Aubrey and Bryan Schlackman say they are just a normal couple who happen to have a unique vision to help pregnant women in crisis.
“There are lots of women that are in desperate need, that need help,” Bryan Schlackman says. “And it’s just devastating that we, that this culture doesn’t think first of how we can help the mom.”
About a year ago, the Texas couple had an idea to create a “maternity ranch”—a term they coined. The mission of the ranch is to create a loving and safe environment for single pregnant women who need a fresh start.
The vision for their Argyle, Texas-based ministry, Blue Haven Ranch, is to have 15 to 20 homes for mothers on the property of a fully functioning ranch that will produce income that will one day make the nonprofit self-sustaining.
The couple is currently mentoring five pregnant women and helping them find a fresh start, but they can only house them in apartments until they have the resources to purchase the ranch and build the homes.
Ultimately, they want to purchase 100 acres or more in the Dallas area to build the ranch.
The Schlackmans say they think their vision to help women in unplanned pregnancy circumstances is particularly relevant now in light of enactment of Texas’ new heartbeat law, which restricts most abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, and the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned by the Supreme Court. Roe v. Wade is the 1973 high court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
When “abortion [becomes] illegal, other things have to come and take the place of that,” Aubrey Schlackman says.
The couple joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to explain how the model of Blue Haven Ranch could be an answer to the challenges some women face during an unplanned pregnancy.
We also cover these stories:
- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announces a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all private businesses.
- The Justice Department is taking legal action against Texas over the state’s redistricting plans.
- The White House announces a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Olympics over China’s human rights abuses.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
Virginia Allen: I am so pleased to welcome to the podcast Aubrey and Bryan Schlackman, founders of Blue Haven Ranch, just outside of Dallas, Texas. Thank you both for being here.
Aubrey Schlackman: Thank you for having us.
Bryan Schlackman: Thank you.
Allen: Now, your story, I think, is so fascinating and really exciting. I just recently learned about the work that you-all are doing. If you could just go ahead and explain what Blue Haven Ranch is, which you all call a maternity ranch. What is a maternity ranch?
Aubrey Schlackman: Right.
Bryan Schlackman: Well, we coined the phrase. We had never heard about it and we even researched it and there’s nothing, nothing out there.
Aubrey Schlackman: Yeah. So, it was really just something, I think, God called us to. And I think Bryan and I just have a unique gifting and purpose. And so we’ve been married 11 years, but this has only been in the last two years that this has been something on our hearts that we’ve been working toward.
So, we had the idea in January of 2020 when God put it on our heart to create this space and the programs that would basically involve caring for single pregnant mothers with children, specifically, for their pregnancy and then up to a year postpartum is the big part of that that’s a little bit different.
Allen: Yeah, that’s unique.
Aubrey Schlackman: Yeah. But the ranch part really comes into play with having this space—enough, obviously, to care for the families, these mother-led families, but also just bringing in that sense that I feel like God uses nature to create a calming sense of peace and healing. And so we want to create that space for these families that are coming out of abuse or abandonment, lots of trauma, just to give them a time of a break to build from there. So that’s the idea and the goal.
We’re not there yet. We just started taking moms in January of this year, in 2021. And the whole process that started was in our home, not being able to house them yet, but being able to do support groups, cook meals together, have a Bible study, and basically be able to pay for two months of maternity leave per mom. But very quickly, God just showed his blessing and support of what we were doing and so we moved forward pretty quickly and by March, we were able to start housing moms in apartments.
And so we have five families currently. This is our first year.
Allen: That you’re housing in apartments, right?
Aubrey Schlackman: That we’re housing in either apartments or rent homes. And that’s kind of just the space that we’re sitting in, in this middle ground of being able to do ministry right now with resources that we have. And we continue to do support groups on a weekly basis and help them with bills and rent and car troubles and child care.
Bryan Schlackman: Which, it looks a lot different right now from what it’s going to be. To add a little bit of what Aubrey is talking about, we thought of this idea because we’re very hospitable people. We’ve always been that way from the beginning of our marriage. We always tried to find a way to have an extra room in our house for people in need.
And we did single hone in on crisis pregnancies just because we had been heavily involved with Human Coalition and Young Lives in our community and our church. The Village Church is very strongly about not just yelling out “we’re pro-life, pro-life,” but they get in those areas where people are in need and they help them. So it’s just always been in our DNA since we’ve been married.
But we also love—we’ve always wanted to own acreage and have a little small functioning ranch for ourselves. And we thought, well, if God’s calling us to do this and we need an area for moms to heal and to be in a private area, to be safe, to also have some kind of therapy, nature therapy—we call it farm therapy, which is a real thing. And we thought, well, let’s just combine the two.
And we then realized when we logistically looked at what we would need, we realized, “Oh, man, we actually need a ranch.” And so we are actively looking for 100 acres or more in the area that we live because we want to stay in the location that all of our resources are in and all of our volunteers.
We have been able to find land that’s two hours away, but then, now, we can’t remove the moms from their situation or from their environment and expect them to go right back into it after being gone for a year and a half. So we keep them in their environment. We give them a home, we give them a safe place. We have programs that they are going to be a part of that are going to help them with cooking, counseling, stuff with the children, getting them involved in seeing if they want to change their career path, give them the time to do that, all while living on a fully functioning ranch.
And then one of our board members convinced us that it would be a really good idea—nonprofits can still create a product that they can sell to cover the nonprofit costs. And so we decided that our set next stage, after we get everything fully functioning, we’re going to probably sell cattle and raise the money ourselves, but still have fun—
Aubrey Schlackman: And produce.
Bryan Schlackman: And produce and chickens, and we already do that on our property right now. We built a greenhouse on our property. We have half an acre in Argyle. We have a chicken coop that I built and we give eggs to the moms, we give produce to the moms.
It’s going to be first for the moms, but then we’re going to create an actual product to raise money. And we still will take donations and we’ll need donations, but it’s definitely going to offset the cost heavily. So where it’s literally self-sustaining.
Allen: That’s so huge. That’s such a wonderful idea to think in terms of ministry, “OK, how can we actually make this self-sustaining?” That’s huge.
Aubrey Schlackman: Because that’s why we want to teach the moms.
That’s the big part of like the pregnancy, of course, is the crisis, because that’s when so many of these moms are met with—especially since we serve moms that already have kids, those are not first-time moms. In fact, most of our moms are older.
Our youngest mom is 27 and our oldest is 41, so they’ve already been moms for a long time and then are somehow met with a situation where they’re pregnant again, that could be in a abusive marriage or a relationship, or they are divorced moms and then had a boyfriend and happened to get pregnant again. And then just those men in their lives were either violent to the point of like, “We have to leave to protect my children and my baby or completely abandon them.”
And so that’s not so far outside of the scope of understanding, especially myself as a mom, that how would I do this if I didn’t have a loving supporting system around me as I do? And I have two children, how would I make that? I mean, I would want to make the choice for life and I would, but what is the cost of then how do I continue that?
So the purpose of what we try to do differently is that one year of after the baby’s birth all the way until the new baby’s first birthday to give the moms the time to create a new life plan with, yeah, like Bryan said, maybe that’s a different job training and trajectory.
We have moms that do just survival jobs, like working at gas stations or cleaning homes or something like that, and that’s not something that they can sustain for another 20 years. I mean, they already don’t get to see their kids enough since they’re working moms and if they’re not maybe even making enough to survive, it makes that decision more difficult.
So it’s not often a decision that…