Objective of the program: Helping youth develop life skills through animal therapy.
Furry staffers: Faun Collett with the dogs who help teach foster youth to care for animals, and themselves.
Photo: The Warrenton Journal
In a Nutshell: The Academy of Missouri Educational Network of Graduate Dogs (AMEN Dogs) is an 18-month, family-run program for youth who are at risk of dropping out, are homeless, or are aging out of foster care. Youth wake up at 6 a.m. for household chores, and attend school near the program or prepare to obtain a GED. After a few months, they are taught how to groom and train dogs that will be used to support and assist the physically disabled.
When and Where It Happens: Animal training takes place at the Faun Haven Kennel, which is owned by AMEN Dogs founders Faun and Doug Collett. Youth study and receive life skills lessons at the Colletts’ home, and previously also lived there during their time in the program.
Who Started It and Who Runs It: The Colletts founded the program in 1997, and continue to run it. The Colletts were life skills and supportive living instructors, and had also trained service and support dogs.
Obstacles: After a decade operating on a small scale, the Colletts are ready to expand the program and focus on older teens and young adults. So the couple suspended the program for the year, and they have spent most of 2008 working with organizational development consultants to secure funds to build log cabins to accommodate 40 youths at a time. (They can only handle about 12 youths in their home.) Faun Collett says the cabins will be in place this year.
Cost: $350,000 a year.
Who Pays: Faun Haven Kennel, operated by the Colletts, and the Faith Christian Family Church. The Green Foundation provided a $10,000 startup grant. GTE, a phone company that has since merged with Bell Atlantic, provided a $5,000 startup grant.
Youth Served: Youth ages 12 to 21 who are aging out of foster care or who have been identified by Warren County’s alternative school as youths at risk of dropping out. The Colletts estimate they have served approximately 200 youths.
Youth Turn-On: Learning to train the dogs.
Youth Turn-Off: Some youths are getting their first real lessons in work ethics, structure, rules, boundaries and limitations.
What Still Gets in the Way: Finding and sustaining professional staff members so more youth can be served. The Colletts are seeking grants to expand the program and hire a staff.