Services For Kids

A matter of skill, not will.

A matter of skill, not will.

Dr. Hannah Baczynski, Dakota Family Services Psychologist, showed this video in a staff training she did on understanding children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Her training centered around debunking myths about children with ADHD, one of the greatest ones being they could quit their behaviors if they just tried hard enough. With most of the children at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch having some level of ADHD or a related diagnosis, it is important we understand their reality.…

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A baptism, a dog, and friendship

A baptism, a dog, and friendship

On Monday of this week, I was in the nutrition center with Sydney when one of our girls came up. She had been one of the first girls Sydney had interacted with and had seen Sydney learn, while she herself was healing. They have a special friendship.…

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How many sisters?

How many sisters?

Yesterday at lunch I sat down next to a child I hadn’t met as he has only been with us for five days. He’s a handsome child—dark eyes, dark hair, those kinds of gangly limbs kids get in their teenage years. He looked at me through too-long bangs.…

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Bingo Night!

Bingo Night!

When I first came to the Ranch and learned this, it surprised me. Here are kids with all different kinds of trauma-related behaviors. Some have attention deficit issues, others deal with anger or noise triggers, and others are uncomfortable in groups. They may be depressed or anxious or struggle with bipolar or schizophrenia diagnoses. They have seen much in their young lives. Yet, they like old, boring, low-tech Bingo.…

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Four braided dog toys

Four braided dog toys

Anyone who has worked in any kind of workplace has been approached to purchase “stuff” from the children of co-workers. Boy Scout popcorn, Girl Scout cookies, wrapping paper, butter braids, and raffle tickets. You name it, I’ve bought it. Actually, one of my life rules is, “Buy what kids are selling.”…

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How many chances?

How many chances?

Yes, some of the children at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch have “gotten into trouble.” One hundred percent of the kids at the Ranch have endured some sort of trauma.…

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What's wrong with that child?

What's wrong with that child?

One of the great tenets of working with trauma survivors is, “Never ask what is wrong with the child. Instead, ask what happened to the child.” A child who has survived trauma will have developed ways to survive. Once they are out of the painful situation, they still rely on those maladaptive skills.…

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Painting a Masterpiece

Painting a Masterpiece

What he realized, he said, was that life wasn’t a cohesive, well-put-together journey. The stories came out of order and at unexpected times. They didn’t necessarily build on each other, but rather stood alone as life lessons.…

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The hardest question our kids ask.

The hardest question our kids ask.

One of the hardest questions Ranch children ask is “Why did this happen to me?” They want to give meaning to the abuse, violence, molestation, or neglect they have experienced. They want us to explain the purpose of the personal war they have been in.…

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Jim Vetter Receives Walt Odegaard Leadership Award

Jim Vetter Receives Walt Odegaard Leadership Award

Jim Vetter, Vice President of Treatment Services and Government Relations, Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, is the 2022 recipient of the Walt Odegaard Leadership Award, presented by the North Dakota Association of Nonprofit Organizations (NDANO).…

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Wearing a Winter Coat on a Florida Beach

Wearing a Winter Coat on a Florida Beach

She recently started a lecture series to train Ranch staff on some of the mental health diagnoses we see more frequently in the children who come to us. The first session was on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). With a wide range of staff expertise and training in her audience, she used many analogies to help each person understand. The one I will hang on to when I am trying to explain the behavior and reactions of our children is her analogy about trauma behaviors being, “like wearing a winter coat on a Florida beach.”…

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Heroes in the Background

Heroes in the Background

The best part for me, however, was getting to spend time with these heroes in the background. I heard them express how when they are making decisions they think about how it will feel to the kids. They reflected on meals that brought joy to particular children. They talked about fixing damage in walls made by a child too angry for words and spoke with compassion about wanting to do repairs quickly. They spoke of children by name, and about problem-solving with program and education staff. They laughed. We prayed.…

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Pomp and Circumstance

Pomp and Circumstance

Eight amazing young people graduated last week from Dakota Memorial School, the on-site school of Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch! What a great opportunity to celebrate them! Each and every one of them has overcome so much to take that walk while “Pomp and Circumstance” echoes around them. Every year I get all teary-eyed as the kids walk in.…

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Pulling Back the Curtain

Pulling Back the Curtain

We do a whole lot of training at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. Each of us goes through days of standard and specific training every year. The training ranges from basic first aid and defensive driving to organizational communications and understanding complicated psychiatric diagnoses in children.…

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Not just individualized, but personalized

Not just individualized, but personalized

...the successes and accolades are because we know how to "personalize" education. In her words, "not just individualize, but personalize." Marcia believes deeply in showing respect for each child. She talks about children by name. She knows their strengths. She knows their challenges. She is a strong proponent of trauma-sensitive education. She and her team, in all ways, are child-centered. Because of that, at Dakota Memorial School, the on-campus school of Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, "we help at-risk children and their families succeed in the name of Christ."…

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The Power of a Name

The Power of a Name

One thing newer staff have trouble adjusting to at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch is the number of nicknames and replacement names the kids ask us to use.…

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"It's a dragonfish!"

"It's a dragonfish!"

“I never thought I’d really be able to tell the stories that are in my imagination.” That was the excitedly delivered message from one of our high school art students as he presented his work to a group of Ranch employees.…

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Blessings for the caretakers of the mind

Blessings for the caretakers of the mind

Many of the children who come to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch have not lived with both their biological parents, or either of them, for many years. The children have been in foster care, with relatives, in an adoptive home, or with a single parent. They have been removed from the situation and/or people that caused them trauma. The behaviors and mental illness created by the trauma are now left for the child and their caregivers to navigate.…

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Pondering Holy Week

Pondering Holy Week

Sometimes, as we go through our somewhat sanitized lives, we forget what Jesus went through to get to that remarkable day of Resurrection! We want to jump to the good part… where the good guy, Jesus, wins. We want to celebrate that… with bunnies and chocolates and big meals. But, that undermines the whole Easter story, which, as Olmstead said, truly begins with a baby’s birth in a muck-filled barn.…

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Really Good Healers

Really Good Healers

I firmly believe that Christ is at the center of all healing that happens at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. I am also a firm believer that good science is one of God’s gifts to us. At the Ranch, Faith and Science work hand in hand to meet the needs of the hurting children.…

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Budding Leader

Budding Leader

"I remember being clueless about mental health and not knowing it was an actual problem but looking back on those times and having experience of mental health issues just got me thinking. Why do we look at mental health negatively?”…

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Overdrawn Accounts

Overdrawn Accounts

The kids who come to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch have come from situations where everyone’s accounts are overdrawn. The trauma, neglect, insults, and abuse have depleted any deposits made along the way. They also don’t know how to make honest emotional deposits. They have learned to strike out to protect themselves, or be manipulative to get what they need.…

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These Hands

These Hands

“We need to remember across generations that there is as much to learn as there is to teach.” Gloria Steinem Many of the kids at the Ranch have disrupted families. Sometimes parents are in prison. One of our children has weathered the death of both parents and a loving aunt in the last seven months. Some are torn apart by addiction or domestic violence.…

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Typos that Delight Me

Typos that Delight Me

Just before Christmas, I received an envelope carefully addressed by one of our residents to “President Joy.” Inside was a folded piece of red construction paper. On the front of the card, a child had written, "Merry Christmas," and surrounded it with stickers of a Christmas tree and several Christmas stockings.…

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"Two jobs and doing well"

"Two jobs and doing well"

I received a simple email from Cory Taylor, one of our many great Youth Care Workers on the Western Plains Campus in Bismarck.  “‘L’ called and said she is doing well. She couldn’t talk long but she said she has two jobs and is doing well at both. She said to tell everyone she is meaning to stop by when she has the time.”…

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