Services For Kids

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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How does your light shine?

How does your light shine?

As a private not-for-profit, we are owned by our community. We are not a government agency. We are not owned by a family, by individuals, or by shareholders. The kids at the Ranch, when we first meet, often ask me “Do you own the Ranch?” I tell them “Nope. We are owned by everyone, with God at our center.” That usually disappoints them, because I would be much more glamorous as an owner!…

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The Power of Yet

The Power of Yet

One of the (many) great things about working at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch is being surrounded by inspirational messages. Of course, they are intended for the children… to keep them buoyed up and encouraged. The healing work they do is hard, and they have endured so much. In Chapel services, spiritual life groups, Dakota Memorial School, and the living facilities our kids see and hear all kinds of “You Can Do It” messages. Spoken, or a nod, or a worksheet or a side hug, all carry the message of hope.…

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God's Grace and Mercy

God's Grace and Mercy

Chapel Services are at 4:30 p.m. on Thursdays on all the campuses of Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. We do not require children or staff to attend. But, many do. Last week, I was on campus in Minot for Chapel. Minot is our largest campus, our seminal campus. Chaplain Rick Jones and Deaconess Kelly Bristow do a beautiful job of bringing His word to the kids in a way that relates to them. Yesterday the message was from Romans 13, where Paul talks about how to think about “authorities.” Chaplain Rick was able to make sense of God’s delegation to “authorities” in his name, while acknowledging that many in authority had been the very people who had victimized these children. He explained how the authority was from God, but how the person in that position may be in the clutches of sin.…

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A Very Special Thank You

A Very Special Thank You

I hear the same lament over and over from friends, particularly grandparents, aunts, and uncles who live a distance away. "Why don't kids today ever send thank you notes?" and "I have to call to see if they got the gift, because I never hear about it from them." I honestly don't know if it is worse than in previous generations. My mom and dad made sure I wrote thank you notes. But I also remember when, having heard nothing, they would ponder whether a gift they sent had ever been received.…

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The Wisdom of a Child

The Wisdom of a Child

We should never quit growing and learning. One of my former bosses, a remarkably wise man, always said, "If you are the same person next year that you are this year, you're not very interesting." His point was that each year we should evolve, learn, have new experiences... maybe even change some strongly held opinions.…

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Putting on the Brakes

Putting on the Brakes

Imagine driving through the middle of town during road construction season trying to navigate unexpected stop signs, orange cones, and random holes in the middle of the road to get through to the other side safely. Most of us are familiar with applying the right amount of pressure to the brake and gas pedals to get through the construction safely. For some, it's second nature and requires very little active thought.…

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Becoming Adults: Preparing Ranch Kids to Live in the World

Becoming Adults: Preparing Ranch Kids to Live in the World

In so many ways, the children who come to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch are just like other kids. They may have endured more trauma than others and need help to heal and move forward, but like all kids, they face a full range of choices as they step out into the world. Just like their peers, some Ranch kids go to college. Others aren't interested or suited for that path.…

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Getting Some Zzzzzzzzz's: Helping Ranch Kids get Good Sleep

Getting Some Zzzzzzzzz's: Helping Ranch Kids get Good Sleep

Imagine what it would be like if you couldn't go home at the end of a long day and crawl into your own safe, comfortable bed. That's what it has been like for many of the kids at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch—their beds, and sleep in general, have not always been a safe, comfortable place. Some didn't have a bed and spent nights on the floor, on the couch, under the kitchen table...wherever they fell asleep. Others hopped from couch to couch with their families—never knowing where they would spend the night. Many see nighttime as scary because that is when bad things happened to them. They come to the Ranch we expect them to sleep in an unfamiliar place surrounded by people they don't know.…

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NASA Botanist on Mars

NASA Botanist on Mars

The children who come to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch have endured so much. They have been busy surviving, not learning basic life skills. So, we try to teach them.…

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Are Some Kids Better Off Without Their Families?

Are Some Kids Better Off Without Their Families?

The mission of Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch is "to help at-risk children and their families succeed in the name of Christ." Yet, one question I get asked a lot is, "Aren't all these kids better off without their screwed up families?" Sometimes it is worded much more compassionately. Sometimes it is even more judgmental. Sometimes it is hard to answer with a quick "Yes" or "No."…

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Come and See

Come and See

The sermon at my church recently was about the phrase in the Bible, "Come and see." The point of the sermon was that the phrase was only used when "see" really meant "know." "Come and look," according to the speaker's study of the Bible, meant "Come and draw your own conclusions." But "see," was used when the conclusion was not up for debate. For instance, in John 11:34 in response to Jesus asking to see Lazarus as he lay, unarguably, dead.…

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He Writes the Songs

He Writes the Songs

Thanks to the generous donors who make it possible, Selby, an educator, singer, and Grammy-award winning songwriter, spends several days writing songs with Ranch kids each year. He connects with students on a personal level, engages them in authentic musical experiences, and inspires them to pursue their own artistic expression. Most importantly, he listens to the kids' stories and helps them turn memories and hopes into songs.…

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Grocery Store Lessons

Grocery Store Lessons

When I was a teenager, going to the grocery store with my dad was so painful! Going with Mom was great. My mom was an excellent cook. We lived on a farm, raised all kinds of vegetables and fruits. Had our own chickens. Bought eggs from a neighbor. Now all that is cool, but then it was necessary. Still, we went to the grocery store for all the fill-ins. She taught me about different spices, oils, and the difference between baking soda and baking powder, while we went up and down the aisles at Hugo's, the local store. Best of all, Mom was a shy and reserved woman, not one to draw attention to herself... so shopping with her was just her and me.…

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