“There are three ways to really harm children. They are abuse, neglect, and separation from their primary caregiver. We must weigh the harm of each and choose the one that does the least damage.”
So said Matt Gebhardt, Casey Family Programs, at the Children’s Behavioral Health and Family Services Conference I recently attended. Gebhardt was one of the keynote speakers. Now a well-known national consultant, Gebhardt started his career in children’s welfare as a boots-on-the-ground child welfare worker. He has seen the roughest living situations, domestic abuse, and horrendous neglect; yet he has not lost sight of the trauma created by moving a child into foster care, even when it is the only acceptable alternative.
A couple weeks before the conference I was having a discussion with my (much older) brother. He is really intelligent and likes to challenge me, so he said, “Do you think every child would be better off coming to the Ranch?” He knows I am very passionate about the good work we do here. I am pretty sure he also knows I wish no child ever needed the Ranch.
As Mr. Gebhardt said, abuse, neglect, and the pain of separation all do harm. The only time a child should ever be in foster care is when the harm to the child or the family caused by staying in the home is greater than the soul tearing that happens when the child is removed from the home. That is a pretty high standard. And county welfare or social workers don't have a checklist to refer to when making that decision. Every situation is unique. Every time they meet a new child or family, they must again balance the circumstances against the harm. It is a very hard job.
I don’t want any child to need the Ranch, but for those who do, I want this to be a place of healing. I want it to be a place of compassion and love and safety. I want to wrap each precious child in the services they need in the warmest and kindest way. I want it to be a place where kids can do kid stuff.
Coming to the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch is a difficult step for kids. But, when they leave, they will know there are good people in the world who care about them. They will know that Jesus will always love them. They will have the tools to deal with the hurts and pains they have experienced.
I dream of a world where places like Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch could close because no children need this healing. But, as long as there are hurting children, there will be the Ranch.
In His love,
Joy Ryan, President/CEO
Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch
Every week, children come to the Ranch who have endured unspeakable pain, crushing academic failure, abandonment, or abuse. You can share hope with a child who has been broken and hardened by their tough life experiences and bring them healing in Jesus. Become a Honeycomb Partner today, and your monthly gift will ensure boys and girls at the Ranch find healing, overcome serious psychological challenges, succeed in school, and give them the chance to meet Jesus and know His love, grace, and forgiveness. To find out more, click on the link above.
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