of troubled children. This includes a Character Growth Curriculum and a token economy. The overarching model is one of positive behavioral-modification. Rules have been established at the ranch and boys are expected to follow them just as every adult has to follow rules. Students and staff alike are expected to follow the rules and face the same consequences if they choose to break the rules. However, the consequences are not punitive in nature. If a student (or staff) breaks a rule, he will have to pull a healthy habit card. The cards include various chores and/or activities the student needs to complete. For instance students, may have to clean a horse stall, wash the school van, bake cookies for his group, or play a game with someone who seems lonely or depressed. Occasionally, students will pull a grace card in which case they have no extra chores to do.
Students who do all their chores and follow the rules so that they do not have to pull any Healthy Habit Cards for a day, receive a token. A student who earns a token each day for a week, earns a bonus of three more tokens for a "perfect" week. In addition, if a student does something nice for someone else, he may be given a RAK (Random Acts of Kindness) chip. Three RAK chips can be exchanged for one token. Tokens can be "cashed in" for things like snowboarding trips, to purchase certain items, or other things that appeal to a student's own interests.
This program, designed by Dr. Matthew A. Johnson, has been getting positive results with troubled kids for over twenty years. For this reason, Cherry Gulch has chosen to use this program as one of our behavioral management strategies. We also encourage parents to adopt a tailor-made version of this program for your own home. Parents set the rules and consequences and then everyone in the family abides by it. We are here to help you design your own version so that it works for you and your family. In this way, as well as others, we hope to support the successful return of your son to living at home with him being a productive, positive member of your family.