Sitting in the library at Good Samaritan Boys Ranch — surrounded by books, board games and trophies — Casey Wray is, in a way, home.
As Wray, who started at the ranch as a therapist more than 17 years ago, pointed out, his professional life developed here, much in the same way the ranch works to develop its residents.
“I’ve grown up here, professionally speaking,” he said.
Wray recently took over as CEO of the agency, replacing Kevin Killian, who held the title for 27 years.
It was an expansion of services driven by Killian that first brought Wray, fresh out of grad school, to the ranch in 2002, he said. The ranch had built two new dorms and was hiring more clinical staff to fill a growing need.
“I was a very young, naive, idealistic therapist,” Wray recalled. “I was working a caseload of 10 to 12 kids.”
The ranch’s senior staff members, several who have been there for more than three decades, took him under its wings, Wray said.
Clinical Program Director Angie Siceluff was instrumental in those early years, he said.
“She taught me how to become a therapist,” he said. “She gave me opportunities. She helped me grow.”
Over the next two years, Wray said he embarked on a journey into more specialized therapy, going directly to families’ homes to work with them on issues.
In 2004, he moved to the agency’s Springfield location to manage its transitional program, which helps kids ages 16 to 21 who are aging out of foster care.
“So I didn’t know what I’d bitten off there,” he said. “It felt like a move up, and so I took it, but I had to really learn what it was like.”
Wray said at the time, government studies were just starting to cast a spotlight on the low success rates of kids transitioning out of foster care. A large percentage ended up homeless or in jail, he said. His tenure there started with a plan to do things differently.
“We had to ask, ‘How do we retool this program to help these kids get out on their own successfully?’” he said. “We were able to build a program that had flatlined a bit.”
The agency was able to double its program size and build a new building on the north side of Springfield. It rents 17 apartments around the Springfield community for kids transitioning out of care. It also maintains a transitional facility for girls in Willard.
Wray said the agency often receives requests to start a full-scale girls program and even a girls ranch.
“Maybe in the future, we’ll dream a little bit,” he said.
Wray managed the agency’s transitional arm until 2016, when he transitioned into a job as its vice president.
“I really do love strategic development and orienting things,” he said. “Kevin and I had worked on this for several years.”
The transition into the job as CEO started several years back, when Good Samaritan formed a foundation, with approval from its board of directors.
As part of the arrangement, Killian will now head the foundation, which can serve as a fundraising arm for the agency.
“We realized that the cost of caring for kids just continues to go up,” he said. “(Kevin) couldn’t do both, so we needed someone to run the day-to-day operations and kind of keep us moving forward here, while building our long term on the foundation side.”
Wray said his objective now is to help share with the staff the lessons he’s absorbed during his time at the ranch.
Wray said he started there “to help kids and families.”
“It’s interesting, you train all this time to become a therapist, but the more administration I do, the more program development and finances, the further away I get from being a therapist,” he said. “But in many ways as I've grown, I’m still helping kids and families, I’m just helping them in a different way.”
Now, he said, his role is to empower the ranch’s staff. It’s only as strong as the culture each member shares with others.
“I can tell them how lucky they are to be able to do this job, because I know I was lucky to be able to do this job,” he said.