psychiatric residential treatment

"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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Dirt is a Happy Place

Dirt is a Happy Place

When I was a kid, I didn't really appreciate all the work that went into raising food. Gardening was a lot of work, and it took away from what I wanted to do—generally anything except work. I've since gained an appreciation for gardening, and even gave it a name, "dirt therapy." For some people, digging in the dirt, watching plants grow, and harvesting vegetables all come together to create a sense of accomplishment and well-being.…

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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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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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