Psychiatric Residential Treatment

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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God-Inspired Interruptions

God-Inspired Interruptions

In a book I'm reading, the author talks about God-inspired interruptions, which reminded me of a recent moment of inspiration outside my office at the Ranch. My office is situated across the hall from Shayla Leinen, Principal of Dakota Memorial School on the Fargo campus. Throughout the school day, kids come to Shayla's office, sometimes with an emergency or a behavioral issue, and sometimes just to say hello. Shayla is amazing with our kids; she truly cares about each one of them.…

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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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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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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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Quiet Moments

Quiet Moments

I sat in my office the day after Easter and reflected on the quietness of the moment. Usually, the hall outside my office is anything but quiet, as students head towards music class or stop to visit with our principal whose office is just across from mine. I thought about all the boys and girls who have walked down that hall. All the stuff each child carries with them—trauma, heartbreak, and thoughts of not being loved. That is a lot for a child to carry.…

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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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Seeing Him Smile Again is Worth Every Tear

Seeing Him Smile Again is Worth Every Tear

Today I'm giving a shout-out to the brave parents who trust us with their precious boys and girls. I say "brave" because it takes courage to reach out for help. It is difficult to imagine the pain and heartbreak some parents experience when their child needs help. The parents of kids who come to the Ranch are out of options and out of hope. We look into their eyes and say, "How can we help?" And most of them, through their tears, tell us they just want their precious child back to "normal."…

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Celebrating Unsung Heroes

Celebrating Unsung Heroes

In the latest edition of Ranch Voice, there is a great article talking about our amazing facilities team. I’d like to take a moment to celebrate these unsung heroes who day in and day out work very hard at providing a clean, safe, and healthy environment for our precious kids and dedicated staff.…

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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 Many Ways People Find to Be Good

The Many Ways People Find to Be Good

Sometimes I am astonished by the many ways people find to be good. Today at the Ranch, we received a $5 donation. We are incredibly grateful and are careful stewards of each and every gift. This gift came with two letters, one from a teacher at a Christian school, and the other from her student.…

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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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An Attitude of Gratitude

An Attitude of Gratitude

Many years ago I had the opportunity to hear a talk by Lou Holtz, the former head coach of numerous winning football teams...perhaps most memorably, Notre Dame. His message, as I remember it, was about how he stays enthusiastic, positive, optimistic. He made the point that when you are not winning is when it is most important to stay positive.…

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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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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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