Skip to main content

Dutchess County Probation Partners with Lucky Orphans to Help At-Risk Youth
Summer program builds skills and empathy

Published: 9/3/2019

For More Information Contact:

Colleen Pillus, (845) 486-2000

Poughkeepsie … This summer, young people involved in the juvenile justice system partnered with rehabilitated horses to learn how to build trust, foster teamwork, and improve interpersonal skills through the EquiNorth Equine Assisted Youth Development Program at Lucky Orphans Horse Rescue in Dover Plains as part of the Dutchess County Office of Probation and Community Corrections’ Juvenile Risk Intervention Services Coordination (J-RISC) program. The six participants attended eight weekly sessions that included hands-on exercises with the animals as well as classroom-based and homework assignments on topics such as non-verbal communication, anger management, organizational skills, self-care and mental health, and time management.

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who joined the program’s participants last week, said, “Dutchess County continues to build a Path to Promise for our youth to achieve long-term success in life. Too often a lack of interpersonal and problem-solving skills can lead to children failing in school and put them at greater risk to become involved in the juvenile justice system. Our J-RISC program works with young people to build these skills, stop the cycle of recidivism, and put them on a path to success. These young people and the Lucky Orphans horses have each overcome their own kinds of adversity and this unique program offers them the opportunity to learn from, trust, and relate to each other.”

Dutchess County’s J-RISC Program provides intensive services for youth ages 12-17 involved in the juvenile justice system, who are at a high risk to recidivate. The program seeks to prevent out-of-home placement and reduce recidivism through a team intervention approach. In addition to supervision and diversion activities with his or her assigned Probation Officer, J-RISC youth and their family members undergo Functional Family Therapy (FFT)—an evidence-based program designed to reduce recidivism—with a therapist provided in partnership with Astor Services for Children and Families. The probation officer and therapist also work collaboratively with a Probation case manager aide, who provides support to the families and engages the youth in prosocial activities designed to build skills and promote community involvement, giving back, learning, and personal growth.

Lucky Orphans Horse Rescue Executive Director and Founder, Deanna Mancuso, said, “Our goal is not just to save these wonderful animals, but also to use their stories to build leadership and teamwork skills and inspire children, young adults, and the community. Our program instills resiliency and important life lessons, such as the importance of self-care and stress management, that will help them succeed later in life. We’re proud to partner with Dutchess County and see the progress these J-RISC students have made towards being more patient with themselves and others as well as how much more engaged with the world around them they’ve become.”

Since 2008, Lucky Orphans Horse Rescue has provided a sanctuary for and rehabilitated unwanted, abused, and neglected horses, as well as some sheep and goats, as a no-kill nonprofit organization promoting humane treatment through education to encourage understanding and inspire a more compassionate future. Lucky Orphans offers Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA), Natural Lifemanship, and Equine Experiential Education Association (E3A) model equine-assisted psychotherapy (EAP), trauma focused EAP, and equine-assisted growth and learning programs through its partner, EquiNorth, Inc. Programming includes working with the horses to help individuals struggling with addiction, depression, grief and loss, or trauma as well as at-risk youth, groups and families to improve relationships, build coping skills, and find recovery.