In April of 2015, Howe resident Margaret Malone read an article in the News Sun called The Hidden Face of Meth. It told the heart-wrenching story of how children of methamphetamine addicts live in squalid conditions and then are passed into the system of child services after their parents are arrested. She was shaken by this and decided to do something about it.
Marge is one of the founding members of the Ark Animal Rescue and Adoption, a no-kill animal sanctuary located in LaGrange, Indiana. She felt that animals could have a healing affect on traumatized children, and that if the community child care and health care professionals had a safe, neutral place to bring these children where they could get counseling, supervision, and care in a farm-like setting, it could go a long way toward their emotional healing.
With this in mind she formed a committee to explore the idea. Before long she had a group of county officials, church leaders, foster parents, and other concerned citizens working with mental health counselors and child services advocates. They put together the idea of The Farm, where these children could spend time after losing their parents to incarceration.
Since 2016 the group has raised funds through grants, dinners, sales of t-shirts and bricks, fundraisers by children, churches, local businesses, corporations, individuals, chicken BBQs, and miscellaneous other sources.
The Farm Place purchased 10 acres on SR 9 north of LaGrange, and has built a 3,500-square-foot multi-story residence that has been leased to a licensed foster family. Since 2020, the first year the home was occupied, more than 40 children have passed through its doors.
An auction and dinner in August 2019 raised over $50,000 to build a barn with counseling rooms and office space on the property, where supervised visitations and skills training will take place, board meetings will be held, and a variety of animals will be housed. As needs require, a multi-purpose building may be built in the future as the last of the buildings proposed for The Farm Place.
The need is right here in northeast Indiana
The Farm serves four rural counties lacking sufficient foster care. Often a child is sent far from home when removed. The Farm will offer a home for licensed foster care.
The Farm is the unique program that serves this unmet need. Based on 2017 statistics potentially thousands of children could benefit from this program. Courts require children in supervised visits with family to meet in a public place. The Farm will allow children to visit families alongside animals who offer unconditional love, outdoors.
Research shows that animals offer companionship that cannot be duplicated by adults. A colt that enjoys a rub down will allow a child to connect and talk while being brushed. A cat or bunny that snuggles in the arms of a child offers security. A calf will lie down in the lap of a child to offer vital bonding.
The cost to society of the consequences of broken lives far exceeds the cost of providing care for children when they are most in need. The Farm provides a place to meet this need in a way no one else does.
The Farm began in 2016 with a group of community members concerned for children taken from their home due to meth, abuse, drugs, alcohol, or incarceration. A board of directors developed a 501-c-3 and began community outreach. Community volunteers conducted fundraisers, speaking engagements, a website, Facebook, Instagram, TV spots, news articles, magazine stories, and auctions. This work has increased local awareness of the critical problem for families and especially children. Recognizing the problem and offering this solution has already made an impact on the community. But to impact the lives of the suffering children, The Farm will break ground on the barn in coming months, and hopes to complete a lodge in the future. The impact will be life lasting. Too many of today’s children no longer have grandparents and extended family members nearby. The village it takes to raise a child is not available to them. We must extend that village to children. The Farm can do this.
The Farm Place is a faith-based initiative whose mission is “To provide a safe, nurturing, and restorative place for children in need through animal companionship and other therapeutic methods.”
To create an atmosphere that allows children to have a facility to be utilized for supervised therapeutic events. These events will include, but not be limited to, the use of animals along with local support organizations.