Couple Opens Ranch With 20 Homes to Help Pregnant Women in Crisis

State   |   Virginia Allen   |   Dec 8, 2021   |   1:03PM   |   Austin, Texas

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.

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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.

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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.

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 they’re faced with because of convenience. It’s more of a, “I don’t know how I’m going to survive with my children I currently have, and I know what a blessing children are, but I don’t know how I’m supposed to face this.”

So that’s where we felt called to step in, was to be able to create a space that then also helps them transform their lives to be self-sufficient and independent. And so we want to give them the tools while we also do that for the ranch itself.

Allen: Yeah. That’s so practical. Now, when it comes to the long-term vision that you-all have, are you picturing that you’re going to have the ranch and there’ll be multiple homes set up where women can come and live during the course of that year with their newborn baby? How many homes would be on that property you think?

Bryan Schlackman: I’ll speak on this a little bit, because this will be what I’m the director of, which is operations and ranch care, simply because in this ministry, it’s difficult to be able to minister one-on-one to women who have been abused by men. So I’m definitely a behind the scenes servant kind of guy.

Allen: Which is very important.

Bryan Schlackman: Yes. And I like that. I don’t need to be in the spotlight or anything like that. But what we plan on doing is having, what I would like to see is between the build-out of 100 acres, you could only have between 15 to 20 homes, but they would be—

Aubrey Schlackman: Cottages.

Bryan Schlackman: Cottages, they’d be probably 1,000 square feet. They’re not going to be massive, but they will be efficient, only because there’s going to be a lot of people living on property. But then we will also have a very large, and because we’re in Texas, we’re going to have a barndominium-type large community center to definitely set the mood right.

Aubrey Schlackman: Yeah. The farm style.

Allen: Make it feel like Texas.

Bryan Schlackman: Make it feel like Texas. They wake up randomly with like, “I guess I’m in Texas because I see that, see that, I see that.”

Allen: Hear the roosters crowing in the background.

Aubrey Schlackman: Yeah, exactly.

Bryan Schlackman: So we will have a community center. And then we will have at least three host homes, with our family being one of them, that will be … surrounding the cottages, just kind of as protection.

But there’s also going to need to be families that have a husband and wife and children are doing certain jobs on the ranch, whether it’s the ranch work or ministry work, and having time with the families and taking care of the families so that these mom and children can see that a healthy, stable, Christ-centered family is beautiful and is helpful and is what is the norm.

Now, a lot of these women won’t possibly have that, but as long as there are families around these kids, where we can invest time into them and change the legacy of their trajectory and help these kids learn and understand who God is, how much he loves them, and then how other people are meant to help other people.

And so these children will grow up much better planned to face life, knowing that they have support and love and care. So host homes are very important on there. And then there’s obviously going to be an actual barn for livestock work and a shop. I need my shop.

Aubrey Schlackman: Yeah. You got to have your workshop.

I just think one of the biggest things that God impressed upon us as we were doing this was, as Bryan kind of mentioned, but I think so often the abortion topic is taken outside of the realm of men, like you don’t have a say, you don’t have a purpose in this fight.

But I mean, when I see these moms and the five that we have currently that we take care of, it is the men that have put them in this situation. And it’s difficult and it’s hard. And so I absolutely think men have a role.

And I think to be able to fight, especially for the moms, but the children that were in that difficult living situation that have not had supportive fathers, for them to be able to see positive male role models … who do it, who live out, “This is what it looks like to care for a family and to take care of your family and to love and serve and provide.”

They don’t probably get that as much, or at least they have an opposing view of what men should be. And I think when you see families grow up without a positive male role model, it becomes a problem. And so that’s a big part of it, the host homes.

There’s another part of our program that’s really dear to my heart, is we have a grandparent program where I specifically ask for men and women who are empty nesters to step into that role of kind of almost adoptive grandparents. And they just get to come and be grandparent roles to these families.

Because most of them, the reason they’re in this situation is they don’t have grandparents that are either alive or supportive. And really, when you look at the social structure of families in any culture, when you have grandparents, they play a big role if the mother is a single mother, and if you don’t have that, then they’re left to their own.

And I mean, grandparents have such profound influence on their grandchildren and when you don’t have that, it’s a huge loss. And so we want to be able to provide that through our volunteers.

Bryan Schlackman: People don’t realize sometimes how truly alone some of these moms are. They have literally no one to go to. And so when you’re facing a hardship—and this does get into more of the fact that we are in a time this week where abortion is definitely in the news—it is never OK to take a child’s life because of anything. But I’ll never know what it’s like for a mom that cannot support even her existing children and now be pregnant and not know what to do.

Aubrey Schlackman: And feel forced.

Bryan Schlackman:
And I cannot imagine that fear and that pain. And that’s why there are a lot of women who we’ve spoken to that did get abortions and they had guilt. They were not happy about it. There are not a lot of women out there that want to do this. There are lots of women that are in desperate need that need help. And it’s just devastating that we, that this culture doesn’t think first of how we can help the mom.

Our pastor, Matt Chandler, down at our church in Flower Mound, amazing, amazing advocate for the pro-life movement, but also very gracious and kind toward the women. And he helped us realize that there are over 130 pregnancy advocacy centers in Texas alone, 130 [places] where a woman can walk in and say, “I can’t do this. I need help.” And they say, “We’ve got you.” There’s only 18 abortion clinics.

So the narrative where people think that if you’re pro-life, you’re not pro-woman is an absolute lie. And so we are making this now become a culture shift, and we’re going to help people see that there are things that even regular people like Aubrey and myself—

Aubrey Schlackman: So normal.

Bryan Schlackman: We’re like as normal as can be. I’m not popular. I’m not rich. I’m not a celebrity. I’m not really anything. And we started this just on our own and the community support around it can really help people see that this can be multiplied anywhere.

Aubrey Schlackman: Yeah.

Bryan Schlackman: Anywhere.

Aubrey Schlackman: It does. It starts in your home. I mean, you just invite people to dinner and maybe even making it a regular thing. If this is something on your heart to serve single pregnant moms and you’re like, “I don’t know what to do,” reach out to your pregnancy centers and be like, “Hey, I just want to host dinner once a week or once a month.”

And start creating a community and a space where even after these moms have left the pregnancy center and their resources, they still feel like they have community and that you can help provide them some kind of safety. Because that’s really what we all want is, all of us, is to feel safe and to be in a community where we feel known.

Allen: And I love that you-all have taken such a practical approach. You’ve seen a need and you said, “Hey, I think we can meet that need.” And you’ve stepped up in practical ways. And as you both mentioned, right now, of course, the abortion issue, it’s front and center. We’re hearing arguments for the Dobbs [v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization] case, heard this week. Texas has been in the news repeatedly this year because of the heartbeat bill that bans abortion after a child’s heartbeat is detected.

From the women that you-all are talking with, who are in these crisis pregnancy situations, have any of them personally said, “Hey, I need help now because of Texas’ new legislation, because of this law?” What are their thoughts? What are the thoughts that you’re hearing from women in Texas about the heartbeat bill?

Aubrey Schlackman: I really feel like God put this on our hearts, kind of going back to Esther and referencing for such a time as this, because we started this before the heartbeat bill. I mean, the vision was given to us back in 2020.

And we started, of the five moms that we currently have, we had four of them before the heartbeat bill and the fifth one is only more recently. And so they aren’t personally affected by the heartbeat bill, but I can tell you that being on kind of the ground floor of this, I get one to three applications a week. And just because, I mean, we’re brand new, I can’t take them.

Bryan Schlackman:
We don’t have the money.

Aubrey Schlackman: … I mean, the funding to support the moms that we do have is amazing. And I can’t believe in our first year we’ve done this. But I work with a network of other maternity homes and other pregnancy advocacy centers in the Dallas area, and we all have resources and we have to grow those resources to meet the need. That’s just the reality of, when abortion will be illegal, other things have to come and take the place of that.

And there are so many pregnancy resource centers that are already out there doing this kind of thing and other maternity homes, but we all need funding and we all need help. And I honestly believe that more people will rise up to meet this need to create something similar, or maybe even totally different, but meeting that same need of these moms, because that’s the calling, that’s where we have to step into this space.

Allen: Yeah. Well, and I think we’ve heard this debate back and forth with the pro-abortion movement has for years been saying to the pro-life movement, “Well, OK, if Roe v. Wade is overturned, what are you going to do with all of those children? What are you going to do with all of those babies?”

Bryan Schlackman: This is what we’re going to do, and we’re not waiting until that’s overturned. That’s the thing. And here’s the unfortunate truth, no matter if it’s illegal, it’s always going to be here. That’s the sad brokenness of this world, this fractured society that we live in.

It’s still going to exist, but what’s going to, in those times, what’s still going to be more beneficial and more attractive to a woman—and I hate the word attractive, but it’s hard to communicate it—even in those times where they’re still going to find a way to illegally do abortions, we still have another option, and that’s to take care of you and to help you rebuild your life.

And that does not matter what the law is. And we will do this, doesn’t matter what the law says, unless there’s a law that says you can’t support women in need, which would be absolute nonsense. And if we all, as a country, do that, just think how much better this world will be.

Aubrey Schlackman: Yes. To empower single moms, I mean, what’s more feminine than that?

Allen: Absolutely.

Aubrey Schlackman: To be able to empower a mom to have a baby, to have a job that she can do, to be able to take care of her other children, independent of needing a man to help her. And I think that’s what Christ calls us to do, as he says that true religion is this, to care for orphans and widows. And I think our modern-day widow are all of these abandoned and abused single moms.

Bryan Schlackman: It’s all marginalized people. That’s what it is. Because back in the early church, if you were a widow or you were an orphan, you were marginalized, you were not taken care of.

And people don’t even realize that there are these women with children that are in such desperate need, and we’ve simply just opened people’s eyes to this. I think that’s why people see what we’re doing and read the things in the newspapers of our different segments that people have done and say, “What is this?” Because that’s exactly what we’re pulling out of people, to help them see and really awaken this desire to care for others in a functional way, not just throw them money.

Aubrey Schlackman: Because that doesn’t do it.

Bryan Schlackman: We’re actually helping these women become empowered and that’s very different. And people will get on board with that. That’s why people usually have a disdain for government programs. They don’t really work that well and there’s no regulation.

Aubrey Schlackman: Comes down to the person, to the unique people. And I just think if anything, to encourage anyone listening to this, if you feel a calling on your life to do something, I mean, it literally just starts in your home. And yeah, that’s a risk. Of course that’s a risk to invite strangers into your home.

Bryan Schlackman: Oh, but guess what the Bible says about that too?

Aubrey Schlackman: Yeah. To do it.

Bryan Schlackman: To do it.

Aubrey Schlackman: Yeah, it takes a step of faith, but I can’t tell you the greater joy that comes from creating relationships from people that you didn’t know. I’ll probably get emotional about this.

Allen: It’s OK.

Aubrey Schlackman: Yeah. Just the people that you learned to love that you didn’t know, and to step into their worlds and allow them to step into yours. It’s very special.

Bryan Schlackman: I told Mr. Vice President that we just met with before this, and this is what really impacted me when God spoke this to me, everything about my life, when you are born in America, you already are born with a lot. Even if you are impoverished. This is truly the greatest country in the world. And I love this country.

But the fact that I was born here with a mother and a father, even though my parents were divorced since I was 2, they still loved me and they still had the resources to care for me. Give me food, give me clothing, let me go to a good school, teach me about being responsible, loving others, caring for others, every type of education. And then having the ability to go to college, get a job, all these things, I didn’t do that. They were given to me. Of course I worked hard, but even my ability to work hard was taught by my parents and given to me all this blessing.

And there are just some people that were not born with that. And the thing that we have to take away from that is not that they, obviously, didn’t do anything wrong, just that I didn’t do anything right to get what I had. But what I am going to do is that God put on my heart that everything that he’s given me, I’m now going to try and make that a way for someone else. And that is what we’re called to do and that’s also what this ministry is doing.

Allen: So at this moment in history, what is your message to the pro-life movement?

Aubrey Schlackman: That it has to become personal. And yeah, if you believe in the process of pro-life, then you have to be pro-love and you have to be pro-mom. And you have to enter into that space with her and hear her story and her struggles, her trauma, and be able to sit in that space and just say, “I love you. And I’m here for you. And we’re going to help you move through this.”

There are so many women that want that. Unfortunately, there are women who have become so traumatized that they don’t realize that they do want that. And that’s a hard space to also sit in when you can’t help someone, if they don’t want to help themselves.

But there are so many women who need a hand up and not a handout, and they just need that time and that space and that security to be able to grow. That takes something from you.

Allen: It costs something.

Aubrey Schlackman: So if you are one of those people that you’re like, “I want to do something,” it has to be creating a sense of space and community.

And for other people that will be doing the thing and for other people that will be funding the thing, but you have to step into that space and be like, “OK, well, I will open my home once a month. And I will let my local pregnancy resource center know that I want to invite these moms in and we’re going to cook food and have a dinner together. And I want to sit and hear their stories.”

And then when I hear their needs—because they will have needs, they will have a massive amount of needs, whether that’s car trouble or child care or jobs, or they don’t know how to write a resume or any of that—then being able to, Bryan and I don’t do this by ourselves, we have a huge amount of volunteers that do this with us.

Bryan Schlackman: It’s overwhelming how much support we have.

Aubrey Schlackman: We could not do this, but people want to use their giftings to help other people. And so you just start from who you know, and then you talk to your church or your community or wherever. And you’re like, “OK, well, I know so and so who can help you with this.” And you just start connecting people. And that’s the biggest way that you can help, is just doing it for yourself.

Allen: For those listening, who maybe they live in Texas, maybe they live in California, they live in New Hampshire, and they’re saying, “I want to help. What you-all are doing at Blue Haven Ranch, I want to be a part of this,” what do you-all need? And then, how do they get the information? If they want to send you a check, how do they do that? For locals in Texas, if they want to volunteer, how do they do that?

Aubrey Schlackman: Yeah. So our website is pretty simple. It’s just bluehavenranch.org. We’re also on Instagram and Facebook at Blue Haven Ranch.

Bryan Schlackman: And you can donate on our website. And we are a fully IRS 501(c)(3) organization on our own.

Allen: And what is the most pressing need right now?

Aubrey Schlackman: Right now is literally, for the five moms that we have, we’re six months funded in this current operation and we house them currently in apartments because we don’t have the land.

So if I would say there was two needs, I would say the first need is the fact that I can’t take anymore moms until I stay more and more funded, because housing a mom and paying for all their bills is a big upfront cost.

And so with all the applications—I had to turn a mom down this week, I don’t have the resources to bring her in. And so, I mean, literally, if you wanted to make a difference, it costs $3,000 a month per family to support them.

Bryan Schlackman: That’s a lot of resources.

Aubrey Schlackman: That’s upfront. Now, the more resources that I get, we have the programming in place, I just need to be able to pay for the housing because that’s where their needing is that safe space to live. So that’s the immediate need, is to continue growing the space so that we can add more moms to the program. But really, the long-term goal is we need the land.

Bryan Schlackman:
The land is, the ranch is the vision. That’s where the community aspect, the safety, the healing is going to be most effective. And so we do need—we have begun campaigning to take in money for the ranch specifically, but it is going to require a lot of money.

And I always say, we want to give these women the best of the best, not just the extras. And so we are wanting to get the land in the area that we have our resources, which are our volunteers and then the jobs and education for these moms and the schools for the kids. We can’t be two hours away. It’s just not possible. And so the land is more expensive close to the city and we don’t care. God can give us the money because it’s his money anyway.

… For just the land alone, for 100 acres is between $3 and $5 million. And then to build out that many homes, we’re not going to build all 20 homes at once, but to build the community barn, the host homes, the sewage systems, all that stuff, I mean, we’ve been in contact with several people that are going to help us, is another $5 million. So we’re looking at least $10 million. But again, that’s at a $10 million upfront cost for an organization that is eventually going to be self-sustaining primarily.

Aubrey Schlackman: Over time.

Bryan Schlackman: Over time. Which is amazing, to just give $10 million and you’re actually changing an entire community’s way that they help support moms without having to just continue to dump money into it. And of course, we’re going to still take some donations, but we want to be self-sustaining. So those are our current needs, is current funding for taking care of moms and then the build-out. So for the build-out alone, it’s at least $10 million.

Allen: Tell us your website one more time.

Aubrey Schlackman: Yes. It’s bluehavenranch.org.

Bryan Schlackman: You can send a check. You can write the check to Blue Haven Ranch for however much you want to give. And it’s tax deductible and everything because we’re 501(c)(3).

Aubrey Schlackman: There is an online donating platform too.

Allen: Thank you both so much. This has been an honor.

Aubrey Schlackman: Thank you.

Allen: Really, really appreciate your time.

Bryan Schlackman: Thank you so much for letting us speak about it.

LifeNews Note: Virginia Allen writes for The Daily Signal, where this column originally appeared.