Services for Kids

"They have knives."

"They have knives."

We started a new tradition on our Minot, ND, campus. The Saturday before Mother’s Day is “GROW Day,” or “God Rewards Our Work Day.” It is in its third year, and is fast becoming a favorite.…

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The need for healing must outweigh the pain of separation

The need for healing must outweigh the pain of separation

“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.…

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Restoring a Sense of Rhythm

Restoring a Sense of Rhythm

“Rhythm is important to self-regulation. It is part of being human.” As part of the Ranch’s ongoing cultural commitment to learning, several dozen of our therapeutic staff are engaged in a facilitated book study. The book, “What Happened To You?” by Dr. Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey, is a conversation on the topic of trauma and brain development. Dr. Perry is a psychiatrist and a psychologist, and an acclaimed trauma expert, who coincidentally, was born and raised in North Dakota. At Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, we use trauma-informed and trauma-sensitive methodologies in all our work.…

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United in Love this Christmas

United in Love this Christmas

As we celebrate the birth of Christ, I am reminded of the many people who support the work of the Ranch...people like you who make it possible to wrap our children in the care and love they need to heal.  I visited with one of these dear friends earlier this month. He and his wife began supporting the healing of the children at the Ranch in the late 1970s or early 1980s. He lives in Texas, and his dear wife passed in April. He came to the campus with friends because his wife, as well as other family members, is memorialized on the “Tree of Life” sculpture in our lobby, and he wanted to see it in person. Of course, he toured the campus with his friends, too.…

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Ok, this one's weird.

Ok, this one's weird.

Happy Advent Season!   I am becoming something of an authority on unusual Christmas cards. All year long, people donate their partial boxes and singles and “thought- better-of-it" Christmas cards to the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch Thrift Stores. Also, the cards from the 1950s and 60s they found in their Christmas decorations, or those left behind by Grandma. The good Ranchers at the Thrift Stores put the complete boxes or in other ways saleable ones into the queue to put out for the Christmas season. The rest go into special boxes for me and others at the Ranch to use as thank you cards in the month of December.…

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How Sweet the Sound

How Sweet the Sound

My favorite poetry memory is of the four or five long poems my dad liked to recite. He had memorized them in grade school and remembered them well into his mature years. I, too, memorized poems in school, but they didn’t stick with me the way Dad’s did for him. I have never been very good at appreciating poetry. I have tried to be moved by it, because that seems like a very grown-up, cultured thing to do. But even after purchasing and reading poetry books, I miss the depth of the poems.…

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Bringing "Sense" to Healing

Bringing "Sense" to Healing

Oftentimes, when Ranch friends tour one of our campuses, they are surprised to see the significant role Occupational Therapists (OTs) play on the treatment team. If we go back to its roots, the Occupational Therapy field originated with the 1963 Mental Health Act, which deinstitutionalized people with mental health issues. In the beginning, OTs helped people with mental health issues develop skills and coping mechanisms so they could live independently in the community, go to school, work, and live meaningful, productive lives.…

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What does it mean to succeed?

What does it mean to succeed?

What does it mean to succeed? I’ve written about this before in these emails. The mission of Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch is to “help at-risk children and their families succeed in the name of Christ.” But, how do you measure success? Does that mean everyone goes to college? Or does it mean a child can control their anger? Or does it mean finding an adoptive family? Or does it mean sitting through a whole math class? Yes.…

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A Child with Gratitude on His Heart

A Child with Gratitude on His Heart

This Thanksgiving, I hope you were able to enjoy the holiday with friends and family. Although the COVID yuck continues, we do have some more ability to gather and hug those we love. We come together for ample food, comradery, laughter, and football… and then more food. One holiday tradition in a lot of homes is to go around the table and have each person share what they are thankful for. Common comments are about gratitude for family, good health, love, and friends. In general, most of us are so blessed, we could list a few hundred points of gratitude.…

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"Do you have any candy, Joy?"

"Do you have any candy, Joy?"

“Do you have any candy, Joy?” Like clockwork, nearly every day I am in my office, just before 11:15 a.m., Brian* stands outside my open door and repeats these words. Brian has been at the Ranch for about five months, and it took almost three months for him to find his way to my door. I don’t keep much candy in my office because I tend to eat it. In the two months of his asking, I think I have had candy twice. It doesn’t matter. He is not deterred by the limited success.…

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Celebrating One Child's Success

Celebrating One Child's Success

On November 11th, we celebrate Veterans Day. Veterans Day was first named Armistice Day and began being celebrated the year after the end of World War I, which at that time was called The Great War, or The War to End All Wars. Unfortunately, we got that part of the plan wrong. So, we continue to rely on those who serve in the military, and their families, to make the sacrifices to keep us safe and free. My dad was a WWII veteran of the Pacific Theater and I grew up with a deep respect for all who fight for freedom. Thank you to each and every one of you who chose to serve.   Today, we celebrate our Veterans. We also celebrate the brave and remarkable kids at the Ranch.…

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Finding Hope: From Brokenness to Restoration

Finding Hope: From Brokenness to Restoration

Deaconess Stephanie Wilde started a bible study group for staff on the Fargo Campus. To facilitate study and discussion, she is using the book “Finding Hope – From Brokenness to Restoration,” by Heidi Goehmann. Of course, much of faith study is about our own relationship with God and His world around us. However, the chosen book is so clearly about the children at the Ranch, that I can’t ignore the connection.…

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Keep on Truckin'

Keep on Truckin'

“The police just called because they found our truck, undamaged except they took the catalytic converter. They have the keys.” That is the central message of a text I received one Sunday from Lisa Olson, our VP of Retail at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. It was really good news.…

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Empathy and Big Bags of Candy

Empathy and Big Bags of Candy

One of our case managers is pregnant. For the girls in the cottage where she works, it has become a delightful major focus. Actually, I am not sure if it is the pregnancy or the idea of a baby. It is, for sure, the chance to throw a baby shower for this woman who has become part of their support, their healing, their lives.…

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Building a Treasure Chest

Building a Treasure Chest

I find inspiration, humor, and solace in quotes from smart people. Here is one I read this weekend that will stick with me. “Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying 'I will try again tomorrow.'" —Mary Anne Radmacher Of course, this applies to all of us. It isn’t all that impressive to try something once. It is much more remarkable to try something, fail, and try again. I have tried several of my mom’s recipes, multiple times, and I am still trying. I remember a couple spectacular failures as I was learning to do public speaking. Trust me, it took much more courage to stand up after really blowing it, than it had for the first go-around.…

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Bee Kind — Everyone Has a Story

Bee Kind — Everyone Has a Story

In October, Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch celebrates National Bullying Prevention Month. Harkening to the Ranch’s long history with bees and honey, our theme is “Bee Kind, Everyone has a Story.” We wear special t-shirts, the student councils put on bullying prevention performances, our kids make posters, and Spiritual Life and Chapel are all about Jesus’ call for us to love each other.…

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Crayons and Puppets

Crayons and Puppets

Last Sunday, as I was driving between Ranch campuses, I stopped at a gas station to fill up. Inside, they had a whole wall of signs with pithy, and some borderline caustic, sayings. One said, “I would explain it to you, but I am all out of crayons and puppets.”…

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Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

I had the delightful opportunity to visit with a special friend of the Ranch, Carol Townsend. Her father, Elmer Zurcher, was one of the earliest board members of, what was then, Dakota Boys Ranch. (Girls weren’t at the Ranch until the 1990s.) Carol vividly remembers the many evenings her dad would come in from the field, shower and put on his suit, and drive to the Ranch. Sometimes it would be about one of the boys, sometimes about staff issues, sometimes about a maintenance or building issue. No matter what, he went. He was committed to the mission and to the children, and did everything he could to ensure the Ranch succeeded for his generation and for the future.…

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"Everything is Figureoutable!"

"Everything is Figureoutable!"

As I move from campus to campus with the Ranch, I often am a “squatter” in various offices. It simply doesn’t make sense to have office space everywhere, and I am pretty portable with laptops and networks and all the blessings IT brings to our work. I sort of inquire around as to vacations and then locate myself wherever there is space. One week I found myself in Tracey Watson’s office on the Minot Campus. Tracey is the Program Manager for our Qualified Residential Treatment Program on that campus. She oversees the program work done with the boys in Seegers and Thatcher Cottages, and the girls in Challenge Cottage. Tracey has quite a resume with a background in teaching and three Master of Science degrees in Learning Disabilities, Intellectual Disabilities, and Education of the Emotionally Handicapped. She has a heart for the kids and the training and scientific background to turn that passion into action.…

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Beginning to See Life's Possibilities

Beginning to See Life's Possibilities

Due to a recent knee replacement surgery, I got a much-appreciated wheelchair ride from one airport gate to another while traveling through the Minneapolis airport. My driver, Abdi, was an absolutely delightful man. For part of the ride, I was wondering if I would make my flight connection. Abdi, with an authentic and infectious smile on his face, was on constant lookout for lost-looking travelers. Multiple times in our 20-minute trek we stopped as he offered directions or reassurances. He went out of his way to ensure that everyone who needed information went safely in the right direction!…

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Making Sense of Pain

Making Sense of Pain

Every once-in-a-while a phrase from a book or article sticks with me and makes me ponder. An example of this was a phrase from a historical novel about a sibling group's travels through the difficult child welfare systems of the early 1900s. The phrase that stuck with me was: "They wanted a pain they could understand."…

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Really Hard Work

Really Hard Work

My mom once told me something like “Not just anyone can marry just anyone.” I don’t remember the whole conversation, but basically, the point was that people are not just commodities. It isn’t enough to be just a good person, there has to be a “fit” whether for marriage or friendship or, even work. I thought of that last week when we had a couple really good people resign from their work at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. They both worked in our cottage providing psychiatric treatment to our youngest boys, ages 10-14. It’s OK that they resigned. They were good, smart people. But it wasn’t a fit.…

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The Proof is in the Cupcake

The Proof is in the Cupcake

The kids who come to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch are working hard to learn new behaviors—it is not easy to overcome what they have learned through what has happened to them. Most of our kids have had to find ways to survive.…

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Loving these messy, angry, loud, hurting, challenging, precious kids

Loving these messy, angry, loud, hurting, challenging, precious kids

I am constantly grateful for the way really great professionals find their way to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. It is important to work with people who share a passion for our mission. The Ranch’s Director of Therapy Services/Clinical Director, Tim Gienger, is one of those great people. Tim oversees the therapeutic work done by our Masters’ level mental and behavioral health counselors who work here. He travels to all three campuses and works with each therapist to develop the very best-of-the-best approaches to help each child in their own unique ways. He is insightful, upbeat, kind, and a really hard worker.…

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Hand Me the Spackle and a Putty Knife

Hand Me the Spackle and a Putty Knife

I just signed a purchase order for a replacement window in one of the children’s bedrooms. It was broken by an angry child who is just learning that it’s OK to have emotions. (Don’t worry. It is special glass, so it cracked, but no one was hurt and the child now has a different bedroom.) Of course, the next step is for the child to learn healthy ways to show those emotions. Learning how to manage emotions is all part of healing.…

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