SOARING HIGHER: Services for children, family Eagle Village’s mission

(Courtesy photo)

This is the first piece of a three-part series about Eagle Village, its current programs and services, as well as the history and future outlook. The second part will appear in Friday’s edition of the Pioneer.

HERSEY — Nestled among the rolling hills of Osceola County sits the campus of Eagle Village, comprised of dozens of buildings sprawling across nearly 700 forested acres.

From rustic cabins for camps to state-of-the-art facilities for psychological assessments and classrooms to provide high school courses, Eagle Village provides of wide-range of community and residential services to children.

The children come from a variety of backgrounds and are in need of the provided services. Some are there for placement in residential programs while others receive assessments.

And while the overall goals of Eagle Village have evolved since its inception more than five decades ago, Cathey Prudhomme, president, said the goal today is to provide healing for hurting children and families.

“We work with a continuum of services and they start with education, prevention, intervention and treatment,” she said. “Everything from a variety of camps, trainings for schools and communities on how to be resilient, mentally strong and have strong character.”

Prudhomme, the daughter of Eagle Village founders Kermit and Jean Hainley, said she and her staff of around 200 spend each day focusing on the kids.

“It takes a village and it really does for us,” she said. “There are no heroes here among the staff. Our heroes are our kids and we work together to make the best environment for them to be successful and know and unleash what they’re true potential is.”

Their kids can be part of any of the services provided by Eagle Village, from foster care and adoption, intervention camps, Victor’s Edge community program, a team-building, resiliency program, or its residential program, Prudhomme said each one is aimed to have kids in the best environment of their life.

“Our uniqueness and distinctiveness is we were founded on Christian principles, and we believe that the kids need to have a vision outside of of themselves and understand they are created for a purpose and connect them to what their potential is,” she said. “Our other distinction, is we use an experiential model, which is very action-oriented in helping kids understand how to be successful. So many of them come here knowing what they can’t do, and the experiential model opens up so many other pathways and unlocks some of their blockages and they can see themselves in different ways.”

One area where Eagle Village continues to try to grow, through numbers and services, is its adoption and foster care, with about 60 children in foster care and 25 going through the adoption process.

Licensed and supervised by Eagle Village staff, Prudhomme said the foster care program looks to help connect and strengthen families.

“For some of those children, we’ll do adoptions,” she said. “We will help those children and families find their forever families, that place of permanence.”

Recently, Eagle Village opened an office in Big Rapids, where staff provides counseling services, as well as psychological and assessment resources for children.

“The opening of that office is to help families be able to know what is needed for their child,” she said.

Eagle Village’s on-campus residential services, for children 8-17, include an assessment center, where staff complete comprehensive assessment, using all domains (physical, developmental and psychosocial and mental health), Prudhomme said to really figure out what’s going on with a child.

“They are all children who are part of the state system because of abuse or neglect, and are struggling in community,” she said. “They are here to help figure out what is going on and how do we create a path for them to be successful.

“We really are working to connect families and strengthening family connections,” she said, noting family members typically spend time on campus to take part in services. “Whatever the family looks like, which is a lot of different things for our kids.”

A child’s time in the assessment center generally lasts 90 days.

Another side of the assessment center are for kids who really need help to work with trauma, Prudhomme said, which can last six to nine months.

“They’ve had some real responsive issues, behavioral or mental health,” she said. “These kids need a more intensive environment where they can focus on themselves and we try to remove some of the other distractions and create a very safe environment, both physically and emotionally.

“We have intense therapists who do trauma-informed work and engage with the families, whatever that means. Families are on campus regularly to work with the child, to help build the bridges to get back together, and we work with them in tandem.”

The final residential program Eagle Village administers is for older youth, 15 to 17 years old, who either do not have families or are aging out of the state system.

“It’s very challenging to find foster placement for older youth, and even more so for our youth who have been part of the system for so long and some things in their history makes it even more difficult for families to invite them in,” Prudhomme explained.

The challenge for Eagle Village then, she said, is to equip these youths with adult skills and help them transition to adulthood.

“We’re teaching them life skills, as well as academic skills,” she said. “That’s really the focus of the program. We also do vocational training and career training, preparing them for a path of success.”

Eagle Village also hosts summer camps, Prudhomme said, designed specifically for kids who can’t go to other camps because of behavioral or emotional issues.

“We partner with families and community agencies to provide a great experience for those children,” she said.

During the summer, as those camps are taking place, staff can grow to more than 225 to accommodate additional visitors, such as athletic teams from Ferris State or Central Michigan universities, as well as area high schools who have partnered with Eagle Village for the Victor’s Edge program, which includes work around the ropes course.

Outside the walls of the chapel and classrooms, Prudhomme said there aren’t too many people who understand the full range of services provided at Eagle Village.

“What is Eagle Village? We’re all of that,” she said. “Most people know us through the door they walked through.”

Meanwhile, others in the community quietly do a lot of behind-the-scenes work at Eagle Village to enrich the lives of the children in the various programs, Prudhomme said.

“There are many firsts for our kids when they are here,” she said. “Some of them never had a birthday cake before, and we have a group of volunteers who provide them with a birthday cake. We have a group of volunteers who make a quilt for them. To see them get a gift like that, just because they’re important and valued, is a special moment. We see miracles like that every day.

“Once our kids are valued and shown they can have a different life, have different goals, have great mentors and teachers, they know life is going to be different than what they thought.”

Children also are able to go off campus and help with volunteering, Prudhomme said.

“Anything that offers an opportunity for them to learn and grow is great,” she explained. “We’re teaching our kids part of being a good citizen is giving back, so it’s good for them.”

Even out in the community, Prudhomme said the kids are like any others, whether they’re enjoying a Ferris State football game or attending a local church service.

“It’s a misnomer, people don’t know our kids,” she said. “They’re no different than others, except they are more polite and more respectful and grateful for what they have. We’re very grateful for the opportunities they have.”

avatar

Posted by Brandon Fountain

Leave a Reply