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'The Farm' building a safe space for foster kids

LAGRANGE, Ind. - Foster kids could find sanctuary on ‘The Farm’ starting this year. A group in LaGrange is working to build a safe space for caregivers and children in the system.

‘The Farm’ just received its 501-C3 non-profit certification Monday.

“It was fun, because the lamb, it would let you hold it,” said Caitlyn Sites-McKowen, a former foster child who was adopted by her foster mom.

The LaGrange group wants every foster child who spends time at ‘The Farm’ to feel that way.

“About two years ago, there was an article in the paper and it was called the hidden face of meth and what it says is when a meth lab is discovered in their home and mom and dad are taken to jail, the nightmare is just beginning for the children left behind, and that kind of struck a chord, and we thought gosh, maybe there’s something we can do about that,” said ‘The Farm’ president, Margaret Malone.

Margaret Malone realized she could use her animal rescuing repertoire to build a safe haven for these children brick by brick.

“The animal human bond is so important, so we put together a study group and we came up with an idea of building a farm where these children could be taken to work with people who are knowledgeable,” she said.

“What we’re hoping to do is to provide an asset and a sanctuary for the current professionals who are working with kids, so we’re not wanting to provide additional services and such, but a place for those services to happen, and place where all the service providers from the county can come and use and really focus on the asset of animal companionship,” said ‘The Farm’ Vice President, Ken Weaver.

They started out by buying ten acres of land in LaGrange.

On those ten acres, they’re planning to build a cabin in which children can meet with therapists, case workers, and families; a barn for therapy farm animals; and a home for a foster family to live right on the premisis.

Over the course of a year, ‘The Farm’ is hoping to handle more than 6,000 child visits, involving kids ages four to 12.

At any one given time, the organization is hoping to be able to house five children in emergency foster care.

“I think this project is incredibly important to our community and the surrounding communities, because we’re offering these kids the opportunity to have visits with their families here. These kids have been taken away from everything that they know,” said one former foster parent and Farm board member, Jackie Myers.

Kids like Caitlyn and Kimberly, who now found a home with their foster-turned-adoptive mother Amy.

“At first we were kind of scared and confused, but when we actually started to get used to it, it got better,” said Caitlyn Sikes-McKowen.

They say petting Rocky the pony would help.

“Now, when there’s any kind of a situation where they have to worry about what am I going to do with this child at 2 o’clock in the morning and nobody’s answering the phone, they know they can bring them to the farm the next morning when the mental health people will be able to get a handle on everything,” said Malone.

“For them to have one place to visit with their families, one place to call their own, and I think that’s the key. What we’re giving these kids ownership to a place where they can experience things,” said Myers.

Now that ‘The Farm’ is officially a non-profit, the board is meeting with agencies like the Department of Child Services to figure out the logistics.

The organization is also really ramping up the fundraising.

If you feel compelled to donate, you can click here.

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