Milieu programming is designed to create a therapeutic community for young people in order to promote healthy development and provide opportunities for a concentrated focus on the goal areas that address the need for placement.

The milieu is a carefully designed therapeutic community with a strong value base that focuses on interpersonal relationships and group processes that foster safety, affect management, self regulation and emancipation.

Creating and maintaining a truly safe environment requires rigorous practice that involves establishing non-violence as a social norm. Oak Hill Boys Ranch provides protective structures such as well designed facilities, strong supervision and monitoring, motivational systems, and well established routines that consider both the individual and group interest and prevent the emergence of violent conflicts. Life space interviewing and purposeful interactions are used in complex decision making and conflict resolution in order to promote egalitarian values and appreciate differences. The environment established is one where broad common therapeutic themes of practice and individual viewpoints and interests are acknowledged, respected and celebrated thus facilitating belongingness and inclusion to the group as well as an acceptance of individual attitudes and behaviors.

Affect management is facilitated through individual therapeutic interactions and group processes. The milieu has a strong focus on emotional expression, particularly in the areas of self regulation and empathy enhancement.

Emancipation is the process of releasing external support systems as young people develop internal decision-making and problem-solving capacities. The Ranch offers five living options that facilitate this process by utilizing a program that ranges from the implementation of a high level of external controls to very minimal external controls. In addition, within each program component there are varying levels of external supports. These support systems are illustrated in the table below.

Intensive External Support Systems Minimum External Support Systems
Constant and continuous supervision Negotiated guidance and assistance
Imposed routines and structure Self-directed routines
Daily service plan and goal reviews Weekly service plan goal reviews
Daily group goal reviews Weekly group
Concrete and social reinforcements Social reinforcement
Daily Motivational (i.e., level) system No motivational systems
Logical consequences Natural consequences
On-Ranch programming only Self-directed programming
Supervised community involvement Intense community participation
On-Ranch supervised family visits Supported family time

In addition to the supports and systems that promote safety, affect management, self regulation and emancipation for the total environment, there are seven (7) developmental domains adopted from the “Looking after Children” model redesigned by the Child Welfare League of Canada, for young people between the ages of eight (8) to sixteen (16). These developmental domains include: Health, Education, Identity, Family and Social Relationships, Emotion and Behaviour, and Self Care. Each domain has specific objectives that are recorded and measured in order to assess levels of functioning. Based on the level of functioning of the young person, a specific goal-oriented program is developed and implemented into their service plan and daily goals.