Category: Events

The 2019 Yellowstone Conference: Communities in Crisis

The 2019 Yellowstone Conference: Communities in Crisis is focused one identifying and deciphering current crises that Montana communities are facing with professional panel discussions on:

  • Rural Montana
  • Montana Cities
  • Indigenous Communities
  • Collaborating for Community Outcomes

Montana communities face an array of challenges including domestic violence, homelessness, drug use, sex trafficking, incarcerated parents, limited education, access to metal health providers, and a flood of children entering the foster care system.  These challenges directly contribute to the generational cycle of abuse, and the trauma that families endure, and in turn create communities in crisis.  Panelists for Rural Montana, Montana Cities, Indigenous Communities, and Collaborating for Community Outcomes will address these issues, provide education, feedback, and resources for Montana families and community members. 

Date: Thursday September 19th, 2019
Time: 9am-5pm
Place: The Franklin Robbie Chapel, located on YBGR’s main campus at 1732 South 72nd Street West, Billings, MT 59106
Cost of attendance: $25.00, includes lunch and refreshments
CEUs and OPI credits are available upon request

Click to Register

Keynote Speaker:

Greg Upham, Billings Public Schools Superintendent. Greg has been a professional educator for over thirty years. His career began as a teacher and coach in Browning and Belt, Montana.  He joined the Helena School District in 1992. He began his administrative career as an Assistant Principal at Capital High School, followed by six years as the Principal of Helena High School.  He recently served as the Assistant Superintendent of Helena Public Schools until July 2018, and is now serving as the Superintendent of Billings Public Schools.

Mr. Upham earned his undergraduate degree in Industrial Technology from the University of Montana Western, Dillon.  He received his Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Montana, Missoula.

He is the past chair of the Montana ACT Council and also served as its past president.  He has presented both statewide and nationally on the process of data-based decision-making, the importance of ACT course patterning, and the effectiveness of Professional Learning Communities.  Greg plays an active role in the community. He has served on the Lewis and Clark Foster Care Review Board and the Wakina Learning Center Board. Greg is a member of Rotary, is on the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Club Board, has conducted Ruby Paine poverty trainings, and serves as a sports broadcaster.  He is a passionate and visible figure throughout the community.

Rural Montana Panel Discussion: There are 9 states in the US that have formed rural development committees, Montana is not one of them. Montana rural communities share common challenges of other state rural communities in regard to healthcare, economic development, infrastructure, and educational resources. The Yellowstone Conference: Communities in Crisis Rural Montana panel will address rural Montana’s particular challenges in meeting the mental health needs of at risk children.

Confirmed Panelists:

Sydney Blair, CEO of the Great Falls Mental Health Center

Alan Ostby, Psy.D. Indian Health Services in Wolf Point

Carl Rosston, MA, Suicide Prevention Coordinator DPHHS

Michael Faust, ED, Western MT Health Center

Montana Cities Panel Discussion: Montana cities face an array of challenges including domestic violence, homelessness, drug use, sex trafficking, incarcerated parents, limited education, and a flood of children entering the foster care system.  These challenges directly contribute to the generational cycle of abuse, and the trauma that families endure, and in turn create communities in crisis.  The panelists for this topic will address these issues, provide education, feedback, and resources for Montana families.

Moderator: Elizabeth Compoy, Supervisor for the IPS Supported Employment Program at YBGR.  Elizabeth is passionate about the work she does with youth to teach them how to obtain and maintain employment, how to use soft skills, and to self-advocate.  She promotes the importance of being independent, self-sufficient, and healthy in order for youth to break the cycle of poverty and abuse.  She strongly believes in YBGR’s mission of Caring People, Preparing Youth for Life. 


Stacy Zinn, Regional Agent in Charge (RAC) for the Drug Enforcement Agency. Stacy joined the DEA in 2001. She served in duty stations as a Special Agent include: El Paso, Texas, Afghanistan, and Peru. In 2014, RAC Zinn was promoted to Group Supervisor for the TDS located in Billings. In late 2018, she was promoted to the RAC position which covers the entire state of Montana. RAC Zinn holds a Master’s Degree and previously was a body guard within the private sector.

Holly Mook is the Coordinated School Health Unit Director with the MT Office of Public Instruction. Holly has dedicated most of her career to working with youth and their families. She facilitated an Adolescent Intensive Outpatient Substance Use Treatment program for a community provider in Helena, worked as a Project Success Counselor for the Helena School District, and as a Medicaid Waiver Program Manager. In August of 2016, Holly transitioned to her current role with the Montana Office of Public Instruction as the State Coordinator for MT SOARS, a systems-change, collaborative, and community-based effort in partnership with the Browning, Butte, and Kalispell school districts. The initiative was made possible by the five-year Project AWARE funding through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). In September of 2018, Holly additionally became the Title IV A SSAE Program Managers and helps schools to run programs under the following three categories; Safe and Healthy Students, Well-Rounded Education, and Effective Use of Technology. Under the State of MT’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan, Holly is focusing on legislatively mandated priorities for MT schools, including bullying prevention, suicide prevention, school emergency planning, and sex trafficking prevention.

Holly Mook is the Coordinated School Health Unit Director with the MT Office of Public Instruction. Holly has dedicated most of her career to working with youth and their families. She facilitated an Adolescent Intensive Outpatient Substance Use Treatment program for a community provider in Helena, worked as a Project Success Counselor for the Helena School District, and as a Medicaid Waiver Program Manager.

Ben McKee is the Development Director for CASA of Yellowstone County. After relocating from the Philadelphia area he worked at Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch from 2013 to 2016, first as a Mental Health Worker and subsequently a Program Manager. Ben has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Pennsylvania State University where he also worked in mental health research.

Penny Ronning. Penny’s commitment to human rights, the arts, social justice, and protecting wildlife habitat is reflected in more than 30 years of professional and volunteer service. She is co-founder/co-chair of the Yellowstone County Area Human Trafficking Task Force and, in 2017, Penny was elected to a 4-year term on Billings City Council. Penny is a filmmaker and photographer; earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Film, a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, and enjoyed law school.

Indigenous Communities Discussion Panel: The state of Montana is home to seven reservations which encompass twelve tribes. A common theme among tribes are the many ways in which these populations suffer. Currently, there is an astonishing number of missing and murdered indigenous women which is correlated to a chronic alcohol and substance abuse problem as well as domestic violence. These problems start at a very young age for most with a lack of adequate housing, access to clean water, educational opportunities, and inequality in schools with non-indigenous students. Over time, these situations lead to severe mental illness and eventually an extremely high suicide rate among all age groups.

Confirmed Panelists:

Jennifer Smith, Executive Director of Indian Education for Billings Public Schools

Kathleen Little Leaf, MSW, LAC, the Behavioral Health Coordinator at Billings Urban Indian Health and Wellness Center and is an enrolled tribal member from the Blackfoot/Blackfeet tribes. Kathleen has worked within Indian Health Services providing Mental Health and Addiction Treatment, Prevention, and Recovery with cultural interventions for over a decade. Her work history includes Domestic Violence advocacy through the YWCA. She is a Mental Health therapist and providing Co-occurring therapy and case management. Kathleen has experience working within Jail Diversion and implemented Jail Diversion Cultural Recovery Programming to Native American inmates and research in Missoula County.

Jami Pluff, Policy Analyst/Council Support for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

Collaborating For Community Outcomes Panel  Discussion: The panel on Collaborating for Community Outcomes will focus on government and provider relations and how they impact youth and families.

Confirmed Panelists:

Mary Windecker, Behavioral Health Alliance of Montana

A representative from the Center for Children and Families

August 16-18, 2018 – Billings, Montana – Eagala Skillsets Intensive Training



Billings, Montana – Eagala Skillsets Intensive Training

Thursday, August 16, 2018 – Saturday, August 18, 2018 

The Eagala Model Skillsets Intensive training involves classroom and interactive, hands-on experiences to deepen, refine and build upon the knowledge and experience gained in the Fundamentals of Eagala Model Practice training.


  • Currently Eagala Certified
  • Completed at least 20 hours of Eagala Model work with clients

8:30 am – 4:30 pm daily (We end at 3:00 pm on day three.) Lunches will be provided.

This training is limited to those 18 years of age or older. No personal pets are allowed on the premises of the facility.

We offer a 100% refund up to three weeks prior to the training. After that, refunds are available minus a $200 administrative fee per person. Discounts are available for groups, students, and military. 

Event Objectives

  1. Thinking on feet and going with the flow of the horses and clients’ stories
  2. Taking processing to a deeper level with SPUD’S – Correlating SPUD’S
  3. Choosing verbal interventions and focusing on non-verbal interventions
  4. Metaphor, externalization, and working through the symbolic space

Click here for logistical information

To learn more about Eagala Certification please click here

The Yellowstone Conference: Lighting The Way-Systems & Solutions

Join Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch for our annual Montana youth centered conference with professional panel discussions on systems and solutions for Montana’s youth.

Thursday August 2, 2018 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Franklin & Merle Robbie Chapel, located on YBGR’s main campus at 1732 S. 72nd St. W, Billings, MT 59106

Lunch will be provided

9:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. Registration
9:30 a.m. – 9:45 a.m. Welcome
9:45 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Montana Foster Care Panel
11:00 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. Break
11:15 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Trauma Informer Care Panel
12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Lunch
1:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. Overcoming Obstacles Panel
2:45 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Break
3:00 p.m. – 4:15 p.m. Collaborating for Outcomes
4:15 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Keynote Speakers

Register Today!

Montana Foster Care Discussion Panel:

The panel on Montana Foster Care will focus on the causes and solutions for children, families, government and providers.

Moderator: Charise Lemelin, is the Regional Clinical Director for YBGR Community Based Services.  Charise joined the YBGR family in 2000 and has served in a number of capacities over the years.  She has been in the Clinical Director position for the past 4 years.  Charise earned her Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Montana State University Billings and her Master’s degree in social work from Eastern Washington University.  Charise is a Montana native and enjoys working in YBGR’s  rural satellite programs, especially Therapeutic Foster Care.  She is actively involved in her home community of Dillon where she is a part of the local ACES Task Force and a Board Member of the CASA program. 


Steve Bryan, Co-Founder/Executive Director Child Bridge. Steve is the Executive Director of Child Bridge, a faith-based non-profit that finds and equips foster and adoptive families for Montana children in need.

Steve and his wife Mary founded Child Bridge in late 2010 when they became aware of the severe shortage of foster homes and a lack of supports and resources to help families care for childhood victims of trauma.  Child Bridge now serves families caring for children in foster or adoptive care in 22 counties across the state from Child Bridge hubs in the Flathead, Missoula, Great Falls, Bozeman and Billings.

Steve and Mary have been foster parents, and understand the issues children “from hard places” face. Steve’s faith is a foremost priority in his life and he brings that focus to his work with children, families, churches, pastors and other child welfare providers daily.

He is a seasoned professional with over 40 years of proven experience in entrepreneurship and small business executive management skills. Steve attended Montana State University and served in the U.S. Army Reserve Special Forces Unit. He was honorably discharged and received the Medal of Valor.

Steve and Mary are parents of two daughters and grandparents of two young boys. They have been foster parents to a teenage boy (now 22), who they have an ongoing relationship with, as well as his biological parents.  Their foster son is now married, recently had a baby boy, and named Steve and Mary as grandparents to his son.

Tricia Hergett, CASA, is the Program Administrator for CASA of Yellowstone County.  Tricia has been with CASA for 5 years and provides program coordination to all staff and CASA volunteers advocates.  Additionally, she acts as the staff liaison with the Department of Child and Family Services and she works with all stakeholders to create the priority list of cases for CASAs to take and monitors hearings for cases on the priority list as they wait for CASAs to be assigned.  Tricia previously worked at RiverStone Health as an Assistant to the Vice President, Medicaid Health Improvement Program Administration and the Yellowstone County Registrar. She is currently completing her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology at ASU.

Keisha Gilbert (YBGR Therapeutic Foster parent) I have been married for 16 years and have 4 children including 3 biological children and 1 foster love. Their ages are 15, 13, 7, and 5. My Christian faith and my family are the highlights of my life. I have a degree in child development and education. I have been working with children for 16 years in various capacities including childcare centers, preschool, public school, church ministry, parenting, fostering, and private school. I currently teach 1st through 8th grade in a small private school and tutor high school students. My husband and I have been therapeutic foster parents with YBGR for about a year and a half.  Coming from a hard place myself, I truly seek to help children from hard places. My mission is to give every child in my path real hope for the future, to share my story of resilience and healing that it might encourage others on that same journey.

Lori Ketchum, ISU-CPS, I was born and raised in Montana in a rural community west of Billings.  I have lived in Billings the past 18 years and have been with Child & Family Services for 6 ½ years.  I currently work in the Intensive Services Unit, ISU, as a Child Protection Specialist primarily working with older children the Department has Permanent Legal Custody of. These children are usually placed in congregate care settings requiring intensive supports to aid in their successful transition into permanent and stable placements.  The ISU utilizes an intensive engagement model to provide youth in congregate care facilities services to expedite transitions into lower levels of care and move the youth successfully to permanency. My main goal is to find adoptive homes willing to care for these children who have been in care for an extensive amount of time.  I attempt to think outside the box and explore previous relationships youth have had or attempt to find appropriate family members.    

Christine Ellerbee, is a a Child Protection Specialist.

Trauma Informed Care Discussion Panel:

The panel on Trauma Informed Care will focus on moving beyond theory to practice.

Moderator: Dr. Taylor Mayer, PhD, LCPC – Executive Director of Psychiatric Residential Operations at YBGR. Dr. Mayer first joined YBGR in 1993 as a Mental Health Worker, he returned in the role of Executive Director of Psychiatric Residential Operations in 2017. He is licensed as a Professional Counselor in Montana and Wyoming, and is a Diplomat of the American Psychotherapy Association.


Susan Frew, LCPC, LMFT – Clinical Director at YBGR Community Based Services.  Susan Frew joined YBGR in June 2010.  She began as a therapist in our residential program and later joined Community Based Services (CBS), serving as a therapist, Clinical Supervisor and now serves as the Clinical Director at CBS.  Susan became a trauma-informed care trainer in the community and has presented within schools to help offer further understanding/guidance on what it means to be trauma-informed.  She has recently been certified through the ChildTrauma Academy to complete the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT).  The NMT approach helps to integrate core principles of neurodevelopment and traumatology to help inform the work with children/families/communities.  Susan holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Development from Mercyhurst University and a Master of Science in Marriage & Family Therapy from Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University.  She is licensed as a Professional Counselor and Marriage & Family Therapist in Montana, and she is a Clinical Fellow of the American Association for Marriage & Family Therapy.

Erica Schuppe is the owner and occupational therapy lead at Wild Roots Therapy, PC. When not at work she is also a busy mom to three, wife, and a yoga, gardening, and camping enthusiast. Erica has been an occupational therapist for 15 years and in private practice for more than half of that time.  Erica started her career working in the rural schools and has served Montana districts from Colstrip, to Broadview, Red Lodge, and all the miles in between. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Health Sciences from the University of Wyoming and her Master’s in Occupational Therapy from Pacific University in Forest Grove, OR.

Erica’s clinical expertise is in the evaluation and treatment of children from babies to teens with various developmental disabilities including autism, sensory processing disorders and neurodevelopmental differences from childhood trauma.

Jim FitzGerald, CEO Intermountain. Jim joined Intermountain in 1978, working as a cottage counselor in the residential services program. Prior to becoming Chief Executive Officer in 2001, Jim was Director of Operations, working in all facets of program development, training, policy, and finance.

Throughout his career, Jim has focused the agency upon strengthening families and improving society’s ability to provide prevention, protection, treatment and permanency for all vulnerable youth. A dedicated leader in youth advocacy, he has played a vital role in the state and national forum of child welfare, mental health, and public policy. Working with a dynamic Board and staff, he is responsible for guiding the vision and mission of Intermountain, and transforming Intermountain into a nationally recognized children’s mental health agency.

Jim is also the CEO of ChildWise Institute, a Montana not-for-profit 501c (3) organization established by Intermountain. The mission of ChildWise is to elevate the well-being of vulnerable children through advancing awareness, accelerating knowledge, and advocating for positive societal change. ChildWise has garnered attention across the State of Montana and at the national level.

Jim holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of California, a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Montana.

Angela Freyenhagen I have been a business woman in the BILLINGS community since 2006 working in Hotels, medical Field, staffing and Real Estate.   I was very active in different nonprofit organizations and served as a board member on Head Start and Make a Wish Foundation, SHRM. I served as a committee member for Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics and Big Sky Economic Development workforce program.

I am a survivor of abuse, sexual assault, drugs, alcohol, domestic violence and cancer. My life at an early age was affected by sexual abuse by family member and older teens in the neighborhood. At the age of 22 I was abducted, held hostage and raped and left for dead. I then turned to drugs and alcohol and ended up in a very domesticated violent relationship. I believe in the restorative power of God, counseling and treatment programs and have been able to live a life of sobriety, happiness and joy beyond my wildest dreams.

Tara French, is a juvenile probation officer for the Yellowstone County Court Services.


Overcoming Obstacles:

The panel on Overcoming Obstacles will focus on the barriers to positive outcomes from drop-out, homelessness, delinquency and chemical dependency issues.

Moderator: Kim Chouinard, M.Ed. – Executive Director of YBGR Community Based Services.  Kim Chouinard joined the Ranch team in 2004. She began as a mental health worker in our residential lodges and in 2006 joined our Community Based Services (CBS) team. Chouinard holds a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology and a master’s degree in education from Montana State University Billings. She has been serving in the mental health field since 2002. As the Executive Director of CBS, her areas of oversight include school based services, home support services, therapeutic foster care, case management, supported employment, outpatient therapy, therapeutic youth mentoring, and chemical dependency.  She has a passion for children’s mental health and bringing awareness to our communities.


Erika Willis, M.S. joined Tumbleweed in October of 2016 as the Executive Director.    Erika launched her career 28 years ago in the social sector providing direct services for children and families in need, eventually expanding her role into organizational leadership. 

Erika has held positions in a variety of organizations in both the social and private sectors most recently as Company Leader, Customer Experience for Elation, Inc. and prior to that, Executive Director of STEP, Inc.  Before her tenure in leadership, Erika’s work spanned from direct services with children with disabilities to crisis counseling, case management, fundraising and organizational development.

Erika has a B.S in Human Services and M.S in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling from Montana State University-Billings and is the Chair of the Yellowstone County Continuum of Care.   She was born and raised in Billings and raised two adult sons in Billings.

Sergeant Robert Lester has been in his current assignment since September of 2013 and has been a sworn deputy since January of 2008. He is the Field Training Coordinator for the Sheriff’s Office, and prior to his promotion to Sergeant, he was a Field Training Officer. He previously served on the Yellowstone County SWAT team and was the Vice President for the Mountain States Tactical Officers Association. He is a POST certified S.F.S.T. Instructor and has been the lead SFST Instructor at the Montana Law Enforcement Academy. He is a Drug Recognition Expert Instructor and teaches a variety of DUI and drug related classes. He has testified in Federal, District, Justice and City Court, at times serving as an expert witness. Sergeant Lester currently holds a POST Advanced and POST Supervisory certificate. He was previously employed as a Law Enforcement Park Ranger for the National Park Service. He worked in Yellowstone National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area as a front county Ranger. Sergeant Lester is a graduate of Montana State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberals Studies, with an emphasis in Justice Studies. For the past 7 years he has coached little league baseball for the Laurel Little League and also is the Cubmaster for Cub Scout Pack 421 in Laurel, MT. He has four children and has been married to his wife Julie for 16 years.

Kristin Lundgren, M.Ed.  Kristin grew up in Chad, Africa, where her parents did public health and famine relief.  She came to Minnesota for college and made her way to Billings in 2000 where she began work on the prevention of youth substance abuse and violence.  That worked morphed into her current role as Director of Impact at United Way of Yellowstone County, where she oversees strategies to increase graduation rates to 95% by 2025 and keep vulnerable seniors independent in their homes.  Solving these problems includes a portfolio of strategies including investments in direct service programs but also multi-sector collaborations to innovate and work on system solutions to complex problems like substance abuse, homelessness or early childhood adversity.  

Joseph Osborne has been a Special Agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for over 10 years. After 19 weeks of training at the DEA Academy in Quantico, VA, he was temporarily assigned to the Oklahoma City District Office for 8 months. After that, he spent the next 7 years in Laredo, TX (the largest land port in the US) trying to slow the flow of illicit drugs being brought into our country by the Mexican Cartels. In 2016, he was transferred to Billings, MT to work in the Tactical Diversion Squad, to combat the growing opioid epidemic here in Montana.  

Collaborating For Outcomes:

The panel on Collaborating for Outcomes will focus on government and provider relations and how they impact youth and families.

Moderator: Michael Chavers –  joined YBGR in August of 2016 as the Chief Executive Officer. Born and raised in Idaho, Chavers pursued his education and career in Illinois. Before moving to Montana, he worked at Indian Oaks Academy, Nexus, for 22 years. Most recently, he severed as the Executive Director of the organization. Chavers holds a Masters of Arts in Counseling from Olivet Nazarene University and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Moody Bible Institute. He is a fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform.


Sheila Hogan was appointed in December 2016 by Governor Steve Bullock to be the Director of the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS). She has been a champion for the thousands of Montanans this agency serves through her work in public service for over 30 years and is thrilled to begin her tenure at DPHHS.

Prior to her recent appointment, she served as the Director of the state’s Department of Administration for four years, with a focus of strategic health care initiatives, customer service, and streamlining government processes to better serve Montana communities.

She led a multi-pronged initiative in the state healthcare plan that saved the state and taxpayers more than $30 million. She led staff in a top-to-bottom review of the state health plan, resulting in the streamlining of services, saving taxpayer money, and increasing government efficiency.

Director Hogan led new efforts to help Montana businesses do business with the state, including: the creation of “Procurement Forecasts” of upcoming bid opportunities for Montana businesses, instituting procurement workshops across the state, serving more than 100 businesses as they learn best practices for submitting successful bids; establishing an online submission program that streamlines the submission process and cuts down on red tape; and creating of a pre-qualified pool of businesses and vendors, which creates greater efficiency in obtaining contracts.

She ensured that veterans and national guardsman had access to Employee Assistance Programs. She instituted training for more than 1,400 individuals through the Confront the Stigma suicide prevention campaign, and made government more accessible to citizens by establishing a free shuttle during the legislative session through a partnership with local government.

Through this work and leadership, Sheila has led innovative change initiatives, motivated teams, cut costs, and empowered employees through strategic thinking, planning, and management. She has directed multi-funded, multi-divisional, multi-disciplinary organizations utilizing performance management techniques and standards and maintaining goal-oriented approaches to effectuate positive change. She specializes in formulating effective, versatile and efficient solutions while maintaining focus and persistence to initiate and implement meaningful change.

Meghan Peel is the Bureau Chief for the Montana Children’s Mental Health Bureau, since May of 2018.  Previously, Meghan was the Program Manager for Montana’s Medicaid Expansion and CHIP Programs within the Department of Public Health and Human Services. In this role, Meghan served as the liaison between the Department and its Third Party Administrator. Additionally, Meghan has managed several 1115 demonstration waivers, including Montana’s Medicaid Expansion demonstration waiver. Before joining Montana Medicaid, Meghan worked as an auditor for Ernst & Young in the Bay Area of California. Meghan received a B.S. in Business and holds a Master’s of Professional Accountancy, both from Montana State University. She lives in Helena, Montana with her husband and two sons.

Jeff Folsom is the President of Folsom Strategies, LLC and the Director of Policy and Special Projects at the Center for Children and Families and Workforce Development at the University of Montana. Jeff’s has leadership experience in all facets of behavioral health delivery systems spanning the past 35 years. Foundational experiences include providing direct care services in a variety of treatment settings, moving from front line into clinical, supervisory and ultimately executive management.  Jeff’s dual qualifications in both law and clinical social work foster leadership in running programs and advocating with the state legislature and governmental agencies.  Jeff is recognized for his solution focused approach to his work and his leadership role in shaping state policies and regulations to reduce systemic barriers to delivering behavioral health care, improving access and promoting the quality of care for Montana’s children and families.

Bernadette Franks-Ongoy is the Executive Director of Disability Rights Montana. She sets the tone and ensures that DRM’s mission of Equality, Liberty, and Justice for All and advocating for equal rights protection for Montanans with disabilities is being accomplished through the work of the staff. Every person is entitled to the same legal and civil rights, freedoms, and protections; something that DRM is actively accomplishing for people with disabilities.

Bernie grew up in Hawaii and graduated from Chaminade University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology. She graduated from the University of San Diego School of Law in 1983. Her past legal experience includes: Law Clerk for the First Judicial Circuit Court in Hawaii, Founding Executive Director of the Hawaii Bar Foundation, Deputy Corporation Counsel for the City and County of Honolulu, and the Attorney and Director of Programs for the Protection and Advocacy system in Hawaii. Bernie is licensed to practice law in Hawaii and with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Bernie has been DRM’s Executive Director for 20 years and served as president of the National Disability Rights Network.

Keynote Speakers:

Kurt G. Alme is an American attorney and the current United States Attorney for the United States District Court for the District of Montana. Prior to assuming his current role, he served as president and general counsel of the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch Foundation. A graduate of the University of Colorado and Harvard Law School, Alme clerked for Charles C. Lovell of the United States District Court for the District of Montana. He was a partner with the law firm of Crowley, Haughey, Hanson, Toole & Dietrich, PLLP. From 2003 to 2010, Alme served in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana, and was the first assistant U.S. Attorney from 2006 to 2010. He previously served as director of the Montana Department of Revenue.

Scott Pederson, Deputy County Attorney for Yellowstone County and Guardian ad Litem for 13th Judicial District (Yellowstone County). Scott litigates in the area of child abuse and neglect, including an attorney who represents children and court-appointed special advocates.

Livingston Farmers Market

Mark your calendars to come visit YBGR at the Livingston Farmers Market on Wednesday June 27th from 4:30pm to 7:30pm. This is a great time to find out more information on YBGR programs offered in the Livingston/Bozeman area or just show your support.

Make sure you bring the little ones for a fun activity and prizes!

Livingston Farmers Market Location:
Miles Band Shell Park
229 River Drive
Livingston, MT 59047

Free Therapeutic Foster Care Preservice Training Workshop in Billings

There are over 13,000 children in the state of Montana that don’t live with either of their parents. In 2016 Montana saw a 45% rise in the number of children in foster care.

Are you interested in helping a child in need?

Anyone who is at least 18 years of age may apply to become a foster parent. Single people, couples, people with or without children, all may be eligible. What is most important is your willingness to open your heart and home to provide an environment that protects and promotes the well-being of a child or children in need.

Therapeutic foster care provides a protective service for children where their individual treatment plan combines TFC parents working alongside treatment managers, social workers, therapists/psychiatrists, and school officials to provide these children an opportunity to reach their full potential.

YBGR is hosting Therapeutic Foster Care two-day pre-service workshop for any adults interested in becoming a foster parent on Friday March 23rd  & Saturday March 24th at our Billings Community Services Location. Please join us and become a superhero to a child in need.

This two-day workshop includes information, orientation, and the required Montana State 16 hours of pre-licensure training. This training is applied towards Montana States yearly required hours.

For more information on becoming a foster parent click on the tab “Become a Foster Parent” on the top menu.

To enroll in the free Therapeutic Foster Care workshop call Kristin Sherwood at 406-222-6490

YBGR in the News

Photo by Casey Page, Billings Gazette Staff

YBGR therapeutic foster parents, the Fowlers, embarked on a lifelong journey after choosing to become foster parents to two siblings.  Click here to read The Billings Gazette’s touching article on their experience with YBGR foster care.




“Salt on the Rims” Event to Benefit YBGR

Hey Jimmy Buffett fans! Do you like sand between your toes, good music, and a tasty burger? Check out Billings Metra Park’s “Salt on the Rims” event, happening Saturday, Mar. 11. The  event will feature beachy, Jimmy Buffett style music, a warm, indoor temperature for your shorts and tank top, and tons of sand to squish between your toes. And better yet, a portion of tickets sold will benefit Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch!

So, if you’re sick of the cold and snow and feel like warming up your toes, check out tickets at



Billings Symphony to Play at YBGR

(BILLINGS, Mont.) January 9, 2017 – The Robbie Chapel at Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch (YBGR) will fill with the vibrant sound of music during a visit from the Billings Symphony. January 9, Monday afternoon from 1-2:30 p.m., YBGR kids will experience the symphony’s sophisticated classics, familiar Disney songs, and melodious tunes.

Candy Holzer of the Billings Symphony said that through the Explore Music program that the Billings Symphony receives grants for, they are able to visit schools and seniors in the community.

“Of course, our whole reason is to hope that maybe they will try out music and take advantage of their school band, choir or orchestra program,” she said.

The Ranch is no stranger to strings. Pictured above are members of the Yellowstone Bluegrass Association, playing for a crowd in the Ranch’s Chapel last fall.

The symphony has visited YBGR in the past for similar concerts. Ron O’Leary, YBGR’s music and art teacher has enjoyed their visits.

“I think it’s great to expose students to unfamiliar forms of music,” he said. “It helps to expand their idea of what’s out there in the world.”

Both O’Leary and Holzer said that the experience is unique for many of the kids because they may have never heard a professional live quartet or musical group before.

“It’s really a rewarding experience for so many of the kids,” said O’Leary.

Warming Up Kids with Blankets and Bears

(BILLINGS, Mont.) December 7, 2016 – This holiday season, Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch (YBGR) has much to be thankful for, especially when it comes to gifts provided by Billings area partners and businesses. Nonprofit organization Blankets and Bears, founded by Sandy McCaffrey, is just one of the businesses who’ve supported YBGR in years past. The Ranch is excited to see the organization back again this year.

Blankets and Bears LogoBlue“For the past 9 years, Pillows, Blankets, and Bears has provided a number of youth with a unique gift at Christmas,” Rick Hamblin, Director of Community Based Services, said. “The children are all smiles when they receive their bundles.”

For YBGR’s Community Based Services (CBS) kids and families, they get to be a part of a special kind of giving… guaranteed to be cozy and warm. In an event which lasts from 3:30 – 5 p.m. on Dec. 19, at Garfield Center in Downtown Billings, nonprofit organization Blankets and Bears will donate enough bundles which include a new pillow and pillow case, a blanket, and a stuffed animal for nearly 60 YBGR CBS youth and other children in the community. In years past, volunteers have dressed in Christmas outfits and presented each child a gift.

“Deliveries to YBGR have captured me because this is what caused us to grow,” McCaffrey said. “I am just blessed to be able to have our community rally around the children that need us here in Yellowstone County and beyond.” McCaffree said that, in 2005, Blankets and Bears delivered only seven bundles in total, but expects that this year they will deliver nearly 800 bundles. “All of the children have my heart. They’re my first priority,” she said.