Ozarks Life: Dogwood Ranch expands its services for foster kids

“Our heart is to change our generation, one youth, one child, one family at a time.”
Thirteen years ago Dana and Brian Lopez had a dream to help area foster kids. Today, they have almost 60-acres dedicated to their passion.
Published: Jun. 25, 2021 at 8:58 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - A recent study shows that only 23% of former foster kids are raising their own kids right now. That means a majority of those kids are in the same cycle their parents were in years ago.

That’s something an area family is trying to change.

“We’ve always had a heart for kids who’ve needed a family,” Dana Lopez, the CEO of Dogwood Ranch said.

We first met Dana and Brian Lopez in 2008. Thirteen years ago the couple had a dream and that’s about it. They borrowed property in Stone County to start Dogwood Ranch.

At its core is providing equine therapy for foster kids.

“With kiddos with abuse and neglect,” Dana said, “they have an aversion to work and to trust people because people have not been there for them. So horses unlock something for them.”

In 2015, the Lopez family bought a piece of property halfway between Ozark and Rogersville. This permanent version of Dogwood Ranch is home to 18 horses. They’re used for the organization’s “Healing Reins” therapy program.

This past year, with more room came more help. Dogwood Ranch added a program called “The Haven.” It’s a pair of small houses for young women in crisis.

“Think about what happens for our youth that age out of the system,” Dana said. “They don’t have support, or ‘safe’ support, and they find themselves without resources.”

For between nine and 12-months these young women pay rent for the space and receive counseling to reinvent themselves.

“They have what it takes to work a job, budget, and make adult decisions to see success,” Dana said.

Just a small ride up from “The Haven” is Dogwood Ranch’s newest piece of land. Twenty-seven adjoining acres they just bought which almost doubles their size.

More room for horses and the ranch’s next endeavor “The Village.”

Eventually, Dogwood Ranch wants to have seven or eight, single family homes on this new plot for their village. It’ll be a community for foster families to house the kids, the state might consider, to be hard to place.

“We see kids raised in facilities and we think they need moms and dads,” Dana said, “and a younger brothers and sisters, and grandparents.”

“Family is key to rehabilitate and recreate family in a healthy sense for foster youth.”

Dana and Brian are becoming a go-to model for other organizations who are starting up. In the end, they don’t want awards. They just want the reward of seeing a foster kid overcome their past.

“These are Missouri kids; these are our kids,” Dana said, “and there’s nothing special about Brian and I or our family but we love family.”

“Our heart is to change our generation, one youth, one child, one family at a time.”

Dogwood Ranch is 100% privately funded using local grants, civic groups, and families to help provide their services.

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