by Ray Clary, Terry Neal, Rick Fleck and Pete Whipple & r & Dear Community Members:
We lived at Morning Star Boys' Ranch for periods ranging from one to 10 years. Although several of us have been interviewed by the Spokesman-Review, our success and experiences are not being reported. We saw first-hand the good that the Spokesman-Review refuses to share about Morning Star.
The Spokesman's excerpts misrepresent life inside Morning Star, and exploit boys' past trauma with dated and partial allegations. Sadly, these excerpts also hurt a growing population of boys who are seeking help from Morning Star.
The Spokesman's reporting also fails to give readers any objective context. For example, how does Morning Star compare with other similar organizations? The reality is that any public school or institution is vulnerable to distorted representations of their histories, especially when a reporter goes looking for examples to fit into his story, but ignores other, more commonplace stories.
As part of its reporting, the Spokesman-Review recently requested 871 pages of reports from the Department of Social and Health Services. Yet the paper failed to say that these reports show Morning Star is doing its job well. Morning Star initiates reports just as schools, residential facilities and other social service organizations do. Most of the reports were for minor issues, like boys being injured during an activity. The reports show Morning Star has worked hard to comply with all reporting regulations, and that the Ranch promptly responds to any issue. Again, this context is missing from the Spokesman's coverage.
Anyone who takes 1,300 of the most difficult and unmanageable boys and places them in one large group home will discover that over the course of nearly 50 years, there will be stories that, if reported out of context, could create a very distorted impression.
Recent reporting also understates the age of the allegations. This is old news -- in fact, it is not even "news." Most of the negative stories are repeated over and over in each article.
Morning Star has helped nearly 1,300 boys over 50 years. Today, 24 families have contacted Morning Star to put their boys on its waiting list, hoping they can become residents. These are boys who need a home -- boys from broken homes, failed adoptions, failed foster homes and other challenging family circumstances. There is no one else to help. If not Morning Star, then who? We don't see the Spokesman offering any hope to these boys.
Buried in the bottom of a recent Spokesman article are quotes about Morning Star from the Department of Social and Health Services for the State of Washington: "We are comfortable with what they are doing now. We feel like the kids are safe"; and "We are comfortable with the existing processes that are in place. We feel like now they are doing a really good job out there."
The truth is that Morning Star has always done its best to help some tough and challenging boys -- a population that others either would not or could not help. Some of us were delinquent and some of us were beyond angry and defiant.
We respectfully ask the community to continue to support Morning Star and ensure its future. Morning Star helped us overcome a wide variety of adverse circumstances. It has helped us and many, many others find our place in society as responsible fathers, contributing members of our community, accountants, bankers, computer engineers, lawyers and a wide variety of tradesman.
In the words of fellow alumnus Scott Todd: "I came to Morning Star as damaged goods, filled with a pain and a rage that only another boy with the same set of circumstances in their life could understand. I was on a collision course with prison or death and didn't care. I left with a heart full of hope, self respect and a belief that I could succeed in life."
Please consider reading what is printed carefully and seek to find the balance and context that the Spokesman articles have not provided. Remember our stories and our gratitude to Morning Star and everyone in the community who helped it open its doors to care for us.
Ray Clary ('68 -'70) & r & Terry Neal ('69 -'70) & r & Rick Fleck ('63 -'68) & r & Pete Whipple ('67-'77)
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