The Ranch started near Mapleton, ND, and two years later moved to a 960-acres ranch near Tolley, ND. Eight boys lived at the Ranch at a time. They all had chores, and helped with the day-to-day activities of the working ranch. In these early years, services provided to the boys were mainly composed of work study, spiritual life, recreation, and public school. The basic intent of the program was to provide a home to meet the boys’ most immediate physical and spiritual needs.
Today, the Ranch provides best-in-class psychiatric and trauma-informed care to the most complicated and amazing kids. Christianity remains the foundation on which we operate and do our work.
Our Spiritual Life programs and facilities are 100% funded by generous people throughout the United States.
In 1952, Dakota Boys Ranch was organized as an outreach ministry by the North Dakota District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS). The Ranch started near Mapleton, ND, and two years later moved to a 960-acre ranch (donated by Mr. and Mrs. L.C. Butt) near Tolley, ND.
Eight boys lived at the Ranch at a time. They all had chores, and helped with the day-to-day activities of the working ranch. In these early years, services provided to the boys were mainly composed of work study, spiritual life, recreation, and public school. Therapy and specialized education services were quite limited or non-existent. The basic intent of the program was to provide a home to meet the boys’ most immediate needs.
By 1957, 15 boys had been served by the Ranch with an average stay of 10 months. Still, 59 applications had been denied due to lack of space. This led to the purchase of a 37-acre tract four miles west of Minot, ND. A new facility was constructed and ready for boys to arrive by March 1959. In 1969, the Tolley Ranch was sold and the proceeds were used to build the Louis and Ida Butt Cottage on the Minot campus.
The 1970s were a time of big changes at the Ranch. 160 acres of adjacent land were purchased and the treatment program was expanded to include vocational training, teaching good work habits, and teaching the boys to take pride in personal accomplishments. Recognizing the boys need for additional treatment options and education assistance, the Ranch expanded both its Social Service and Special Education departments.
The 70s saw additional expansion as more and more children came to the Ranch for care. Dakota Boys Ranch (girls had not yet been added) constructed three group homes and transitioned to a group home concept of child care and treatment. Several buildings were constructed including the Therapeutic Activity Center, Thatcher Cottage, the apiary (honey house), the Luebbe Vocational Center, the Chapel, and the Independent Living Home. The change to cottage-style living left Bremer Hall available for use as a school and it was remodeled to accommodate more students in the classroom.
The late 70s also brought new energy to incorporating special education, physical therapy, art therapy, psychiatric care, vocational agriculture, and therapy into the boys’ treatment—always “seeking to tie these to the Word of the Eternal Father and His loving care and gracious compassion the Savior, Jesus Christ.”
In the 1980s, the Ranch started its thrift store operations with the opening of two thrift stores, one in Minot and one in Fargo, to support the programs and services of the Ranch. They were quickly followed by the opening of thrift stores throughout the region. The Ranch continues to operate thrift stores today, with eight North Dakota stores contributing to the mission of the Ranch and supporting their communities.
Years of discussion and planning led to the opening of the Fargo Youth Home in 1988. The Youth Home began as a group home for boys, and in 1993 became the first Ranch facility to accept girls. Today, the Fargo Youth Home is licensed as a Residential Child Care Facility. The Youth Home provides group foster care and gives older children the opportunity to access additional therapy and educational services, as needed.
The early 90s saw the Ranch step forward and become nationally accredited, ensuring that all those looking for services could be confident of the high quality of care the children received. That accreditation continues today.
That was followed by accreditation of Dakota Memorial School, the Ranch’s on campus school. Dakota Memorial School also added a Day School Program. The Day Program serves students whose home school districts were unsuccessful in meeting their learning. Day students live at home and are transported up to 100 miles one way to attend school at the Ranch. The introduction of the Day Program resulted in a need for more space in Minot, and a new school was completed in 1996.
In 2000, the Ranch expanded services to the Bismarck-Mandan area, with the opening of residential treatment program for challenged children in Mandan. As the children moved into the leased space, the board of directors was already working on plans to build a new facility in Bismarck. Groundbreaking for the Western Plains Residential Treatment Center was held in 2002, and in 2003, the facility opened. All operations in Mandan moved to the new Bismarck facility, which provides a home and school for 16 boys and girls who otherwise would be sent out of state and away from their families.
In 2003, the board of directors voted to change the name of the organization to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, to more accurately reflect the population served.
The 2000s were marked by an increase in community outreach and awareness. In addition to its status as a Recognized Service Organization of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, the Ranch became an affiliated ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
The Ranch also established Dakota Family Services to provide community-based mental health services; and received grants from several local, state, and national foundations in support of the Therapeutic Riding Program, Dakota Memorial School library, Wildlife Club, and Greenhouse Technology Program. In 2010, Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch broke ground in Fargo for a residential treatment center, school, chapel, gymnasium, nutrition center, and administrative offices.
The first phase of the project (residential treatment center, school and administrative offices) was completed in 2012 and sixteen youth moved from the former residential treatment center to the Al and Johnne Bierdeman Center for Hope and Healing.
The second phase of the Fargo Expansion Project was completed in September, 2016. Hundreds of people turned out to tour the facility and learn about the Ranch.