Psychiatric Residential Treatment

A Child with Gratitude on His Heart

A Child with Gratitude on His Heart

This Thanksgiving, I hope you were able to enjoy the holiday with friends and family. Although the COVID yuck continues, we do have some more ability to gather and hug those we love. We come together for ample food, comradery, laughter, and football… and then more food. One holiday tradition in a lot of homes is to go around the table and have each person share what they are thankful for. Common comments are about gratitude for family, good health, love, and friends. In general, most of us are so blessed, we could list a few hundred points of gratitude.…

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"Do you have any candy, Joy?"

"Do you have any candy, Joy?"

“Do you have any candy, Joy?” Like clockwork, nearly every day I am in my office, just before 11:15 a.m., Brian* stands outside my open door and repeats these words. Brian has been at the Ranch for about five months, and it took almost three months for him to find his way to my door. I don’t keep much candy in my office because I tend to eat it. In the two months of his asking, I think I have had candy twice. It doesn’t matter. He is not deterred by the limited success.…

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Celebrating One Child's Success

Celebrating One Child's Success

On November 11th, we celebrate Veterans Day. Veterans Day was first named Armistice Day and began being celebrated the year after the end of World War I, which at that time was called The Great War, or The War to End All Wars. Unfortunately, we got that part of the plan wrong. So, we continue to rely on those who serve in the military, and their families, to make the sacrifices to keep us safe and free. My dad was a WWII veteran of the Pacific Theater and I grew up with a deep respect for all who fight for freedom. Thank you to each and every one of you who chose to serve.   Today, we celebrate our Veterans. We also celebrate the brave and remarkable kids at the Ranch.…

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Finding Hope: From Brokenness to Restoration

Finding Hope: From Brokenness to Restoration

Deaconess Stephanie Wilde started a bible study group for staff on the Fargo Campus. To facilitate study and discussion, she is using the book “Finding Hope – From Brokenness to Restoration,” by Heidi Goehmann. Of course, much of faith study is about our own relationship with God and His world around us. However, the chosen book is so clearly about the children at the Ranch, that I can’t ignore the connection.…

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Keep on Truckin'

Keep on Truckin'

“The police just called because they found our truck, undamaged except they took the catalytic converter. They have the keys.” That is the central message of a text I received one Sunday from Lisa Olson, our VP of Retail at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. It was really good news.…

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The Dollar Bill Lesson

The Dollar Bill Lesson

Chaplain Rick Jones presided over chapel on the Fargo campus last week. Because we were talking about National Bullying Prevention Month, he talked to the kids about the pain of bullying.  And then he pulled a brand-new, crisp dollar bill out of his pocket. When he asked who wanted the dollar, of course, all the kids raised their hands. Then he crumpled it up, and everyone gasped.…

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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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The Load is Light With Many Hands

The Load is Light With Many Hands

I recently attended the South Dakota LWML retreat in Pierre, South Dakota. One of the hosts mentioned how good it was to finally be in person after such a long layoff, and the attendees agreed with a loud cheer! I agree. It was good to be in person. Me and my fellow Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch Development Officers have been visiting donors in person since May, but this was my first time meeting in a larger setting since COVID began.…

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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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Daily Prayers for Our Students

Daily Prayers for Our Students

It is an exciting time of year at Dakota Memorial School. School is back in session with some of the most amazing teachers and staff. Not to mention the fantastic students who are ready to learn, grow, and experience life through educational activities.…

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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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Summer Olympics at the Ranch

Summer Olympics at the Ranch

It has been more than 40 years since “The Miracle on Ice,” when the U.S. Men’s Hockey team defeated the Soviet Union on their way to Olympic gold. To this day, whenever I think about that win, I still feel the same emotions I did the night it happened. That moment was electric, and people talk about it as if it were yesterday.…

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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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