January 8th, 2008
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A friend from my Chicago days sent me a link to this article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune last Sunday. The article describes the Ranch for Kids in Montana, a residential and respite facility for children adopted internationally. Most of the children are from Eastern Europe. The Ranch serves children from 0-17, and the average stay for a child needing behavior modification is 3-12 months. Children disrupting from a previous placement and moving on quickly to a new placement generally only stay at the Ranch for a few months. The Ranch works with A Child’s Waiting to facilitate the re-placement of a child.

I think the Tribune’s coverage of the need for this type of residential facility was accurate and not sensationalized. Poignant comments provided by parents at the end of the article punctuated the plight of our families. I added my two cents to the comments; I encourage you to do the same. The more balanced publicity we receive, the more services we can ultimately acquire … information is power. It is imperative that John Q. Public develop some understanding of the depth and degree of pathology that can exist in traumatized and attachment-affected children. We are not pathologizing the children; we are exposing the pathology injected into our families when we attempt to integrate relationship-fearing children. We are simply clamoring for services and public support rather than condemnation. Articles like this one work in our favor. Chime in and let the readers know that it isn’t a few isolated families … but rather, there are many families in need of services throughout the country.


I intend to address parental PTSD this week, a subject that dovetails nicely with this article. You can hear the stress and trauma reflected in the words of the parents who commented. Even the mom who adopted a child decades ago still sounds stressed over the experience. I wonder if she is still playing the “What if?” game? What if this opportunity had been available to my child? What if I had tried this … or this … or this? I think our constant effort to find the “right” button to push on our damaged kids (and therefore “make it all better”) is part of our PTSD. We can barely survive the challenge of living with them, and yet we are putting out additional effort, energy and money, (“What if I had been able to pay three grand a month to send my child to this facility?” …) trying to make them better. More coming on this … I really encourage you to read this article and the associated comments.

Photo Credit: Nancy Spoolstra

17 Responses to “The Ranch for Kids”

  1. pat johnston says:

    Very good article you linked us to, Nancy. Thanks! I visited the Ranch for Kids website trying to get a better understanding about their work. They are a not-for-profit, but I saw no information about their licensure as therapeutic foster parents, foster parents, a residential treatment center, etc.

    Are these “good hearted people trying to help kids” or are they trained and certified and licensed mental health professionals? Do you know?

  2. I honestly don’t know, Pat. I had heard of them before the Trib article surfaced … and had heard good things. Licensure for therapeutic foster parents varies from state to state … so who knows under what umbrella they operate. It is a very good question. If they have a certified equine therapy program, they must have had some training and supervision somewhere along the way, doncha think?

  3. Lindy says:

    Good, bad or just in between…the price tag will turn away many parents who need immediate help. I wish we could convince some charities to sponsor some of these settings so they would be available for anyone who needs them. Unfortunately due to financial constraints, many families suffer for way too long before getting to the point of having to mortgage the house or tap into retirement savings to help their kids.

  4. Bippette says:

    I can’t imagine being able to afford that type of treatment. And we are solidly upper middle class.

  5. muffin says:

    My daughter just got home from Ranch for Kids…she was asked to leave. She was only there 7 days and she had all the behaviors that they say they can handle. There is not one person licensed at the Ranch. I thought I did enough research but I guess I didn’t. We have been in a crisis for a long time and we thought there might be hope. The Ranch had everything we were looking for and we thought that there was hope for our daughter. We are at the point now that we have no more savings, retirement savings, and now we are going to have to sell our house. Our daugther is now back at home and we don’t know what to do now. So if anyone is considering the Ranch for Kids think long and hard before you do it. They are nice people (I think) but I feel they don’t have the proper staff to help these kind of children.

    • purplenailpolish says:

      Dear Muffin,
      I’m so sorry to hear your daughter was asked to leave.I know what its like to be in crisis with children and it is so difficult to find help and support.( I have four adopted kids) I’ve called the crisis numbers, tried to find pyschologists, pyschiatrists, counselors, etc with really no help…I’ve seen counselors and my husband and myself said with all we had to pay for services we really didn’t get any help just alittle compassion and alot of bills. I found prayer, love and persistence and alot of crying… and praying more and more, and crying…the kids change in time. I adopted two children through the Ranch for Kids, two of my children were disruptions and I felt they really did help my kids to enable them to be readopted by us. My kids had some serious problems but with love and consistency they are doing great! Can I be of some assistance? what is your situation if you would like to share? I have seven kids, maybe I can help alittle? You know there really needs to be more assistance for parents especially since extended families aren’t what they used to be…..

      • yogamom says:

        Hi Purplenailpolish,

        Ok, I found this site whilst looking for articles on Ranch For Kids.
        I sent my son there when he was 6, I was at witts end- we had been treated adn seen by Dr. Martha Welch and gone through her “Holding Therapy”, then we saw Dr.Federiccci who wrote “Help for the Hopeless Child” in the forst 4 years of my sons life after we adopted him at 22 months, I hugged, held, cried, screamed, and spent hours upon hours going to therapist, spent a fourtune on World renouned experts. One day when I though I was going to actually physically harm my son in absolute frustration- i found Ranch for Kids..my husband and I were numb, and we flew to Montana and left our child for 6 weeks. I cried, numbed myself with food and contemplated killing or running away myself. I flew out to Montana nad picked him up the gal who runs the place told me in her expert opinion he was attached but just a kid who would have trouble in mainstream society.
        Our reunion was long our hugs were deep- and I swore I would bnever send him away again- and that I loved hiam dn he had a family who would stay behind him forever. He lied to me that night in our hotel room and stared right through me- I felt deep guilt, had I done him worse than before had my lack of something- effort, love, compassion had i failed him worse than teh genetic cocktail and inutero experience had.
        Well, I found this board because my son is now almost 12, we have continued with wrap around, homebased, private, group therapies, love, vacations, spritual communty support, sporting events where my husband coaches to help him with socialization.
        This week he ran away because he didn’t want to clean his room, he has stolen 190 dollars, packed a butcher knife to ward off anyone who messes with him, lies form the time he wakes till he goes to bed, hoards food with sugary tastes, threatens our other son, kicks and scerams at our pets, is defiante and disrespectful to every single person in his way- violates school rules and blames his “aid”. Has twice pulled down girls pants and threatens to kill them if they don’t oblidge him. All this is hearsay form other kids or gilrs, he never admitts anything.
        he is brillant and is on the honor role without any effort- his natural skill with anything sprots is amazing althoughh he puts littel to no effort into anything he does or excells at naturally.
        Our home is not normal, he defies every rule, I feellike a drill sargent, my we have ceased been invited anywhere as a family in over 2 years- our son is not allwoed in any neighborhs yard or within feet of thier children. Our older son who was adopted at 15 months has a naturally tender heart- has been abused by his brother verbally or physically ever day of his life- no matter what consequences. I have stipped his room to a bed, we have tried positive motivation, behavior motivation- NOTHING has helped.
        Now- why was I googeling Ranch for Kids again?
        My heart breaks for my son- there is no place in life or our society that he has gone or goes that he fits in- he is now creating stories weaving his tall tales about his birth father coming to get him and taking him away to live a mansion, with a lambroghini- I wish that were ture for him.
        But, his birthparents are dead from a drug overdose and the other is in prision. So, I am venting on this board- perhpas others have been where I am-
        I want my son out of my house- I can not live like this everyday- I want a life where I can exhale, feel safe in my own home, and protect and help tp salvage my other son’s life so he can breathe.
        I also want my son to live in a place where he might be free to be him- wherever that is.
        Wow that was really somethign to write that all down.
        Thank you-

  6. ericcoe says:

    i went there when i was 8 and its bullshit i got roomed with a 17 year old and he smoked weed everynight it is not a well watched place and they just make the kids work all day

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