By Jim Vetter
Vice President, Partner and Community Relations
Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch
As a 30-year employee of the Ranch, new staff often come to me to talk about the hard work we do. When a new staff person first hears the back story of one of our children...sexual abuse, neglect, exploitation, domestic violence...they ask themselves (as would any normal, caring person), "Am I doing enough? Are we doing enough?"
I answer them, first, with a question, "What did you do with this child in the last three days?" Inevitably, the list is long...woke them up, got them to school, sat through some classes with them to ensure they felt safe, ate lunch with them, played basketball, went to chapel, ate dinner, read them a bedtime story, dried their tears, and told them they were worthwhile and brave.
And that doesn't include all the sophisticated and best-in-class treatments we provide--psychiatric care, medication management, psychological testing, gene testing, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, play therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, structured psychotherapy for adolescents responding to chronic stress, motivational interviewing, occupational therapy, equine-assisted psychotherapy, nursing care, wellness and recreation activities, group therapy, substance use treatment, spiritual life activities, and more.
So...are we doing enough? Depends on who you mean by "we."
Are we doing enough at the Ranch?
For the kids who make it to our doors, we relentlessly pursue healing. We do everything on that long list, plus we give every child a chance to know God, we love them, we discover their strengths, and we give them a home.
Are we doing enough as individuals?
Can any of us every really do "enough?" I prefer to focus on what we can do. As individuals, we can get involved in so many ways. We can support the Ranch and other youth-based organizations. We can pray for our kids, our families, and the leaders who make decisions about their care. We can get involved in politics. We can volunteer. Maybe most importantly, we can take care of ourselves and be visible in our neighborhoods, so when a child looks to us for love and hope, we are ready to be there for them.
At the Ranch, we believe that every small thing matters. You never know what moment will change the life of a child. You never know how much your donations or prayers or words will make a difference.
Are we doing enough as a society?
That is a difficult question. I know we can't fix every problem and heal every child, but I won't stop trying. I can't say "we're doing enough," until every child, in every state and country, is given the opportunity to be their best self.
If healing every child is our yardstick for "enough," no, we're not doing enough. But doing something is far greater than doing nothing. If thousands of people "do enough" today, tomorrow, next week, and next year, we will get closer and closer to ENOUGH.