Services for Kids

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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Can You Walk on Water?

Can You Walk on Water?

It was a beautiful North Dakota winter morning and the Ranch's Wildlife Club was just about to start its first fishing adventure of the season. Helping to unload the pickup was a very chatty 14-year-old girl who was relatively new to the Ranch. Since her early childhood was spent in the south, I knew she had never been ice fishing. With a twinkle in my eye and sincerity "dripping" from every word, I leaned over to her and whispered, "You CAN walk on water, right?"…

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Tearing Up After Receiving Donation from Former Ranch Resident

Tearing Up After Receiving Donation from Former Ranch Resident

People from all across the United States help Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch wrap each precious child who comes to us in the care they need to find and become their best selves. Many pray for our staff and kids. Others donate time through servant teams, board service, or within our thrift stores. Still, others donate treasure, funds that are the result of the sweat of the brows of the givers. Regardless of where or who or how the gifts of prayer, time, and treasure come from, they are all blessings. They all contribute to the healing of these brave trauma survivors. Every gift has special meaning.…

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An Extra-Special Graduation Ceremony

An Extra-Special Graduation Ceremony

A couple weeks ago, three very proud young people were the stars of their high school graduation at Dakota Memorial School. That was kind of a funny time of year for a graduation. It also doesn't sound like a very large graduation class.…

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Blessing Us with a Servant Heart

Blessing Us with a Servant Heart

So many folks help make Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch a place of His healing and hope, including the members of our Boards of Directors. Our Boards are filled with some of the best people I have ever met in my life. Each brings a special gift or skill or expertise to their governance role, and in combination, they ensure we are Sustainably Excellent.…

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I Wore Pajamas to Work!

I Wore Pajamas to Work!

I wore pajamas to work. Well, technically it was an oversized cotton sleep shirt/dress. And I wore tights and boots. Quite an ensemble. Why you might ask? Surprisingly, it is about normalcy.…

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One Child's Profoundly Simple Life Goals

One Child's Profoundly Simple Life Goals

Our mission at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch is to "help at-risk children and their families succeed in the name of Christ." Our work at the Ranch is to help children find their best selves. Ranch kids learn to think about goals and the future. I know I've mentioned it before in these writings, but when kids come to the Ranch, they are not future-oriented. They have been in survival mode (because of fear, hunger, abuse, and trauma) for so long that their goals are to make it through the day, or the morning, or this minute. The future is a concept without meaning when you have to scrabble through each moment. So we teach the children to stop and dream. Set goals. If you are your best self, imagine what your goals could be, your future could become.…

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Everyone Loves a Taco

Everyone Loves a Taco

One of the favorite lunch meals for children at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch is the "walking taco." For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a walking taco starts with a personal-sized bag of tortilla chips. You crunch the bag to break the chips into small pieces, then open the bag and add taco meat, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, salsa, and possibly sour cream or guacamole. The gastronomical delight is eaten right out of the bag with a fork. Sort of a taco salad, but funkier. "Walking taco" is a fun name.…

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They Wear Sneakers

They Wear Sneakers

I recently attended chapel at the Ranch. That's not really newsworthy. We have chapel services on all of our campuses at 4:30 p.m. every Thursday. I like to attend whenever I can, and when I do, I always leave feeling pretty grateful for where I work, the people I work with, and the children we serve. Seeing the kids and staff in chapel helps me continue to believe in the good in the world, and God's love.…

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Mack the Therapy Dog

Mack the Therapy Dog

Mack doesn’t like the Nutrition Center. He got really scared when he was there one day for lunch. Some kids were playing on the other side of the big, overhead doors that separate the Nutrition Center from the gym on campus. A ball hit the big metal door and the noise was sudden and loud. It startled Mack, just like thunder does, and now he doesn’t like going in there.…

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What Nearly Running Out of Gas Taught Me about Ranch Kids and Staff

What Nearly Running Out of Gas Taught Me about Ranch Kids and Staff

I suppose it isn't too weird that almost anything that happens in my life teaches me something about the kids and staff at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. The Ranch is a big part of my life. But almost running out of gas? Yup.…

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The Ups and Downs of Recovery

The Ups and Downs of Recovery

Laura doesn't have a perfect life. She talks to her dad only occasionally and isn't allowed contact with her mother because of her drug use. But she knows she is in a better place and attributes much of her success to the Ranch. "Without the Ranch, I'd probably be in Juvie, running away, drinking, drugs. I'd have probably gotten into hard drugs and who knows where I'd be right now."…

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Staying Safe During the Pandemic

Staying Safe During the Pandemic

As we navigate the COVID-19 crisis, our first priority is the safety and security of the vulnerable children who come here for healing. While we know our plans will change day by day, sometimes minute by minute, we wanted to inform you of the things we are doing to keep our children, employees, shoppers, and donors safe.…

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Small Steps that Make a Big Difference

Small Steps that Make a Big Difference

Most things we learn from birth to adulthood come in small steps. When we learn to eat solid foods, we don't start with a T-bone, but mushed banana or rice cereal. When we learn to drive, it is usually around the block, not cross-country on Route 66. When we learn to read, Dick and Jane usually come before Dostoevsky.…

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What's Your Story?

What's Your Story?

"Bee Kind. Everyone has a story" is our rallying cry. On Monday, October 5, every Rancher—on campus, in our thrift stores, in our school, kitchens, and hallways—staff, teacher, child, thrift store employee, and Board Member—wore a bright yellow T-shirt carrying the message. In Minot, ND, our largest campus, we kicked off a month-long focus on finding the best in others with a scavenger hunt. In our Youth Home, kids decorated their own special masks with anti-bullying messages...my personal favorite was, "Putting out someone else's candle does not make yours burn brighter." Therapy dogs wore the t-shirts, but sadly, horses were excluded—size issues. Spiritual Life groups focused on Bible verses that reinforce our value in God's eyes...then made posters of the verses to hang in their rooms. Discussions about self-esteem and respect and kindness were everywhere and will continue.…

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Young Ranch Resident Desires to be Seen

Young Ranch Resident Desires to be Seen

Recently I was on our Bismarck, ND Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch campus. COVID has messed with travel over the past few months, but I am trying to "mask up" and connect with people in person. Meetings via computer, while better than nothing, simply cannot replace sitting down face-to-face — of course, at a safe social distance.…

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The Power of Positivity in Doing God's Work

The Power of Positivity in Doing God's Work

Deaconess Kelly Bristow is the Spiritual Life Coordinator on the Minot Campus of Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. She is a woman of deep faith in Christ, unbounded love, commitment to mercy care, and she's smart.…

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It All Started with "Yo."

It All Started with "Yo."

I love the Ranch kids. Really. Sometimes they are hard to like, because they've learned lots of ways to keep people at arm's length, most of which are pretty effective. But, when we love them through it, they find their best selves on the other side!…

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Going Home Sober

Going Home Sober

This morning I sat in a Core Team meeting for a boy in our care. Core Team meetings are where we bring together the child and everyone involved in the child's care to discuss how well they are making progress against their goals. The child has a full voice in talking about the goals of treatment, what is working, what isn't helping, whey they want to improve on next, and the challenges they are facing. Around the table, sit people from his or her cottage treatment team, occupational therapy, mental health therapy, psychiatry, nursing, spiritual life, and social work.…

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What is Your Favorite Chilli?

What is Your Favorite Chilli?

Most Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch employees here during a "regular" workday, eat lunch on campus. Our food service staff members are pretty amazing regardless of which campus you are on, and the food is quite good. Considering the volume they make and that they make it appeal to kids and adults, I am impressed on a daily basis.…

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Keeping Our Kids Safe

Keeping Our Kids Safe

When the first child at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch tested positive for COVID-19, I felt like a tractor ran over me. We had already experienced staff who had tested positive and had quarantined away from work. That was worrisome, they are such good people. Thankfully they have all returned healthy and virus-free But, a child? The kids come here to be safe, and I "let" this child get sick.…

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Why is Everyone Smiling and Happy?

Why is Everyone Smiling and Happy?

So much in life is about familiarity and context, isn't it? When we grow up around music, we expect music to be part of our lives. When we grow up around books, we think learning and curiosity are the norm. When we grow up with pets, we feel comfort and respect for animal "friends." You get the idea.…

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Watch Out for Exploding Watermelons!

Watch Out for Exploding Watermelons!

I am constantly reminded of the many types of expertise held by the people working with the children who come to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. Because the children have a multitude of experiences and traumas, we must use a multitude of approaches to help them identify their own challenges and develop ways to cope with them. The door to understanding is opened in many different ways — sometimes in school, sometimes in nursing services, in therapy, with the horses, in Spiritual Life.…

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Horses and Kids

Horses and Kids

Occupational Therapy (OT) is one of the really important elements of treatment for children who are trauma survivors. At Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, our OTs and COTAs (certified occupational therapy assistants) teach children how to understand and manage their sensory input to help them control emotions and reactions. Our OTs provide our kids with many tools — breathing techniques, light panels, therapeutic swings, handheld manipulatives, and even real, live horses!…

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A Hard and Joyous Day

A Hard and Joyous Day

Two weeks ago, a 20+ year Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch employee passed away suddenly from an undiagnosed heart condition. The Ranch — his coworkers, the children, and the ministry — were at the center of his life. A couple weeks ago, Chaplain Rick and Deaconess Kelly led a memorial service for staff and residents. It was a hard and joyous day. We planted a tree in his honor. We read scripture and sang Amazing Grace. We also placed a plaque at the base of the tree, made here in the woodworking classroom of the Ranch. The plaque, at the request of the kids, included images of kittens, as he had been a true "cat person."…

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