Penrith Farms is a young adult program in Washington State that transitions young adults into adulthood and independent living.  As a working farm, we approach failure to launch as an issue of emotional growth and personal habits.  Therefore, our goal is to work with our students in altering habitual behavior and to improve their resilience.  The approach we utilize is a different from the clinical model most programs for young adults implement.  When students come to our program we involve them in real world situations on a working farm.  In addition, Penrith Farms offers a home-like environment for interaction between other students and staff on a personal level.  Within this environment it is safe for students to make mistakes and learn from them.

Our approach is especially beneficial because many of our students arrive with a distrust for therapists and traditional treatment facilities.  For this reason, counseling that takes place at Penrith Farms is designed to occur spontaneously.  Our counseling method happens in the moment as situations develop rather than out of context in scheduled traditional therapy sessions.  This allows students at our program to develop awareness of their own behavior and emotions in real time.  We provide coaching, counseling, and mentoring to help young adults recognize and work through their emotions.  Out of this experience students in our young adult program acquire essential life skills and the necessary confidence for independent living.

Young Adult Program vs Wilderness Therapy Program

Much of our approach is similar to that of a Wilderness Therapy Program.  Wilderness Therapy Programs work as follows:

By exposing patients to interpersonal problems, therapy and group activities in an unfamiliar context away from home, wilderness therapy encourages the development of healthy self-esteem and social skills. Encountering familiar problems in an unfamiliar context may shed new light on existing problems. By solving the natural challenges posed by a wilderness environment, patients may build up courage to face real-world problems on their own. Additionally, physical activity alone may improve physical and mental health.

Of course that is in theory and many Wilderness Therapy Programs have problems:

There is also controversy over whether parents should be allowed make their child attend a wilderness therapy program by force, as is often the case. Apart from the thousands spent on the actual program (around $500/day), some parents pay a teen escort company thousands to ensure their child gets to the program by any means necessary, without the child’s consent or foreknowledge. Generally the “transfer” occurs at night, when children are disoriented. Due to the trauma and alleged harm reported by former wilderness program residents who have been forcibly escorted into placement, psychologists have heavily criticized this approach as inappropriate, and grossly inconsistent with establishing the necessary trust required for building a therapeutic relationship between youth and providers.[19]

The Penrith Difference: Communication, Cooperation, and Completion

Many of the students at Penrith Farms Young Adult Program transfer to us from Wilderness Programs from around the United States.  However, all students at Penrith Farms must be voluntary (unless court ordered).  Penrith Farms is an open campus that students can simply walk off and our policy is to engage the student but not stop them.  Another major difference is Penrith Farms is approximately $200/day not $500/day.  Lost trust from compulsion is the most important difference.  Trust is one of the key components of developing a relationship and meaningful engagement with our students.

Penrith Farms fosters trust and open communication between staff and students. As we earn trust, we challenge these troubled young adults to develop the skills to transition into a productive adulthood. The authentic connections we establish with students helps them properly communicate, cooperate with others, and complete their commitments responsibly. We encourage students to express themselves appropriately, work in a team, embrace natural consequences, and respectfully socialize with others.

Penrith Farms is a reflection of the challenges young adults face as adults.  We provide a safe environment to make mistakes in with the expectation that students learn to make better choices.  Ultimately, the relationships we build at our young adult program are life long.  Most of our former students and their families remain in contact with Penrith Farms and each other.  These relationships serve them throughout their lives.

A Young Adult Program for Everyone

We typically work with young adults over the age of 18. Young adulthood typically defines the transitional period between adolescence and adulthood.  Generally speaking, adulthood is defined as having an education, a career, and a family.  There is no distinct dividing line between adolescence and adulthood anymore.  Therefore Penrith Farms Young Adult Program has no age limit.

Troubled young adults at risk of falling behind their peers generally, but not always, have emotional and/or behavioral problems.  Occasionally there may be substance abuse issues, or participation in criminal behaviour.  There may also be a lack of interest in school and lack of financial independence. None of these factors have to be present or one or more maybe present.  The point being that they are at risk of not transitioning into adulthood leaving them reliant upon their family.

Our Young Adult Program exposes young adults to experiences that will help them transition into adulthood and independent living.  They learn honest & direct communication, engage in real relationships, learn the value of education & hard work, and gain an appreciation for family & how fortunate they truly are.  All this learned on a working farm in a home-like environment, designed to bring out the best in everyone.  We provide an opportunity to learn from experience while providing the support young adults need to be a successful.  Most young adults that are at risk and failing to launch require this experience be successful in life.

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