Lying within those mountains in the middle of nowhere is a small sliver of hope for the abused and neglected children of Kentucky.
Buckhorn Children and Family Services (BCFS) is a non-profit organization that provides children and families with psychiatric help, residence, foster care, and even adoption services to those in need.
The program takes in boys and girls ranging in age from 12-17. They live in four different cabins—one cabin for the boys, three cabins for girls, two of which are for girls who are in need of psychiatric help.
Buckhorn prides itself in taking in the toughest and most damaged kids, and with Kentucky having one of the highest rates of neglect and abuse in the country, often, Buckhorn is the last place these kids have to go.
Last year was the first year the Buckhorn BreakOut trip was launched.
Jennifer Kuss, the clinical director at Buckhorn, got her masters at UD and helped get the trip started last year.
We spent our time there at one of the girls’ cabins, painting their dorms. We ate meals with them and, on the last day, played sports with them outside.
We grew close with the girls. They made us laugh and since they did not get very many visitors they showered us with questions about what were studying and what life was like at UD.
While these girls touched our hearts, though, there was no denying that they had been through extreme pain in life, and thus, often acted out and had no concept of structure or routine in their lives.
You read about horror stories in the news or watch movies and documentaries about them. At Buckhorn, I had the experience of having to meet girls that had gone through those atrocities.
This year’s trip went much the same way. We had a group of nine girls and painted the common area of one of the girls’ cabins. We also painted the front porch of the cabin we stayed in and the sign at the entrance for Buckhorn Children and Family Services.
We didn’t get a chance to play with them outside, but did have most of our meals with them and, on the last night, played Just Dance with them on the Wii.
This time around was different, however, in that we had the privilege of meeting Rev. Ricky Creech, the CEO of Buckhorn Children and Family Services.
Rev. Creech met us on our first day. He told us about the founding and history of BCFS and what his job was as CEO.
He also told us some very moving stories about some of the kids he’s dealt with and did not hold back on stressing the pride he had for Buckhorn in taking in kids that no one else wanted.
Rev. Creech explained how Buckhorn, like much of eastern Kentucky, used to be a coalmine town, but has since slipped through the cracks and is now a place of severe poverty.
He said that a vicious cycle of unemployment, self-medication by drugs and alcohol, and abuse has led Kentucky to have one of the highest rates of abuse and neglect in the country, and is what causes the overflow of kids into the Buckhorn services.
He also explained how Buckhorn’s remote and rural location has hindered it from being better known to the public.
Rev. Creech said that he has tried to get psychology and sociology majors right out of college and grad school to come work at Buckhorn at a $50,000 salary, but the isolating location scares them away.
In addition, many of the kids in the town who do make it through and go on to college have no intention of coming back when they leave.
All of these factors have made it hard for Buckhorn to make itself known to the public. While their services are well known in Kentucky, not many people on the outside know of its existence.
Towards the end of Rev. Creech’s talk he gave to us, he mentioned something. He said that Buckhorn’s isolating and remote location has made it “the city of invisible children.”
Here are all these kids who really are just great kids and will warm your heart, but not many know they exist, and those that can help are out of reach, scared off by the fact that working in Buckhorn means having to give up a comfortable life and living in a remote area.