Heartland Girls’ Ranch is in Benson, Minnesota, 125 miles west of Minneapolis. The Ranch is located on 160 acres one half mile north of Benson on Highway 9. The Ranch house can accommodate 24 girls. The Ranch is also a home to 25 horses. A barn and indoor riding arena are located a couple hundred yards from the main house. Our location is close to town but provides miles of trails for riding.
Also located on site is a Ranch Community Center which houses administrative offices, case managers offices, group meeting areas and recreational opportunities.
The Heartland Ranch School is located in the lower level of the Benson Junior-Senior High School.
The Heartland Ranch program provides a supportive, structured environment in which girls’ ages 12 to 21 learn to make responsible choices and become mature young women.
The main program operates on a five-level system. There are specific assignments and privileges to correspond with levels. To be on a higher level implies that a resident has been working on her issues and has displayed appropriate behavior for an ample amount of time.
A specialized treatment plan is created with specific objectives for each resident. The primary counselor works with the case manager to determine an outline for goals. These goals cover a wide range of topics including education, behavior, attitudes, family and personal issues, health, recreation, social skills, future plans and employment.
A high standard of behavior is expected at all times. Residents are graded in several areas, especially with regard to respect of others. Among other things, this grading determines whether the resident has passed or failed their day. Passed and failed days are recorded on a resident’s grade sheet. Residents must complete specific program work in a given number of days to advance to a higher level. Graduation is earned when the girl passes the five levels and has completed required level work.
Heartland Ranch offers two variations of the main program. The first is our traditional program. The traditional program focuses on the whole health of residents. It seeks to heal wounds from previous traumas as well as work toward a healthier, brighter future. In order to complete the traditional program, residents must graduate the program by displaying appropriate behavior, complete assignments geared toward their issues. The traditional program can be completed in as little as 4 months, but the length of stay is completely up to the resident’s progress typically averaging about 11 months.
To meet the needs of a changing social service system, we have also implemented an alternative, accelerated program. The accelerated program focuses primarily on their issues directly related to their treatment goals. The program lasts between 120-180 days, depending on behavior and progress in the program. Prior to discharge, the placing agency may decide that longer, more extensive services are needed; residents can be converted to the traditional program.
Horses are central at Heartland. Girls care for horses as part of their daily routine and treatment program. Working with a horse, a girl takes on the role of an authority figure. She is responsible for its wellbeing and becomes the change-agent that helps the animal become more useful. The horses training is meant to be a mirror for the girl’s experiences at Heartland, teaching her that acceptable attitudes and behaviors result in positive outcomes.
Professionals of various disciplines, including juvenile corrections, social work, education and psychology, operate the Ranch. Staff are trained in equestrian skills as well. Certified riding instructors provide riding lessons.