A Message of Hope – Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch

Barry Backman has worked at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch for over 18 years. He is a Youth Care Worker Team Lead, and works, along with his team, directly with the kids. As parents, most of us need to live through about seven teenage years. Barry has stood by at-risk teens for 18+ years, helping them discover their best selves.Barry is a giant of a man. I don’t know for sure how tall he is, but even when I wear high heels, I look a long way up to meet his eyes. He could be physically intimidating, but he’s not. He exudes calm and kindness. For our internal staff newsletter, I asked Barry to share how he helps the Ranch fulfill its mission of “helping at-risk children and their families succeed in the name of Christ.” I wanted to share his words with you. They will give you a true feel for the caliber of people, like Barry, who choose to be Ranchers.

Barry says, “I help children and families succeed by getting to know them for who they are as individuals. Let’s face it, teenage years are some of the most trying years of a person’s life. They are trying to figure out who they are. What they want is to do well here and just in life in general. Put that all together with the trauma which a lot of our residents have experienced and what do you get?” 

“In my job as a Youth Care Worker, I get to see both the good and not-so-good side of the youth we serve. I get to experience the interactions while assisting with daily chores such as laundry and cleaning their rooms. Interactions with them telling jokes, laughing, playing sports. I also get to see the not-so-happy experiences, when they are yelling, kicking, biting, hitting, and screaming, saying how much they hate you and then spitting in your face. That’s when I am able to demonstrate the love of Christ.”

It’s all worth it in the end, because eventually they will sit down and ask ‘Why?’, ‘Why didn’t you hit me or yell back at me?’ I am able to answer their question with an affirmation of, ‘Because you deserve better than that. You are not a bad kid. You may have made some poor choices but you’re not a bad kid.'”

Then they look at me, say they are sorry and sometimes, I will get the affirmation of a hug with tears rolling down their cheeks. At that very moment, I know I have succeeded in showing the love of Christ to someone who needed it.”


Each day, I am humbled to work alongside quiet heroes like Barry. Thank you for praying for them and the children. For additional information or ways to partner with us, please visit: https://www.dakotaranch.org.

*Written by Joy Ryan, President/CEO Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch is a Recognized Ministry of the North American Lutheran Church.

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