Services For Kids

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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Creating Lifelong Connections: The Role of Case Managers at the Ranch

Creating Lifelong Connections: The Role of Case Managers at the Ranch

I sometimes joke that my job as a case manager is a little bit of everything, usually all at once! The real answer is that I, and other case managers at the Ranch, support the long-term success of our kids by advocating for them and creating community connections. Accessing resources to help young trauma survivors succeed is challenging for families who are not well-versed in navigating the web of community, state, and federal human service systems. Securing the community support and aftercare services is so important to the long-term success of Ranch kids—so, case managers help families get everything in place.…

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Jumpstarting Imaginations

Jumpstarting Imaginations

Children should have wonderful imaginations and see great possibilities. For many years, my son was committed to the idea that his life's work was to invent a flying car ala' the Jetsons. He saw his future as allowing him to pursue his dream, whatever it may be. And, to a large extent, he was right. Although his dream changed and he now is delightfully happy working in the culinary arts, he continues to develop greatly imaginative recipes.…

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Lawn Mowers, Confidence, and Pride

Lawn Mowers, Confidence, and Pride

It is really important in an organization like Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch that every single person… no matter their role or position, know why we are here and why we do what we do. Our ability to meet our mission, “to help at-risk children and their families succeed in the name of Christ,” hinges on each person’s ability to understand how what they do impacts the kids. Whether direct service or working in our thrift stores, providing therapy or patching holes in the walls, every person makes it just a little more possible for these amazing kids to heal.…

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The Many Hats of a Ranch Nurse

The Many Hats of a Ranch Nurse

nurse /nərs/ a person who cares for the sick or infirm, specifically: a licensed health-care professional who practices independently or is supervised by a physician, surgeon, or dentist and who is skilled in promoting and maintaining health. You probably don't need a dictionary definition to know what nurses do—they care for the sick. But that is just the tip of the iceberg, especially for nurses at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. Nursing is an integral part of the care Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch provides to children in residential treatment, and Ranch nurses wear many hats.…

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Do You Ever Identify with "Doubting Thomas?" I Do.

Do You Ever Identify with "Doubting Thomas?" I Do.

The Sunday after Easter, the scripture readings in church were all about Thomas, who for all time, has been dubbed "Doubting Thomas." Poor guy. I don't think it is fair that he gets labeled for doing what nearly all of us would have done in the same circumstances!…

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Moving Towards the Light

Moving Towards the Light

Earlier this year, Dakota Family Services, the arm of the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch family that provides outpatient mental health counseling, hosted "The Light Experience." With Dakota Medical Foundation's support, the virtual event gave teenagers a safe space to talk about mental health, learn, and ask questions. Small breakout sessions were offered on depression, self-care, anxiety, suicide, and ADHD. The youth had a chance to learn about mental health and how to ask for help. Over 100 teens "ZOOMED" into the event.…

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Grateful Family Floods Us with Pizza

Grateful Family Floods Us with Pizza

Pizza everywhere! As I walked into the building that houses the living areas for the children on one of our campuses, all I could smell was pizza. You know, the sauce, pepperoni, ham, sausage, crust. I'm not sure you actually "smell" the cheese, but when you smell pizza, you know it's pizza. I walked into the staff room and there were enough pizza boxes to feed Hannibal's army.…

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Each Ranch Child's Story is a "Mini-Resurrection"

Each Ranch Child's Story is a "Mini-Resurrection"

This week we celebrate Easter. The story of the death and resurrection of Christ is the Greatest Story ever told. Over and over we share the joyous news of His triumph over death. In His resurrection, we have the irrefutable proof that Jesus is exactly who He claimed to be—God’s son, the Messiah. We celebrate the event in profoundly human ways—with worship, candy, special meals, fancy clothes. At Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch we do a full-on Easter Egg hunt! But the underlying impact and meaning is about hope, an eternal Father who loves us, and mercy. Telling and re-telling the story, over centuries, has ensured each generation has the opportunity to believe.…

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When Jesus is Our Map

When Jesus is Our Map

I have had the wonderful opportunity to hear Pastor Mark Huber, from the Sanctuary Church in Marshfield, Massachusetts lead devotions at several national Christian Leadership events. I have never listed to him without then spending significant time pondering his words.…

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Moving Kids to the Top of Our Priority List

Moving Kids to the Top of Our Priority List

At Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, we work with kids who have endured more than anyone should in a lifetime. They are kids with psychiatric, behavioral, and social issues; and sometimes working with them is exhausting. But, they are still kids. The people who work here must have well-developed resiliency—and the ability to see the potential in each child—over the noise of their challenges.…

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The Truth About You

The Truth About You

I think it is really important to say out loud to people the good things you see and appreciate in them. For the children at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, it is a critical part of their healing. It is called being "Strength-Based." Because most of our kids have not been told they are good at anything, teaching them to see the positives in themselves is so very important.…

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Pondering Happiness and Pizza!

Pondering Happiness and Pizza!

The Fargo Youth Home is a Qualified Residential Treatment Program of Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. It is located in a residential area away from our main campus. The children who are at the Youth Home are generally 14-18 years old. They tend to have fewer family or social connections and are also in need of less intensive treatment and supervision. They are working on independent living skills, some hold jobs, some go to public school. They may ride public transportation or take driver's education. They are taking charge, and responsibility, of their own lives.…

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Trauma is a Thief

Trauma is a Thief

Trauma is a thief. It steals one's sense of safety, predictability, trust. A generally accepted definition of Emotional and psychological trauma is "the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security, making you feel helpless in a dangerous world. Psychological trauma can leave you struggling with upsetting emotions, memories, and anxiety that won't go away."…

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