For more than six decades, the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch has provided resources for children in need in our communities.
But they say what they do often gets misconstrued, and that it’s not a place for delinquents, as many people think.
Kids at the ranch generally have more than one mental health problem, learning disability, or reason behind emotional distress.
And while the ranch is dedicated to helping them, people there feel that acceptance from the community plays a big part.
“These kids are just kids,” Director of Nursing, Heatthyr Haugeberg, said.
And that’s what all staff at the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch keep in mind as they provide a safe environment for kids with emotional distress to live, learn, and heal.
But they say that people often think of the ranch as a place for troubled youth. However, they also say, that’s not their true mission.
Superintendent and Vice President of Education, Marcia Bartok said, “If they have mental health issues of if they’ve really endured a lot of complicated trauma or special ed needs, or all three. You know, some of our students are really complicated and complex, it’s not their fault.”
Their services focus on trauma, psychiatrics, therapy, addiction services, or occupational therapy.
These resources are all geared towards helping children get back with their families and functioning in every day life.
Bartok said that there was once a time when the ranch was focused on keeping kids out of trouble, “We even took kids in from Chicago that came to the ranch to kind of have that experience of being somewhere different and change their behavior.”
But over the years, their mission has transformed into individualizing each child’s mental health needs and helping them succeed on and off the ranch.
“It’s really important to not just judge the children or others in our society based on outward behaviors,” Medical Director, Dr. Wayne Martinsen said, “and to try to take a deeper look at who these people are and what motivated those problem behaviors.”
Resources and healing continue long after the kids leave the ranch, that’s why employees say it’s so important that these kids get community support and acceptance.
You can support your local Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch by shopping or donating to the affiliated thrift stores in Bismarck, Devils Lake, Grand Forks, Minot, North Fargo, South Fargo, West Fargo, and in Dilworth, Minnesota.
Visit their website to find more ways to give back and support North Dakota’s youth.