No longer serving kids sent
by the courts, the ranch is
now a licensed and accredited
mental health center
that treats youth who have
alcohol or drug dependencies,
or diagnoses of post-traumatic stress
disorder, bipolar disorder, or other serious
emotional disorders. “Kids come here
for the campus residential treatment when
they’re personally not safe, or the community
is not safe,” says Glenn McFarlane ’72.
The ranch’s chief executive officer,
McFarlane is perhaps the “resident” with the
longest stay. His father, Bob McFarlane ’50,
was the organization’s first superintendent,
moving his family to the Montana ranch in
1957 when McFarlane was 7 years old.
“Originally there were just six boys, and
then there were 12,” he remembers, adding
that his mother and aunt cooked the shared
meals and did the boys’ laundry. “It was very
much like a big group home or foster home in
a lot of ways, except that these boys certainly
had some special needs.”
The fledgling ranch kept the boys busy with
school and chores, including working in the
garden, milking cows, haying, and cleaning the
outbuildings. “It was pretty much a farm-working
environment originally,” says McFarlane.
Today, in addition to the residential treatment
program, the ranch includes an accredited
elementary school and high school, a
vocational school, extensive community-based
programs that serve 800 kids a day, outpatient
treatment, mentoring, and school-based programs.
It also includes a horticulture center,
an equestrian center, and a bike shop.
The ranch, McFarlane will tell you, also
offers a hope that transforms.
“Our spiritual component is something
we’re not bashful about,” says McFarlane.
A pastoral care program includes optional
chapel services and youth groups, and staff
work with local religious groups so that teens
seeking spiritual guidance have a place to
turn, whatever their faith.
“There isn’t a human being on the face
of the earth who isn’t in some way going to
respond when they really understand God’s
love,” he adds. “They may still be angry, and
they may not be ready to embrace it, but
they’re going to understand it.”
Web exclusive: Ways to Help a Troubled Teen
When founded in 1957, the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch was an alternative to sending young boys to jails with adult offenders. At first judges were skeptical, says CEO Glenn McFarlane ’72. “Once they started seeing results and outcomes, they began to believe in it, and the ranch started to grow.”